Elias obeyed God by going to Sarephta. For her part, the widow obeyed Elias. Each obeyed based not on the inherent logic of the command, or its correspondence with their natural desires, but because they trusted God. Throughout salvation history we see the same need for trustful obedience to the commands of God and His messengers. In one way or another, all of the saints were obedient to the will of God, even if they did not particularly find God’s will understandable or pleasing.
Far from showing virtue in obeying Our Lady’s requests, John Paul II modified the commands of heaven to fit his own preferences.
Closer to our time, God gave us another wonderful example of obedience when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes in 1858. From the saint’s own account of the events we read:
“She told me that I should tell the priests to have a chapel built there: then she said to me that I should go and drink at the fountain. Since I didn't see one, I went to drink from the Gave, but she said that it wasn't there, and she showed me by pointing with her finger where the fountain was. I went to it, but only saw a little dirty water; I put my hand there, but couldn't take any water. I began to scrape and was able to get a little water afterwards. Three times I threw it away, and the fourth I was able to drink some.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary asked Bernadette to perform a task that made no sense from a purely human perspective. Even once she began, it seemed like there must be some mistake, for it was only after the fourth attempt to take the water that she was able to drink. From this we learn the value of trust in God, obedience, and perseverance.
The pope at the time of the apparitions at Lourdes, Blessed Pope Pius IX, warned of an attack on the Church that would completely undermine the basis for trustful obedience to God for the majority of men and women identifying as Catholic:
“These enemies of divine revelation extol human progress to the skies, and with rash and sacrilegious daring would have it introduced into the Catholic religion as if this religion were not the work of God but of man, or some kind of philosophical discovery susceptible of perfection by human efforts.”
JPII was acting consistently with how he and the other innovators within the Church approach most other matters of religion: they take the word of God (or that of His messengers) as a starting point and then “perfect” that word by making it their own.
St. Pius X quoted these words of his predecessor in his 1907 encyclical on Modernism, Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Both Blessed Pius IX and St. Pius X understood the grave risk presented by such errors: if man could change the Catholic religion given to us by God, then Catholics would logically cease to believe in the immutable nature of Catholic Truth. Why would anyone who succumbed to such errors obey the teachings of the Church in those instances in which such teachings conflicted with their natural inclinations and passions?
Ten years later, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the three children of Fatima to warn of the grave dangers facing the world. Although the full “Third Secret of Fatima” has not been revealed, we have good reason to believe that it closely resembles the 1973 message delivered by the Blessed Virgin Mary in Akita:
“As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms that will remain for you will be the Rosary and Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the pope, the bishops, and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate Me will be scorned and opposed by their conferees…churches and altars sacked, the Church will be full of those who accept compromise and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of My sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them.”
As faithful Catholics recognize, the “work of the devil” has indeed infiltrated the Church, which is now full of those who accept compromise. The errors of Modernism of which the faithful popes warned are now so deeply ingrained that most Catholics no longer have any functional appreciation for the concept of immutable truth. As such, there is no basis for true obedience to the teachings of the Church. Because they think man can modify the words of God, they no longer feel compelled to obey outmoded commandments or precepts of the Church. They do not obey because they no longer believe in Catholic truth. All of this disobedience ultimately leads to the great worldwide punishments of which Our Lady warned.
Modernism has virtually eliminated the Catholic obedience that follows the example of Elias and the widow from the Epistle of the Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent.
And so now we find that most Catholics can no longer obey like Elias, the widow of Sarephta, or St. Bernadette. Instead, they resemble the new “saints,” epitomized by John Paul II, who could not quite bring himself to obey the wishes of Our Lady of Fatima: that the pope, in union with the bishops of the world, consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As Christopher Ferrara related in The Secret Still Hidden, John Paul II had reasons why he could not actually fulfill Our Lady’s request in his 1984 attempt to consecrate Russia (as he neglected to specifically mention Russia):
“Rome [i.e., certain of the Pope’s advisors] fears the Russian Orthodox might regard it as an ‘offense’ if Rome were to make specific mention of Russia in such a prayer, as if Russia especially is in need of help when the whole world, including the post-Christian West, faces profound problems.”
Far from showing virtue in obeying Our Lady’s requests even when they may not have corresponded with meager human logic, John Paul II modified the commands of heaven to fit his own preferences. In this regard, he was acting consistently with how he and the other innovators within the Church approach most other matters of religion: they take the word of God (or that of His messengers) as a starting point and then “perfect” that word by making it their own, just as Blessed Pius IX and St. Pius X warned over one hundred years ago.
One does not need to be a prophet or theologian to understand how profoundly offensive this type of “obedience” is to God. It is not merely a failure to act, it is a willful act of disrespect for the one who commands. In a real sense, the Spirit of Vatican II has taught Catholics to live in this spirit of perpetual disobedience, as they pick and choose which commands of God are worthy of following, and which teachings are worthy of belief. In this light, the extraordinarily simple task requested by Our Lady for the consecration of Russia is, fittingly, virtually impossible for those who refuse to obey simply because God — their Creator, Redeemer, and Judge — has commanded.
Modernism has virtually eliminated the Catholic obedience that follows the example of Elias and the widow from the Epistle of the Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent. As a result, it is the “Reading 1” from the Novus Ordo of the same day that is most appropriate for the pope and bishops today:
“Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.
Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.
If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
the sword shall consume you:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!”
All eyes are on Francis and the bishops. Which path will they choose?
Those of us who are neither pope nor bishop are not powerless in this cause. Our Lady of Fatima told us to pray and sacrifice for sinners; she also told us to pray especially for the pope. We should do this with the great confidence of Elias and the widow of Sarephta, who obeyed without questioning. As Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo wrote in his Humility of Heart, great sinners can become great saints:
“When Zaccheus thought only of usury and oppressing the poor, when Magdalen filled Jerusalem with scandal, when Paul cursed and persecuted the Christian religion, who would have imagined the they would ever have become Saints? . . . Every Saint can in a moment become a sinner if he is vain in his sanctity; and a sinner can as quickly become a Saint — if he is contrite and humbles himself for his sin.”
Even if Francis’s decision to announce the consecration of Russia was full of cynical malice we must still pray for him, especially now. He may convert, become a great saint, and bring about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We are praying for one of the greatest miracles in Church history — may Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, help us to live like saints so as to be worthy of that miracle. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Michael Matt on RTV: CRISIS in UKRAINE: What’s REALLY Going On