What do Muslims really believe? Although we hear alarming facts in this sermon, I draw from the Qur’an, world history and secular sources like Atlantic Magazine and Washington Post. Towards the end, I quote Catholic sources like this African bishop as well as TFP’s Rosary campaign to defeat ISIS.
aka Good Shepherd Sunday
This sermon recognizes the wolves that have caused the current crisis in the Catholic Church. In this sermon, I also describe the shepherds that God may be currently raising in order to shepherd the Church, as Christ and the early Apostles led and guarded the Church. This Sunday is appropriately called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” due to the Gospel from St. John chapter 10.
Today is the eclipsed feast day of St. Catherine of Siena in the old calendar. In line with today’s sermon, it is worth noting the seven things that God the Father told St. Catherine of Siena would restore the Catholic Church in times of crisis:
- Fiery Desire
- Endure much
- Cast the light of your patience into the darkness of perverse men.
- Don’t fear the world’s persecutions.
Most of us Americans picture the early Christians of Rome being physically underground but spiritually free. Then, everything changed in 313 when Constantine’s edict of Milan reversed the course of history, allowing Christians to be physically “above-ground” but spiritually oppressed by the Emperor and Pope who inadvertently became strange bedfellows. The idea of the pre-edict-of-Milan Christians being “more free” is attractive to the American Protestant way of thinking precisely because of the separation of Church and State and preference to reject authority making demands upon one’s own personal way of worship. 1
But those who come to this conclusion are now realizing that the premise must be true. And the premise is essentially the million dollar question of early Church history: Was the hierarchical Church and charismatic Church separate in her very earliest days in Rome? If separate, it means that we Catholics have Apostolic Succession but the Protestants have the Holy Spirit. If united, it means Catholics have both. Why? Because the earliest saints in all of their ecstasies, miracles and tongues would have been subject to their bishop who was either in Rome or in union with Rome.
The funny thing is that this question may sometimes be personified in the life of St. Peter and St. Paul. In most people’s minds, St. Peter represents the hierarchy where St. Paul represents love. Protestants will hesitatingly admit that Peter lives in an unbroken line of Popes (as long as they first point out that Paul corrected him in Galatians.) The Catholic response becomes: “Ok, you guys got St. Paul but we got St. Peter!” (This is essentially “You guys have the charisms but we have the Magisterium.”)
Stop reading my blog if I ever turn my blog posts into a travel log, but I sincerely believe the answer to this question comes from an archeological find. I was directed to this find by others, and I made it a point to visit a certain location as I spent Holy Week 2016 in Rome (and Easter Week on the coast of Italy. Yes, it’s hard to be a priest in exile.) I think the answer to the “million dollar question” is found in a small building called St. Pudens, located less than a kilometer away from the enormous St. Mary Major. St. Pudens is sunken, as it is surrounded by a Rome that has been rebuilt around her several times. I took this picture from ground level:
This first century building was the home of a Roman senator named Pudens. After being converted by St. Peter or St. Paul, he was baptized as can be seen from this painting inside his “home,” attended to in his baptism by none other than the juggernaut Apostles Peter and Paul:
He turned his home into a home-Church, as a staging area for the electrifying Christianity of both St. Peter and St. Paul. As Rome became the Central Nervous System for all of Christianity, Peter and Paul needed a influential bridge to the empire and the people. This was fulfilled by Senator Pudens (later St. Pudens in the Catholic Church.) In fact, Pudens was so important to early Christianity that the Apostle Paul mentions him in his second letter to Timothy:
“Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”—2 Tim 4:21
What this reveals is that the Roman Church was united in her hierarchy and charisms. This senator-become-saint in his home-become-Church remains a physical symbol of the spiritual union between the hierarchical and charismatic Church. Yes, St. Pudens is dwarfed by the enormous St. Peter’s Church in the distance of the Vatican, but Pudens is still an active parish, containing the relic of the wood upon which St. Peter offered not his first Mass but rather his first Mass in Rome as seen in the first picture below. 2
Yes, this Church is still a functioning parish of the diocese of Rome! It is mostly Vietnamese today. There is a painting above the altar of Pudens with Peter and Paul:
Yes, Paul corrected Peter in Galatians, but this does not mean they were not dear friends! If you have ever known any middle-easterners, you know that they could yell at each other and still take a bullet for each other. It is we who have the broken culture in thinking that a silent-backstabbing is better than an honest disagreement. The hierarchical and charismatic Church remained beautifully united in Saints Peter and Paul,commemorating a first century relationship of brotherly love, respect and evangelization of Peter, Paul and Pudens.
I have been to Rome about five times, but I haven’t been there in seven years. I arrived with the hopes of finding St. Pudens, but ignoring St. Peter’s as if in a lover’s quarrel with the Vatican. (I literally was afraid to look at the Vatican with all the stuff coming out of it these day.) But that first night in Rome, when my priest friend and I came around the corner and saw the Vatican lit up at night, I literally fell to my knees at the sight of it, praising and thanking God for the Church.
I know Christ tells us to not be seen praying in public, but it was dark that night on the Tiber and few could see me. Kneeling, I asked my Australian priest friend (who studies there in Rome) if I could pray for the Church there for a minute. He said yes and put his hand on my shoulder. I had definitely not planned on this. That enormous, glorious building—that I had planned on not looking at as if pouting—completely overwhelmed me with the sense of the glory of 250+ Popes and martyrs shining through it and all around it that night. I felt God transmitting to me a confidence in His Church in an overwhelming feeling of His power.
We returned home, but the priest with whom I stayed in Rome had a spectacular view of the whole city from his roof at night. This overwhelming feeling of God’s power strangely continued every time I went up the roof over those two weeks to pray whenever I looked at St. Peter’s, alit. Every time I looked at the shimmering shining solid St. Peter’s at night, I did not see an individual Pope like I thought I would “see.” I “saw” my bride, adorned with the blood of thousands of Roman men and women who died—in some sense—for me to have the fullness of Faith. I saw that building every dark Roman night like a New Jerusalem already on earth, transcending certain individuals with the Faith that I love so much, uniting Apostolic Succession and extraordinary charisms in her saints, charged with the very glory of the crucifixion.
In fact, Protestant Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels pointed out in 1981 that early Gnostic communities believed that “one’s own experience offers the ultimate criterion of the truth, taking precedent over all secondhand testimony and all tradition.” This was quoted by Kathleen Kautzer in her book (and pay attention to this title) “The Underground Church: Nonviolent Resistance to the Vatican Empire.” This should set the stage for the false-dichotomy tackled in this post. ↩
The second picture below is the plaque next to the relic. My best attempt at a translation is: “In this temple, St. Pudens was the first host of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles, whose Christian faithful approach to receive the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.” You can email me any corrections if my Latin is off. ↩
Last week, Planned Parenthood was exposed for handing over the tissue of dead babies for research. The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, immediately made a press release explaining that Planned Parenthood itself did not make any money on this. Here’s proof she was lying:
America will be shocked, but the question remains: What will end abortion? Today, a woman in Louisiana texted me the answer: “Our Response: Prayer and fasting isn’t enough! We need to sacrifice all for the love of God.”
We need to sacrifice all for the love of God.
America has seen the evil of abortion, but we continue to slaughter 3,500 children a day. Why? Most women are afraid and alone when they walk into that clinic, but we as a country find ending abortion difficult because of our minor inconveniences to the libido and bank account.
Thus, the end of abortion will come only through Divine Intervention.
But maybe God Almighty is waiting for this Divine Intervention. Maybe He is waiting for people to step up to the actual doors of abortion mills for peaceful prolonged-fasts or hunger strikes. Imagine who would follow Cardinal Dolan if he led a hunger strike in front of the Planned Parenthood in the East Village of Manhattan? I would.
For nearly 800 years, young celibate men from Europe, under the mantle of Our Lady of Ransom, would offer to take the place of women and children who had been kidnapped by Muslims. Christians were rescued through several different religious orders, but it took men who would not just give up candy in Lent, but young men would agree to be handed over to the forces of darkness so that others may live.
With Planned Parenthood and ISIS promoting more death than ever in the history of the world, I believe that God is raising up young men who will give their lives in ransom. I don’t mean figuratively. I mean that we can use YouTube to reach ISIS to offer ourselves to be slaves for them. Each man could then ask ISIS that they release 5 Christian girls and 5 Muslim girls for every celibate brother or priest given in ransom against the innocent. These 10 girls (multiplied) could then return to their families.
This offering of love could be offered to the Blessed Trinity for the end of abortion, too.
ISIS is just traditional enough to partake in this exchange. Did you know that over 1,000,000 Christian slaves (from 1200 to 1900) were returned by Muslims in exchange for monks, brothers, priests (and funds raised) during the Middle Ages? Times are more ripe than ever. Surely God is raising up men for ransom again, “for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45 and “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”—John 15:13
By a strange turn of events, I have to spend a day in Istanbul while trying to get home from Spain—even though it’s the opposite direction.
The reason this is especially strange is because these two countries were evangelized by the brothers James and John, sons of a Galilean fisherman named Zebedee. These two men became first century Apostles of Jesus Christ. Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” because of their attitude towards life. After His resurrection, Our Lord sent St. James to Spain and St. John to Turkey (with His own Blessed Mother.) I flew from James’ land to John’s land today, and I’m tryıng to navigate a keyboard set up for the Turkish language at 9pm here in the city center of Istanbul.
Now, it’s a Muslim country. But did you know that for the first 500 years of Christianity, Turkey had a Christianity as booming and as heroic as the newly-converted Roman Empire? The two centers of Christianity in the first 500 years of the Church were Italy and Turkey. Constantinople was first evangelized by St. Andrew (Peter’s brother.) Turkey then became the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist. Years later it was the home to St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Church Fathers and countless heros of Byzantine Catholicism. Except for Jewish converts, the most successful areas of conversion in the first 500 years of Christianity were Italy and Turkey. Roman Empire and Byzantine Glory.
Now Turkey is 0.2% Christian.
What happened? This great loss is usually blamed on Islam. It is true that the violent conquest of Turkey happened as early as the very century of Mohammed (7th century.) It was completed in the 15th century.
But Jesus is always faithful to His Church, especially in persecution, so something else happened.
We have to remember that Jesus speaks directly to the Turkish Churches in the book of the Apocalypse and warns:
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.—Rev 2:2-5
This was evidently not an empty threat from Our Lord. The light in Turkey would indeed extinguish. It was lukewarmness that sunk the Church here in Constantinople/Istanbul, just like it is 20th century lukewarmness that has nearly sunk the living Faith within the country I just walked across, Spain.
How do I know it was lukewarmness and not Islam that has extinguished the fire in the two countries of the Sons of Thunder? Because Spain is the only country in the history of the world that was conquered by Muslims and reconquered by Christians to again become a Christian country. This reconquest was done by a woman, Isabel “la Católica,” an outrageously beautiful name, considering she came from a line of 800 years of Catholic kings attempting that very reconquest of Spain that Isabel (a married queen who knit her children’s own clothes and rode horseback alone at night in the rain to quell uprisings) finished once and for all in the 15th century. She did it on horseback and in battle, but mostly on her knees.
The next three centuries then witnessed Spain evangelize most of the Western hemisphere. In fact, this deed was also due to Queen Isabel “the Catholic” who took a risk on Christopher Columbus. (She originally told him “No” and then sent her courier to inform him that she changed her mind when he was several kilometers outside the city.) Whether you like Christopher Columbus or not, the point is that Islam didn’t ultimately stop the greatest Catholic nation in history from producing St. Francis Xaviers. In fact, in some strange way within the permissive will of God, Islam helped the evangelization of the World.
Now, Spain has fallen to secularism harder than she ever fell to Islam. This may sound like an exagerration, but I promise the following is true: Almost every day on the Camino, a Spanish man or woman would see my Roman Collar and preach New-Age relativism to me (in Spanish) before I could ever explain the Gospel, or even say my name. What St. James and Queen Isabel won heroically—what Islam could not extinguish but strangely fueled—has been trashed by the heresy and lukewarmness from within the Church, not without, especially in the past 50 years.
I’m not much of a patriot for the country that St. John Paul II called “the culture of death” (the USA) but after travelling the world the past year, I can glorify God for the USA for this reason: We Americans have a hope for a renewal and restoration of the Faith which is greater than the hope of Spain or Turkey, (at least if grace keeps building on the nature of these countries’ attitude to Christ and His Church.) Yes, miracles can change anything overnight (like Mexico from the miracle of Our Lady of Guadelupe) but right now, I’m proud to be an American.
But if the Catholic Church in the land of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Turkey) can nearly collapse, we must move beyond our extreme presumption of God Almighty and return in sackcloth and ashes to Him. Better, we must return to our first love (see the quote from Apocalypse chapter 2 above.) We need Sons of Thunder to do the works those men did at first.
Why did Jesus call them Sons of Thunder, anyway? One example is this: When a Samaritain village rejects Jesus, St. James and St. John have an idea:
His disciples James and John…said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But (Jesus) turned and rebuked them.—Luke 9:54-55
In regard to that passage, we have all heard a thousand stupid homilies that go something like this: “The Apostles were Old Testament—all based in justice. But Jesus was about to teach them about love.”
Here’s two reasons why that’s a silly homily:
1) Has anyone ever considered how or by Whom the Apostles thought (or knew) that they had the power to call down fire anyway?
2) Jesus chose fighters, not lovers. He chose fighters to turn them into lovers. Lovers of “the brethren” as John wrote. Lovers of “Christ crucified” as Paul wrote. Christ needed fighters who believed in something, precisely so Christ could turn these fiery-fishermen into lovers of the peace that only Christ can give. He warned there would be no peace from compromise with the world.
Perhaps a 20th century fear of that zeal is why seminaries the past 50 years got so full of men acting out effeminate sexual-perversions. Apparently it was worth it for dioceses to keep the sacraments flowing out and the money flowing in towards these charming men at the pulpit. But the real test of a priest is how many men he has inspired to follow Christ into religious life or a holy seminary. The Sons of Thunder cared more about spiritual multipication than the numbers of money or popularity raised among those making sacriligious communions. Just google St. James and Our Lady at Zaragosa if you think discipleship among priests is a new idea.
Globally, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as she promised at Fatima. But how many souls will be lost before then? I believe that the USA, Africa and Asia will be called upon to bear the torch to rekindle the ancient faith in the world, but you must pray for priests who will be fighters and lovers…those who will fight the battle of love for the peace that only the cross of Jesus Christ can bring. Peace with God the Father comes only from the sacrifice of Christ—the only One who can reconcile us to a God who is infinitely holy. Divine Mercy and ancient Tradition.
The Church desperately needs priests who wıll not be simply charming and semi-orthodox, but Sons of Thunder.
Raise such men in your families.