Real Votes, Fatima, and Other Signs of Hope

fatima and pope john paul

By Charlie Johnston

On Tuesday, Texas held a special election for a State Senate seat that sprawls from San Antonio deep into west Texas. A deeply Hispanic district, it had been held by Democrats for the last 139 years – and the Democrat generally won with 55-60% of the vote.

The establishment media chuckled that Republicans were focusing intently on this race. Didn’t the GOP understand that they had no chance? All the media, the polls and history said so. Besides, there was a “blue wave” coming. Everybody knows that. Republicans will struggle to defend what they already have: they have no chance of taking what they have not had for over a century. Everybody among the smart set knows that. But on Tuesday, Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego by a decisive 6-point margin. Real votes trumped all the triumphal pre-election assurances of the Democrats, media, and pollsters.

Flores was always a good candidate with a solid record in other offices. Things got serious in early July when Texas Right to Life (TRTL) took a hard look at the candidate and the race. He was heading into a “jungle primary,” (one where the top two vote getters, whatever their party, face off for the general election) that included a total of eight candidates. Flores was focused on sound messaging and the grass-roots activism that is typical of successful upsets. So TRTL jumped in with both feet, endorsing him and putting resources behind the race – mailer, Facebook videos, and over 3000 direct phone calls into the district. TRTL’s endorsement sparked a flood of high level organizations and officials to follow suit. On July 31, Flores actually narrowly came out the top vote-getter in the jungle primary. Still, the Democrats weren’t worried. The votes were divided among more Democratic candidates than Republicans. Overall, 59% of those who voted in the primary voted Democrat. Nothing to see here.

But TRTL and the other organizations which jumped in for the primary doubled down for the general special election. TRTL wanted to show how dramatically an unapologetic pro-life message can resonate with Hispanics. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sniffed out a potentially defining race that could put to rest leftist fantasies of Texas trending blue – and put $175,000 into the race. On election night, when it was real votes that were counted instead of the ephemeral certainties of the left, the Republican Pete Flores had won by a decisive 53-47 margin. It was not even a nail-biter. Instead of Texas trending blue, it got a little bit redder.

Do not think that leftist assurances of a blue wave are all wishful thinking. Certainly, nationwide, Democratic turnout increases in primaries have exceeded Republican increases. But the reality is that (certainly for the last few years) polls and media are a terribly unreliable means of determining what is happening on the ground in these races. In fact, for the most part, these last few years, Democrats do all their hooting and hollering before the votes are cast. Once they are, Republicans more often have had cause for hooting and hollering. I pray that Pete Flores is a harbinger of the reality we have awaiting us in November. Perhaps then Democrats will seriously address the shrieking hysteria that has gripped their party instead of spending another two years explaining “what happened” and doubling down again on madness.

(Disclosure: Since the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops ordered Parishes not to co-operate with TRTL earlier this year, I have frequently and significantly offered advisory counsel to TRTL).

*******

On June 28, 2000, the day after the Vatican released the text of the Third Secret of Fatima at the order of Pope St. John Paul, I wrote the following interpretation of the secret and sent it to my Priest Director:

“The angel with the sword is the angel of God’s justice. The fire proceeding from the sword is what humanity has merited, particularly in this horrible century. Our Lord is offended by many things, but nothing so much as the general indifference and contempt with which we have treated his mother. But it is her constant intercession and pleadings on our behalf which restrains God’s justice.

The assassination attempt against John Paul II and its timing identify him as the pope of Fatima, but it is not the point of this secret. The ascent up the hill represents this pope’s particular mission. The city which lies half in ruins is Christianity, half of which no longer believes in God, but says Jesus was merely a good moral teacher. The corpses the pope meets and prays for on his way are those who, though they breathe, are spiritually dead. The cross at the top of the hill is the end of the pope’s mission on earth. It represents both his triumph and his death to this world. He kneels before it offering his work to Christ. It is after this triumph that the terror begins. It is the body of the pope’s work that the soldiers fire at. That they are in uniform shows that it is an organized effort. These are the legions who have given themselves over to Satan. But the pope has his legions, as well. They are the Priests and Bishops and Religious who joined themselves to him and followed him on his way. They will be true champions for Christ as the battle is joined. Prominent among them will be some of the dead souls – the corpses – reborn to spiritual life through the pope’s prayers.”

In an explanatory coda to my Priest, I added:

“I certainly concur with the official interpretation that this secret does not foretell the end. But it would be the end if it were not for Our Lady’s intercession. It pleases Our Lord that, when destruction is finally averted, all shall know that it was through Our Lady that we were spared. Then, all who call themselves Christians will show his mother and our mother the honor he shows her. And it is by this pope’s fidelity to his mission that the Church – the whole body of the faithful – has been prepared to endure the storm.”

This has weathered well, I think. I thought at the time, though, that the bulk of the attack on his work would come from outside the Church – not equally from outside and inside.

In March of 1993 I had the first of what I call “Great Visions,” – extensive, explanatory visions of what is to come and why. You must understand that the simplest, most seemingly direct messages from God have layers, facets, of meaning…so I never assume I understand exactly what I am shown. Rather, I take it as cause for intense, ongoing contemplation. The Lord spent over a decade showing me how feeble my (and all human) understanding of such things really is (truly, we do hold these treasures in earthen vessels). I admired St. John Paul at the time, but this vision showed me how consequential he truly is.

I was shown intensely how bad the storm would be (though not as intensely as I was two and a half years later on the eve of the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in 1995). Near the end, I was shown John Paul working with furious intensity at his desk – and shown that he KNEW what was coming. He had completely devoted himself to preparing the Church to weather the great storm. It would not begin until after his death – and then he would spend his time interceding constantly for the Church and people he so loved, accompanying us every step of the way through the crisis until Our Lady comes in Triumph to end the Storm. Through his constant intercession, may this terrible valley of bones we inhabit (Ezekiel 37) come back to full, glorious life, praising God for their resurrection to true, spiritual life.

*******

I have mentioned my dear friend, Fr. Regis Scanlon, many times here. A Capuchin, he has worked in prison ministry and is focused on the theology of the Eucharist. In fact, he did formation for St. Mother Teresa’s nuns in Africa on the subject – and did a series on EWTN some 20 years ago on the same subject. He has started a marvelous blog dealing with issues in the faith and the Church today. I hope you’ll take a look. As you know, if he is my friend, he is solidly orthodox.

*******

Another friend, Bob Scheich, has taken leadership of the Padre Pio Prayer Group of Denver. It meets for confessions, Mass and worship the first Saturday of every month. I go there for my first Saturday devotions every month when I am home. This Sunday, after Mass at St. Patrick’s Oratory in Denver, they will hold a special celebration of St. Padre Pio’s life (this would be the Feast Day of St. Padre Pio did it not fall on a Sunday this year – as you know, the Feast Day of the Lord on Sundays always takes precedence over any other anniversary). I hope those of you who live in Denver will come out for it – and for the regular prayer group meetings on the first Saturday of each month.

*******

Acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you. Or, as Padre Pio would say, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”


290 thoughts on “Real Votes, Fatima, and Other Signs of Hope

  1. Thank you, Charlie and you all! My heart is saddened by all the good priests who are being persecuted but encouraged by those who stand up for them. Here is a link from the Church bulletin from Resurrection Parish in Chicago. The good people there are standing up for their priest in their Church bulletin, even against Cardinal Cupich. What used to be a parish for Dignity homosexual acting -out Masses is now a place where people can find authentic doctrine on the worth of each person with and without same sex attractions but now they are encouraged to live chaste lives. God bless Father Paul!!
    The response starts on page 6. This to me is a big sign of hope!!
    https://uploads.weconnect.com/mce/b19dc177a07ce563e09b457f13bf5a673ddfbba1/9.23.18.rbg.pdf

    Liked by 4 people

  2. These quotes are not directly related to the current thread but I wanted to share these two mind-blowing truths from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Paragraph 65:

    “Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one ”

    Paragraph 648:

    “The Father’s power “raised up” Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son’s humanity, including his body, into the Trinity.”

    These two wondrous statements fill me with complete awe. Think about it. Jesus’ body is now fully integrated into the Life of the Trinity!

    I said at the beginning that these statements are not directly related to this thread that deals with the troubles in the Church. Let me amend that to say that these truths about Christ should give us great hope and courage as we navigate through “this present darkness”. Please Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on you.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. Shout the name that sets us free for eternity! And honoring the holy trinity with Holy, Holy, Holy. So look forward to being one flock with these beautiful lovers of Our Savior. ❤️

          Liked by 4 people

    1. And once again, several witnesses named by the accuser deny that the alleged event ever happened. A good man is being accused falsely and targeted for destruction for political purposes. The Left has no shame, no morals, and no lows to which they will not sink. It is revolting.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Agreed,Mick. Anyone who makes such false claims should go to jail for the damage they do to a person’s character. There seems to be no justice in our system for those who falsely accuse. Please correct me if I am wrong- it seems that when false claims are found out, the case is simply dropped. Time in jail writing and creating several news articles and then sending them in order exonerate good names might be a good correction.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford, who claims — without any evidence — that Kavanaugh inappropriately touched her at a drunken party while in high school, turns out to have ties to an abortion pill pharmaceutical company called Corcept Therapeutics. This discovery brings to light an obvious conflict of interest in Blasey’s story, revealing that she works for a pharmaceutical company that manufacturers an abortion pill drug, whose profits could be strongly impacted by future Supreme Court decisions on abortion rights.

        Corcept Therapeutics (Corcept.com) manufacturers and markets an abortion pill drug called mifepristone, and Christine Blasey Ford is a co-author of at least eight published scientific papers produced by the pharmaceutical giant to promote its pills. You can see Blasey’s name listed on several publications at this Corcept.com web page detailing their research papers.

        Corcept Therapeutics, Inc., a $166 billion market cap company (stock symbol CORT) reportedly has current annual sales of $216 million. The company offers just one drug, mifepristone, which is widely known as an “abortion pill” or RU-486. Many drugs have multiple uses, and mifepristone — brand name “Korlym” at Corcept — is currently marketed by the company for the treatment of Cushing’s syndrome. (h/t to The Gateway Pundit for initial work on this breaking story.)

        Liked by 6 people

      3. The Usual Suspects are becoming more angry, crazed & desperate …. in & out of Politics/Church. Unfortunately The LeftStream Media keeps 40% of BoobLand USA in the Dark and satan’s “disciples”, undoubtedly have infiltrated/perverted all critical aspects of Western Civilization & Human discourse! ;-(

        “Sketchy Business: Grassley Releases Original Ford Letter to Feinstein…”

        https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2018/09/23/sketchy-business-grassley-releases-original-ford-letter-to-feinstein/

        GOD SAVE ALL HERE!!

        Liked by 5 people

        1. I know, CrewDog… we’re living in bizarro-world now, in which a guy who has basically been a boy scout for half a century can have his life ruined by baseless, scurrilous accusations from a left-winger with a political axe to grind.

          Liked by 3 people

  3. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/China-Vatican-agreement:-some-positive-steps,-but-without-forgetting-the-martyrs-45023.html

    Excerpt:

    The Lithuanian and Chinese martyrs

    The fact of silence on persecution remains. In all these years the Holy See has been silent about any persecutions: the killing of priests; the destroyed churches; the arrested bishops … This gave many the impression that the dialogue was more “political” than “pastoral”. Just yesterday Pope Francis, in Vilnius, recalling the victims of the Nazi and communist genocide, expressed a prayer in which he asks the Lord that we do not become “deaf to the cry of all those who today continue to raise their voices in heaven”. And that’s exactly what Chinese Catholics are asking for.

    I wondered why the Holy See wanted to communicate the signing of the agreement just as Pope Francis in Vilnius remembered the great witness of Lithuanian Catholics under Communism, their resistance and faith under torture, their being the seed of a freer and more welcoming society. Even then the Catholics discussed and were divided between denunciation and resistance and the Vatican Ostpolitik. If you look at the agreement only as a bad thing, then the memory of the Lithuanian martyrs could give rise to an interpretation of the “two weights and two measures” that diplomacy often implements and the celebration of the martyrs in Vilnius would be a mockery of the suffering of Chinese Christians.

    But if in the agreement, although provisional, we can see even a glimmer of positivity, then the Lithuanian celebrations are a sign of hope: communism, “the delirium of omnipotence of those who claimed to control everything”, did not win. And this also gives us hope for China.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Words from the Office, Morning Prayer, today. They seem appropriate to where we are;

    “Lord, guide me in your justice, protect me from my enemies:
    let me see the path I must follow.
    For there is no truth in their mouth – their heart is a bottomless pit –
    their throat is a wide open grave – their tongue seduces.
    Punish them, Lord,
    and let their own plans destroy them.
    On account of their crimes, thrust them from your presence;
    for they are rebels against you.
    Let all who hope in you rejoice, triumph for ever.
    You will shelter them and they will glory in you.
    For you bless the just, O Lord,
    and your good will surrounds them like a shield.” ‘

    There is so much going on in the world and the Church that I find it hard to comment.
    Pray. That is the most powerful thing we can do. Pray.

    JT

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Amen, JT. Most of what is happening is out of the reach of most of us. Via our prayers, sacrifices and tending to those God has placed, or is placing, in our lives becomes a mighty ripple of LOVE extending the world over, via the Lord’s Infinite Redemption. God bless you and each of us and all our families.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Beckita: Absolutely correct. Lately, God has been putting on my heart to pray for, and then let him handle. the big things, the things outside my power to change. Instead, it is important for me not to lose focus on the people and situations He has placed right in front of me where I might actually be able to do His work.

        God bless us all and bless our efforts in the tasks He calls us to each day.

        JT

        Liked by 10 people

    2. Amen and Amen, JT and Beckita. The adversary wants folks transfixed with the roaring of the waves. At best it’s a distraction, at worst it leads one to despair.

      Our Lord reaches out His hand because we can do nothing on our own. Focus on what’s at hand and let God determine the next step. One step at a time… and before you know it, He’s moved the mountain one pebble at a time with our small, but willing, hands.

      Little is good.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Indeed, MP. There really is co-creating going on in the little things. Some things only He can do and some things He asks us to do. We can do all things in Him Who strengthens us, one step, one pebble at a time.

        Liked by 6 people

  5. MILINET: Articles for Christians – 24 Sept
    ========================
    As Hard as they try, They will no longer be able to keep this Pervert Scandal Covered-up. Thanks God for Talk Radio, Internet & FOX.

    Rainbow-flag burning priest removed from Chicago parish
    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/09/23/rainbow-flag-burning-priest-removed-from-chicago-parish.html

    I’m still pondering WHY the Global Left including Democrat Party USA decided, not long ago, to designate Islam/Muslims as a cherished “Victim Group” whilst giving scant coverage to Muslim Atrocities and encouraging Islamic Invasion of Old Christendom and the USA …. and this same suicidal policy is embraced by the Vatican!!??? I have no other explanation besides satanic forces. ;-(

    “We Are Bigger than Your Jesus!” Extremist Persecution of Christians–Raymond Ibrahim
    https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13014/persecution-christians-march

    Five reasons people leave the church–Andy Stanley
    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/09/23/five-reasons-people-leave-church.html

    Why Lady Justice must be blind–Everett Piper
    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/sep/23/why-lady-justice-must-be-blind/

    and …. :

    A San Francisco Priest Who Defied Tyrants
    https://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/terence-p-jeffrey/san-francisco-priest-who-defied-tyrants

    GOD SAVE ALL HERE!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Just read the last article/link about the San Francisco priest, so inspiring. It should shame the Jesuits of today! The next to last sentence was about the call for Bishop Cordileone to step down as current bishop of San Fran. If you knew Bishop C. you’d not be surprised. He is the same type of priest as the Jesuit in the article. Jesus, Mama and all the saints, protect the good priests and bishops, cardinals too!

      Liked by 5 people

  6. Whoa! (edited to include the link and author of this piece)

    https://dwightlongenecker.com/financial-corruption-and-sexual-immorality-in-rome/

    Financial Corruption and Sexual Immorality in Rome
    by Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I tweeted a few days ago that in my study of church history sexual immorality and financial corruption have always been side by side when the church is on the slide.

    You may remember last year when Pope Francis asked the USA based Papal Foundation for $25m to bail out a scandal ridden hospital in Rome called the Immaculate Dermatological Institute. (IDI) Just as a reminder, the Papal Foundation was established by Pope John Paul II to help fund special papal projects to assist the poor in the developing world. Most of their grants were for small, local projects and amounted to about $200,000 to $300,000.

    I first came across the Papal Foundation through a friend whose brother works for the foundation, and I was blessed to visit one of their pet projects in El Salvador. It was an inspiring village where the poor were enabled to buy homes, get jobs, educate their kids and practice their faith. It was real. It was local and it was working.

    When I heard that Pope Francis asked not for a reasonable small grant for a local project for the poor, but for $25m to bail out a hospital in Rome it all seemed pretty fishy.

    John Allen has investigated and tells the whole story here.

    “In just three years, IDI has received three major infusions of cash from the Vatican and the Italian government, amounting to well over $70 million, and each time opinions were split between those who wished to save the institution and those ready to pull the plug.

    What was once a Roman story drew global attention when the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, charged with financing the pope’s charitable initiatives, was asked by Pope Francis to help IDI with a $25 million payment. The request divided the foundation, with mostly clerics on one side supporting the pope and mostly lay people on the other skeptical of an institute many see as a poor investment at best, corrupt at worst.

    While $13 million of that payment has already been sent to IDI, the remaining $12 million, approved in April 2018, remains for the time being in the foundation’s own account, inside sources told Crux.”

    Allen recounts the history of the hospital and how it gained a prestigious reputation over the years. Then the shady business started:

    “The hospital offered a walk-in service that offered treatment with no appointment and, as its fame grew throughout Europe, between 300 and 600 people would purchase a ticket every day.

    ‘The daily income was guaranteed and monstrous,’ a former employee who asked to remain anonymous told Crux.

    Since the congregation that owned the hospital was a non-profit entity, all the money coming in had to be spent, hence employees took home massive checks and IDI was able to purchase the best and latest machinery.

    The hospital was strongly unionized, to the extent that at the height of its power, mayoral candidates would visit for their campaigns. IDI began to expand, creating auxiliary clinics around Rome and increasing the number of departments.

    The 2008 global financial crisis hit IDI hard, and the hospital eventually declared bankruptcy. But what really crippled the institute, sources say, came from within. Several sources close to IDI told Crux that starting in 2011, Father Franco Decaminada, the congregation’s representative at IDI, began to bring in ‘strange characters.’

    “They looked out of place,” one IDI insider told Crux. The men had bodyguards and spoke with a heavy Neapolitan accent the source said, and rumors abounded that shoe boxes full of cash were being secreted out of the hospital.

    Subsequent reporting by Italian journalists, especially the Italian public television service RAI and the news magazine L’Espresso, led to the discovery that money was being funneled out of the hospital to tax havens around the world and even to fund oil extraction projects in Africa.”

    Eventually the hospital went bankrupt and looked to the Vatican and Italian government to bail them out. When those efforts faltered Pope Francis turned to the Papal Foundation and none other than an old friend and ally–you guessed it–Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Allegedly he and his successor Cardinal Donald Wuerl pressured the wealthy donors of the Papal Foundation to cough up $25m to bail out the IDI.

    This caused the uproar a year ago and since then Cardinal McCarrick–who was instrumental in setting up and oiling the wheels of the Papal Foundation–has been disgraced.

    The whole complicated story can be read at CRUX here.

    As with the other secrets and lies that have been going on one wonders just where the money from the Roman hospitals trickled out to, and into whose pockets would the Papal Foundations’ millions have ended up?

    The wealthy Americans gave the money to help the poor in the developing world, and gave the funds trusting the pope to use them wisely.

    But another pope along with his seminarian cuddling cardinal and his disgraced successor pressure the Catholic laymen for a whopping $25m?

    It feels like there is more than one mafia operating within the Vatican–and this one isn’t lavender.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. ‘God the Holy Spirit, who does not produce any divine person, became fruitful through Mary whom He espoused. It was with her, in her and of her that He produced His masterpiece, God-made-man, and that He produces every day until the end of the world the members of the body of this adorable Head. For this reason the more He finds Mary His dear and inseparable spouse in a soul the more powerful and effective He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul and that soul in Jesus Christ.’
    –St. Louis de Montfort~

    Liked by 10 people

  8. I used to be able to tell the difference between tabloid sensationalism and actual news. It’s all one in the same now. In the past, when current events got shaky, it was always a comfort to look to our beautiful mother Church for stability. Now it seems like there are factions within the Church calling each other satanic. Obviously, the McCarricks, Cupichs and Fr. James Martins are outing themselves, but I’m becoming increasingly worried about sensationalism and combativeness of traditionalist-leaning sources.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It IS a tough time for discerning, jayman. And those sources I once ignored because they seemed to prematurely, that is without giving Pope Francis a chance to be the leader he was chosen to be, are now continuing to cover the many problems that have been brought to light. I used to stay away from many of those right-leaning sources, such as Church Militant and Life Site News, because of sensationalism. I still take a wait and see pause when an article comes to my attention with words such as “probable” or “it seems” or “likely.” But even our tried and true sources who are orthodox in their practice of Catholicism, are bringing forth tough news to hear. I just edited my comment from yesterday in which I inadvertently left out Fr. Longenecker’s name and the link to his piece. I perceive no glee in reporting this news, just reason to continue praying and trusting God’s Plan to set things right with our cooperation.

      Neither has Msgr Charles Pope shied away from saying the hard things. In the following piece, he gives the very tone and intent in which these hard things must be reported and discussed.
      “This Is All I Can Do Now” – Applying a Practice of St. Catherine of Siena to Our Current Crisis

      Many Catholics have struggled to find a voice that has been nearly washed out of us by our training. We remember a time when it was unthinkable to criticize a priest; those who did were quickly rebuked, with little opportunity for explanation. Bishops and especially the Pope were not to be questioned let alone criticized. We have now seen the sometimes-horrifying toll of unhealthy deference, of setting a class of men apart from critique or accountability.

      Respect surely has its place; we should not correct with unneeded harshness, personal attacks, or demeaning words. However, we must regain a healthy sense of the need to hold our clergy accountable and to insist on what is right. Canon law states the right, duty, and modality of this among God’s Faithful.

      According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons (Canon 212.3).

      God’s faithful are struggling to find their voice, long suppressed. We must find this voice, even regarding the Pope. He has said some alarming things, hurtful things, and has shown little concern for serious charges against Church officials at the highest levels. Even in this case we must find our voice. We must respectful but firm and clear that we expect a full investigation of the charges so that this does not happen again.

      All of this feels awkward. It touches some of our oldest training against criticizing popes, bishops, and clergy.

      In times like these, we need a Catherine Benincasa.

      We know her as St. Catherine of Siena. Though renowned for her love, generosity, and humility, as well as her power to heal, console, and cast out demons, she was no shrinking violet. If she saw something in your soul that was unholy, you were going to hear about it, no matter who you were.

      St. Catherine would meet with anyone, from the poorest beggars to kings, governors, bishops, and popes. None of them were denied her love and encouragement. Neither were they spared the hard truths that God gave her to say. Only God was to be pleased, not man. Spiritual truths were to be extolled over every temporal matter (e.g., safety, comfort, pleasing worldly powers).

      She loved the Church but remained gravely concerned with the condition of the beloved Bride of Christ. Particularly egregious to her was the condition of so many clergy, right on up the ranks. Even the popes of her time, whom she acknowledged as the sweet Vicars of Christ, and her beloved father could not escape her expressions of grave disappointment and her calls to conversion.

      Of special significance for us today is her exchange of letters with Pope Gregory XI. Though he led an exemplary life in many respects, he was a weak, shy, even cowardly man. He was deeply compromised by his temporal ties to power, wealth, and protection, without which he feared that he and the papacy could not survive. Nepotism was also a terrible problem; his own family members kept him wound around their fingers.

      Most of the early popes died as martyrs, but by the time of the Avignon Papacy, popes had become very tied to the world and had “too much to lose.” They had fled to Avignon and had been in residence there for decades, living behind fortified walls, protected by armies, and compromised by alliances with secular rulers. It had to stop.

      Gregory XI was the last of the Avignon popes. He only returned to Rome at the prodding of this young woman, not yet thirty, who told him, in effect, to go back to Rome or risk Hell. In 1377, after much delay and fretting, Pope Gregory left for Rome.

      Below are some excerpts from a letter she wrote to Gregory XI, just prior to 1377. I think her words speak loudly to the clergy of today. The specific issues that beset clergy today are somewhat different but not that different. The Church no longer commands extensive temporal power or rule, but too many clergy are still unwilling to maintain holy discipline or enforce canonical penalties on malefactors.

      I have already said too much; I will let Saint Catherine speak for herself. (If you think my blogs are long, try reading St. Catherine’s letters!) I present here only excerpts of a much longer letter to Pope Gregory; she wrote several others as well. The translation I am using here is from Letters of Catherine Benincasa.

      In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and of gentle Mary, mother of God’s Son.

      Very loved and reverend father in Christ Jesus,

      I Caterina, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ and your poor wretched unworthy daughter, am writing to you in his precious blood. I long to see you the sort of true gentle shepherd who takes an example from the shepherd Christ, whose place you hold. He laid down his life for his little sheep in spite of our ingratitude …

      You know that the devil is not cast out by the devil, but by virtue. [Mt. 12, 26-27] … You hold the keys, and to whomever you open it is opened, and to whomever you close it is closed. This is what the good gentle Jesus said to Peter …

      So take a lesson from the true Father and Shepherd. For you see that now is the time to give your life for the little sheep who have left the flock. You must seek and win them back by using patience and war—by war I mean by raising the standard of the sweet blazing cross and setting out against the unbelievers. So, you must sleep no longer, but wake up and raise that standard courageously. I am confident that by God’s measureless goodness you will win back the unbelievers and [at the same time] correct the wrongdoing of Christians, because everyone will come running to the fragrance of the cross …

      By the fragrance of their virtue they would help eliminate the vice and sin, the pride and filth that are rampant among the Christian people—especially among the prelates, pastors, and administrators of holy Church who have turned to eating and devouring souls, not converting them but devouring them! And it all comes from their selfish love for themselves, from which pride is born, and greed and avarice and spiritual and bodily impurity. They see the infernal wolves carrying off their flock and it seems they don’t care. Their care has been absorbed in piling up worldly pleasures and enjoyment, approval and praise. And all this comes from their selfish love for themselves. For if they loved themselves for God instead of selfishly, they would be concerned only about God’s honor and not their own, for their neighbors’ good and not their own self-indulgence.

      Ah, my dear Babbo (Father), see that you attend to these things! Look for good virtuous men and put them in charge of the little sheep. …

      Up, father! Put into effect the resolution you have made concerning your return and this crusade. You can see that the unbelievers are challenging you to this by coming as close as they can to take what is yours. Up, to give your life for Christ! Isn’t our body the only thing we have? Why not give your life a thousand times, if necessary, for God’s honor and the salvation of his creatures? That is what he did, and you, his vicar, ought to be carrying on his work. It is to be expected that as long as you are his vicar you will follow your Lord’s ways and example.

      So come, come! Delay no longer … Take courage, take courage, father! Stay away from the bitterness that cripples but take hold of the bitterness that strengthens—bitterness at seeing God’s name insulted, and strength in the trust that God will provide for your needs. I’ll say no more, for if I followed my inclination I wouldn’t stop as long as I had life in my body!

      Forgive my presumption. Let my love and grief for God’s honor and the advancement of holy Church be my excuse in the presence of your kindness.

      This is all I can do now. Have pity on the sweet loving desires being offered for you and holy Church in continual tears and prayers. Please don’t treat them with indifference, but act on them vigorously, for it seems that spring is ready to burst into bloom, and soon the fruit will come, because the flowers are beginning to blossom. … As for whatever I can do, I would gladly give my life if necessary for God’s honor and the salvation of souls. Gentle Jesus! Jesus!

      (St. Catherine of Siena, Letter 74 to Gregory XI at Avignon)

      Such words still ring true today! We must exhort Pope Francis to hear our cries for investigation and reform. We must speak in love and with respect, but we must also speak insistently and with clarity. The very credibility and fruitfulness of the Church is at stake. We have a duty and a right to speak to him in this way—so do our bishops. In Catherine’s words, “This is all I can do now.” The Pope must decide whether to hear our heartfelt cry or ignore it, but we cannot stop. All we can do now is to cry out insistently for justice and for a purification of the Church.

      Thank you, Mother Catherine. May you, who converted the heart of Pope Gregory XI and summoned him to courageous manhood, now imbue us, the clergy and people of today, with that same fortitude and determination to call for what really heals, even if the honesty hurts.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. Wow. That is great. Thank you for sharing that. I don’t mind (I even expect) these orthodox sources presenting the hard news. What makes me uneasy is the name-calling and snarky-ness from normally thoughtful and insightful outlets. I certainly consider myself right-leaning and orthodox. I just don’t want to get caught up in any mob mentality — even if it is coming from a righteous place.

        Liked by 7 people

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