Hope for our difficult times…
The Catholic Church is a Social Miracle
Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, Canada
There is no doubt that we live in a time of apostasy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ had been preached, accepted, and practiced, and now it has been largely abandoned. That which until the death of Pope Pius XII on Oct. 9, 1958 the entire world knew to be the Roman Catholic religion, is actually believed and practiced (regardless of good intentions) in only a handful of souls, relatively speaking.
As distressing as that is, it would be a great mistake to think that this apostasy has caught the Catholic Church by surprise. In actual fact, the Church had anticipated it for roughly two millennia. Its eventual arrival was foretold in Sacred Scripture (see Mt 24:11; Lk 18:8; 2 Thes 2:3-11) and is part of the Church’s catechetical instructions:
The Sacred Scriptures inform us that the general judgment will be preceded by these three principal signs: the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world, a falling away from the faith, and the coming of Antichrist. This gospel of the kingdom, says our Lord, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come. The Apostle also admonishes us that we be not seduced by anyone, as if the day of the Lord were at hand; for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the judgement will not come.
(Catechism of the Council of Trent, Creed: Article VII)
Since the Savior of the world founded His Church on the rock of St. Peter, thereby instituting the Papacy (see Mt 16:18; cf. Lk 22:32) to ensure the Church “makes no terms with error, but remains faithful to the commands which it has received to carry the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the uttermost limits of the world and to the end of time and to protect it in its inviolable integrity” (Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Annum Ingressi), the question inevitably arises how, then, there could possibly be a massive falling away from the Faith, a great apostasy.
The answer, it seems, is found in St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians, where he speaks of a restraining force that keeps the Antichrist’s mystery of iniquity in check until the appointed time: “For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thes 2:7). It is very likely that this restrainer is the Pope, that is, the Papacy. That is the conclusion to which Cardinal Henry E. Manning (1808-1892) came after gathering together what the Church’s best authorities on the subject — the Church Fathers and other respected theologians — had written about this passage (see “The Pope and the Antichrist: The Great Apostasy Foretold”).
The removal of the restraining force results in the unleashing of an “operation of error” that God permits as a punishment for humanity’s lack of love of the truth:
For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.
(2 Thessalonians 2:8-11)
This would explain how a universal apostasy is possible: The Pope, the guarantor of the Faith, is removed and replaced by an impostor; the Church is eclipsed by an operation of error that emerges in its place, presiding over and guiding, as it were, the course of the Great Apostasy.
The last true Pope before this hostile takeover would have been Pius XII (d. 1958), the first impostor Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII), and then his successors, the most recent of which is Jorge Bergoglio (Francis I). The operation of error would be the Vatican II Sect, which falsely calls itself the Roman Catholic Church and teaches a Masonic-Modernist new religion in place of Catholicism.
That such a scenario is not out of the question can be demonstrated from Catholic theology books published long before Vatican II. For example, the seminary professor Fr. Sylvester Berry (1879-1954) taught the following in his ecclesiology lectures regarding the Church in the end times:
The prophecies of the Apocalypse [book of Revelation] show that Satan will imitate the Church of Christ to deceive mankind; he will set up a church of Satan in opposition to the Church of Christ. Antichrist will assume the role of Messias; his prophet will act the part of Pope; and there will be imitations of the Sacraments of the Church. There will also be lying wonders in imitation of the miracles wrought in the Church.
(Rev. E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise [St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1927], p. 119; italics given.)
Have we not seen precisely this, with the exception of the Antichrist, who has not yet revealed himself?
It is no wonder that true Catholics, utterly bewildered by what has taken place, have been wandering about like sheep looking for their visible shepherd ever since: “And my sheep were scattered, because there was no shepherd: and they became the prey of all the beasts of the field, and were scattered” (Ez 34:5).
However, this is no justification for doubt, despair, or unbelief. Although our times are clearly distressing and unsettling, we can take comfort in the encouraging words of Our Blessed Lord:
These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world. (Jn 16:33)
And when you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, fear ye not. For such things must needs be, but the end is not yet. (Mk 13:7)
And when you shall hear of wars and seditions, be not terrified: these things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet presently. (Lk 21:9)
If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you. (Jn 15:18)
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Mt 5:5)
So, listen up, O ye of little Faith!
Whenever we are tempted to being discouraged, let us remember that the Catholic Church is a true miracle. Writing in 1942, Fr. Joseph C. Fenton (1906-1969), a man who later received papal honors from Pius XII for his outstanding work in theology, explains:
There are such things as effects produced evidently and visibly in human society, effects which obviously never could have been brought about through the power of a merely natural cause. These are the so-called moral and social miracles. The Church puts herself forward as a social miracle, as something which could not have been produced and maintained in the world through merely natural agencies…. The Church claims that she herself exhibits characteristics which never could have been brought about other than through the action of God Himself, carried on independently and outside of the laws which govern the ordinary and natural procedure of human societies.
(Rev. Joseph Clifford Fenton, We Stand with Christ [Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1942], p. 84)
Fenton then quotes the teaching of the (First) Vatican Council:
For, to the Catholic Church alone belong all those many and marvelous things which have been divinely arranged for the evident credibility of the Christian faith. But, even the Church itself by itself, because of its marvelous propagation, its exceptional holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in all good works; because of its catholic unity and invincible stability, is a very great and perpetual motive of credibility, and an incontestable witness of its own divine mission.
(Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, Chapter 3; Denz. 1794)
Fenton then continues:
Under this heading we can consider the naturally inexplicable patience of the martyrs, the perseverance of the Church through the centuries as a holy society and all of the other aspects of her life which the traditional apologists have described. Associated with this are such obviously divine works as the ineffable holiness and wisdom of Christ who is the vehicle through whom the doctrine of the Church has been presented to the world, the admirable consistency of the teaching itself and its outstanding holiness. All of these are effects which could not have been produced by any merely created power. They thus constitute motives of credibility external to us but intrinsic to the teaching which is shown to be credible. They are motives less striking than the miracles and prophecies, but they demonstrate the credibility of any doctrine in conjunction with the primary motives themselves.
(Fenton, We Stand with Christ, pp. 84-85)
In Chapter 18 of his book, the author elaborates on how the Catholic Church is a miracle, something that is visible especially in her miraculous propagation. (His book We Stand with Christ has since been reprinted under the title Laying the Foundation: A Handbook of Catholic Apologetics and Fundamental Theology [Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2016].)
In a sermon given on Nov. 15, 2020, the sedevacantist bishop Donald J. Sanborn illustrates quite beautifully how the Catholic Church’s propagation is truly miraculous, for natural causes alone cannot explain how a handful of uneducated and obscure individuals were able to convert the world by preaching a Gospel that, on the face of it, appeared shocking, laughable, and extremely unpleasant to both Jews and Gentiles (cf. 1 Cor 1:23):
In his homily, Bishop Sanborn calls attention to the fact that the Apostles and their disciples were overwhelmingly successful in their preaching, even ultimately prevailing over the Roman Empire, despite the fiercest persecution and countless other tremendous obstacles that could never have been overcome if Almighty God had not provided His supernatural heavenly aid.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, His Excellency also explains why, then, the Church is in such a terrifying state today and her miraculous propagation appears to have been halted.
We are sharing Bp. Sanborn’s sermon on the miraculous propagation of the Church in this post because it is of the greatest importance. Its contents will fortify believers, encourage the struggling, and confound naysayers.
While fake traditionalists like Steve Skojec of One Peter Five are publicly wondering whether they should believe in God, true Catholics find in the present state of the Church and the world the fulfillment of prophecy and therefore a confirmation of their Faith. “O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken” (Lk 24:25)!
Rejoice, Catholics everywhere, for you are the members not of a human institution but a divine one! The Church of which you are a part is “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15), founded by the Son of God Himself!
Yes, the Catholic Church is a miracle!
The Vatican II Sect, not so much…
Sacred Heart of Jesus Church (Herz-Jesu-Kirche) in Munich, Germany
Image sources: shutterstock.com / Wikimedia Commons (Martin Falbisoner)
Licenses: paid / CC BY-SA 4.0