The Eye of the Storm
“This is our last chance. Time is running out.”
As a traditional Catholic father with young children, I hear this phrase often. It emanates from the wrinkled mouths of sweet, well-meaning senior Catholics. I heard it recently from an active lady, her gray hair bobbing up and down as she spoke. Although she moved slowly, her sparkling eyes had the fire of a boisterous bonfire at a campsite. “God surely isn’t going to put up with this much longer.”
Many older, devout Catholics seem to have this sense of urgency and impending doom.
“The chastisement can’t be too far off.”
I’ve been hearing these comments for more than thirty years. “The most important election ever!” has come and gone every four years. The “coming chastisement” turns out to be nothing more than a beautiful sunrise and then the usual traffic and smog. Day after day. Year after year.
Indeed, Mass after Mass. Meanwhile, I keep raising my Catholic kids, making sure they receive the traditional sacraments. In this article, we will examine the spiritual tendency toward urgency and a sense of foreboding, and especially consider its impact on your family.
Learning from Older Catholics
We owe much respect to our elders in the Faith, who are oftentimes inspiring and edifying. Personally, I find myself consoled on numerous occasions by the devotion and downright tenacity of traditional Catholics a generation above me. Considering this, an analysis of their general perspective on spirituality could be helpful for younger Catholics.
I believe there are two reasons why older, devout, traditional Catholics tend to have a sense of urgent, impending doom. One is a growing awareness of their own mortality. Could this awareness be projected into their spiritual lives? The other reason could be a lack of understanding of the depth of God’s patience and charity. Man can only tolerate so much injustice, crime, and sin. Surely God will put a stop to this! Surely things cannot go on getting much worse!
But things do get worse. A LOT worse. The community, the culture, the nation—indeed, the whole world slides deeper and deeper into an immoral pit. A couple of generations ago we fought easy divorce and then cohabitation. A few decades back we began fighting abortion in earnest. Today we fight sins which I can’t even mention. In the future our grandchildren will perhaps fight even worse sins.
God is letting it get worse. He is allowing it to happen. He has more patience than we do. He has more charity than we do. He is not striking down the chaff—at least not in a way we can easily see.
What does this mean for your family? In a practical sense, consider that the “great chastisement” could already be upon us. What if the chastisement is the gradual descent of what used to be Christendom into moral debauchery and persecution of the faithful? What if the three days of darkness, foretold with such dramatic clarity by the saints, are a metaphorical allusion to the Modernist apostasy? What if the stars and moon that no longer give light are the Vatican and the world’s bishops? What if the windows that you should “keep shut” are your own eyes, shutting them to the outrageous carnal assaults that seem to be everywhere?
A few years back I read a pamphlet that exhorted Catholics to literally keep curtains on every window and blessed candles made of real beeswax “always lit” in one’s home. We had a two-story house at the time, with a beautiful, decorative set of windows that were more than fifteen feet high. I couldn’t safely reach them so they remained uncovered. And we never left a burning candle unattended. What if one of our toddlers knocked the candle over? At the time I had a sense of chastisement and doom hanging over my head. I worried about those high windows.
St. Francis of Assisi rebuilt the Church of San Damiano when God revealed that Francis was to “rebuild the Church.” Later the saint realized what God really meant: St. Francis was to renew the spiritual life of the universal Church. Even a saint can misunderstand God. That pamphlet I encountered years ago holds out salvation only for a knowing elite who invest in curtains and expensive beeswax. This is neo-Gnosticism, not orthodox Catholicism.
Consider historical intervention in human affairs by divine providence. God really does use material means and prophetic events to punish man’s disobedience and to show God’s glory. In 1689 our Lord requested through a humble nun that the king of France spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. The king ignored the request. Exactly 100 years later, the monarchy fell. In the 20th century, World War II came about because Our Lady of Fatima’s warnings were not heeded.
Nonetheless, Catholics can get a bit caught up in the sensationalism of prophecy and the drama of dates and doom. The Novus Ordo has its charismatics; traditionalism has its own sensation-seekers.
And then there is your own family. Look at your children. What kind of Catholics do you want them to be? You are very much in the eye of a storm. Liberalism, hedonism, and worldliness blast around you on one side. Sedevacantism, sensationalism, and a lack of docility slam past you on another side. Then there is Modernism and the Novus Ordo, swirling all around.
The Swirling Storm
Meteorology tells us that a hurricane has an “eye” at the center in which the skies are actually sunny and there is relative calm. In the spiritual life today, devout Catholics should strive to live a docile life on the narrow path to Heaven. They find themselves in the eye of a storm of Modernism, sedevacantism, and worldliness.
Parents thus need to be the calm in the storm. Your children need your balance. Your docility. Your prayer life. The Church today, afflicted with Modernism, causes scandal to traditionalist Catholics. There are numerous examples: Inter-religious prayer meetings, chronic shifting orthopraxis based more on Kant and Hegel than St. Paul and St. Pius V, and now, the canonizations of conciliar popes. The storm is raging.
In the other direction, the storm manifests itself with embittered and erroneous reactions against the conciliar Church. It can be challenging to find that balance of recognizing the technical authority of the pope while rejecting those decisions and actions which go against tradition. It requires patience. It perhaps requires a certain cognitive sophistication. It especially requires docility of soul. We have no canonical authority to judge the validity of a pope. Only a future pope can do that.
Remember the fruits of the Holy Ghost for your own soul, enumerated by St. Paul (Gal. 5:22): “But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity....” He juxtaposed these against “wraths, quarrels, dissensions.”
Now there is yet another event—in this case, canonizations—coming from the post-Vatican II ecclesiastical structure. Beleaguered traditionalist Catholics may wonder what to do. We certainly pray and offer sacrifices according to our state in life for the Church. There are other practical ways to keep a cool head and raise your children to remain balanced Catholics in the eye of the swirling storm.
Practice docility, docility, and more docility. Scandals will come. Things will happen. Your spouse will look to you for support; your children look to you for guidance. Don’t get too worked up about Vatican maneuverings or talks with the SSPX or international strife and the UN or the latest Novus Ordo change in their liturgical life. Follow St. Ignatius’s advice on continuing your particular devotional practices regardless of what goes on around you. When events in the Church befuddle you, follow the lead of your SSPX pastor. He is in the SSPX for a reason.
Nod and smile. When a devout older Catholic tells you with all urgency that “God will not be mocked” or “we are soldiers of the end times” (actual quote from an octogenarian Catholic to me), just nod and smile, especially if your children are with you. We certainly are soldiers of the end times. What you do about it is an entirely different matter. I wouldn’t argue about it but I wouldn’t elaborate either.
Continue praying the rosary daily. Enough said.
Find like-minded Catholic couples around your age for companionship and edification.
Express your gratitude. Thank God for His blessings, every day. Meditate on God the Father’s attribute of perfect benevolence.
Remember some basic realities when confronted with situations such as scandals in the Church, or on the other hand, urgent doom scenarios: Keep a cool head and do not get caught up in the drama of the swirling storm. Confidence! Persevere in the heart of the true Faith, in the reality of the sacraments, the Real Presence, and eternal Rome. Your family will thrive under your stable Catholic devotion.