Like Christ covered in gashes and blood after his betrayer, Judas, handed Him over to religious authorities, our Church today is wounded.
She is disfigured and pained by the abhorrent wave of scandals of modern Judases–weakened by the culture of doubt, fear, distrust and silence that surrounds us.
Like Christ, our Church today is on trial with relentless media attacks and legislation curtailing our religious freedoms.
Like Christ who thirsted as He hung on the Cross, our parched Church today faces a spiritual drought, desperately longing for renewal, hope and replenishment.
Is our Church today being mystically crucified with Christ?
In her book The Path of Mary, the Venerable Mary Potter (1847-1913) said this:
“We live in perilous times; we are surrounded by dangers and temptations almost unparalleled in the history of the world.
“The Church, the Spouse of Jesus, seems to have followed the life of her Lord, and to have exemplified in herself its various stages.
“There has been the hidden life of the early ages of the Church, followed by the more public life;
then arose an increased devotion to the Blessed Sacrament,
followed by the Agony in the garden;
and we seem to be now bordering on the times when the Church will reflect,
will, in fact, mystically reproduce the crucifixion of her Divine Head and Master.”
These remarkable words are even more relevant today than ever before.
Although we must be wary of being too definite with such prophesies, as they should be applied metaphorically and broadly, rather than uniformly and with absolute precision, Mary Potter’s words are an extraordinary synopsis of our Church today.
One need only contemplate the legendary words that the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago offered to a crowd of young, devoted and zealous priests, some frightened and worried about the dark times ahead:
“I expect to die in my bed; my successor will die in prison; and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”
Who was the Ven. Mary Potter?
Born in London in 1847 to a non-Catholic father and an Irish mother who converted to Catholicism, Mary Potter’s life was completely transformed when she discovered the teachings and writings of Saint Louis de Montfort.
Despite her ill health, Mary Potter became a nun, dedicating her entire life to serving the sick and dying.
In 1877, she founded the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, a religious order inspired by the small crowd of loyal followers who remained in the company of Our Lady when she stood at the foot of the Cross on Calvary.
“Remember that one saint gives more glory to God than a whole nation of ordinary Christians,” the Ven. Mary Potter said.
“Yes, Mary’s Own will stand faithfully through the mystical crucifixion of the Church, the Spouse of Christ. When other members of Our Lord’s Body will fall away, Mary’s Own will pass scathelessly through the fiery ordeal, yet not without pain.”
Just as Christ, the Head of the Church was persecuted, scourged, beaten and mocked, so too will His Body, the Church, face persecution.
As St. John and the holy women remained in Our Lady’s company as Jesus walked to Calvary, will you stand by Holy Mother Church until the end?
As Christians who have been incorporated into Christ, we are also called to live a life of suffering.
This is beautifully depicted through Our Lord’s words to St Paul on his way to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).
Our Lord identifies the suffering of His brothers and sisters as a direct assault.
This powerful teaching of the Church as the Lord’s Mystical Body is central to Pope Pius XII’s 1943 encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi:
“From the outset it should be noted that the society established by the Redeemer of the human race resembles its divine Founder, who was persecuted, calumniated and tortured by those very men whom He had undertaken to save”
But like Christ who died and rose again, it is when the Church appears to be at her most vulnerable and pushed to the brink of collapse, that she will rise again and welcome a sudden surge of new life.
If we look back into the history of the Church, a key message continuously echoes through the ages: with the Cross, there is always the hope of the Resurrection.
With greater martyrdom, the Church will grow stronger. With greater persecution, the most incredible saints, warriors and heroes are born. The Church will never cease to exist. She will never die.
In the words of Venerable Mary Potter:
“In this weary age of sin,
you and those happy ones,
chosen in the midst of the darkness now covering the earth,
will make bright spots well-pleasing to the eye of God,
draw the Holy Spirit of Light
to disperse the clouds of infidelity
and the mists of error
with which the world is now covered.”
In today’s age of faithlessness where a generation is being lost to immorality–where the world taunts, mocks and ridicules–being truly faithful always comes with a high price: we must be countercultural and bold–revolutionary.
We are not called to be people of the world, but rather people of God.
Not a Church that changes with the times, but rather a Church that changes the times.
Nor should we spend our days chasing the past, ensnared in the clutches of nostalgia such that we forget that the Catholic faith is built on a constant truth that transcends space and time; a truth applicable to every age and one that challenges us to find authentic and creative ways of making this unchanging truth a present reality.
Nor should we cower in fear and silence, becoming victims of people-pleasing and the dark allure of popularity. But rather, we ought to stand tall, firmly grounded in truth and righteousness.
Truly, the Catholic faith is most electrifying, striking and alive when we stand by the truth and do so until the very end. Only then can we understand what true freedom is: suffering and self-sacrifice embraced with love.
As Mother Mary Potter drew inspiration from St. Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary, let us also ponder his predictions about the great revival of faith to come through the great saints of the latter times and Our Lady’s soldiers:
“Almighty God and his holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs.
“They will combat with one hand, and build with the other: they will overthrow, rout and crush heretics and their heresies, schismatics and their schisms, idolaters and their idolatries, sinners and their wickedness; they will build the temple of the true Solomon and the mystical city of God”
We return to these bold words: “I expect to die in my bed; my successor will die in prison; and his successor will die a martyr in the public square”.
But as we await the magnificent day of the mystical resurrection of our Church and the great revival of faith to come, let us not disregard Cardinal George’s equally important but often forgotten words that immediately follow his first words,
“His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”