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Waiting With Joyful Hope
By John Mallon
This article originally appeared in the November-December,
1999 issue of Catholic Dossier magazine
A few months ago I expressed a thought to two well-known and respected (orthodox) Catholic scholars, both frequent contributors to this magazine. In separate phone conversations, I asked their thoughts on a recurrent notion going through my mind. I said, "Unless there is some kind of intervention, divine or otherwise, to divert modern culture from the path it is on, within 20 years they will be putting Evangelical Protestants and orthodox Roman Catholics in concentration camps in the United States." Both responded, unhesitatingly, almost cutting me off: "Oh, yes, absolutely!"
I based my observations on what I had witnessed while covering the United Nations Population Fund's "Cairo+5" conferences earlier this year. Having spent years observing the effects of dissent within the Church and the growing anti-Christian sentiment among the elites of Western society, it was interesting to witness such suave, high level, world class malevolence grinding its teeth on the restraints of diplomacy, choking back the things they would really like to say and do but can't — yet. The main tenets of the world's religions were frankly discussed as "obstacles" whose texts needed to be "revised" to suit the New World "vision." For all the world it resembled a staging area for the anti-Christ with the Roman Catholic Church with her authority structure clearly acknowledged as public enemy #1.
Well, as my mother used to say, "'twas ever thus." So, at the dawn of the third millennium is Christianity destined to a position it endured in pre-Constantinian Rome? There is a convergence of anti-Christian forces emerging like an "Angel of Light" promoting "World Religion" emphasizing undefined "spirituality," with no fixed morality where the central principle is not truth but "inclusiveness." New orders of things are discussed under various names like "New Age," "New World Order" and "One World." These systems of specious foundations and goals, are discussed at high levels at such places as the "State of the World Forum" and trickle to the local level.
The endorsement of abortion as a "human right" and social necessity, which typifies these elite groups, smells of totalitarianism, as rationalized genocidal practices and other attacks on human dignity and the sanctity of life always do. They also place them on a collision course with Christianity.
The notion of encroaching world-wide totalitarianism is difficult for Americans, including American Christians, to believe because the U.S. Constitution traditionally protected against it. But now we see unprecedented subjectivist abuses against the U.S. Constitution because it was predicated on objective truth, an essential element of Christianity. James Hitchcock wrote recently in these pages just how ill-prepared American Christians are for persecution and martyrdom. (Are Christians Prepared for Persecution? Catholic Dossier; May-June 1999). So it is with all this that today's Christian, placed by God in this time, must cope; as well as all the curious morose delectation of apocalyptic doom and gloom scenarios or predictions of the Lord's imminent return.
Many Christians are experiencing exhaustion, discouragement and depression as they feel the struggle and stress of battle, either directly, or among the Principalities and Powers in the regions above. There is a thickness in the air and a sense of deep malaise; a sense that "something's up" in the invisible world in the battle between good and evil, that we are rushing towards a crescendo. This sense leads to many various and wild interpretations.
So at this crossroads we seem to be "Slouching Towards Gomorra," and careening towards totalitarianism. But is it not precisely the moment when the feeling of hope gives out that the theological virtue of hope must kick in? It is also at this time in history that God has given us a Pope who is no stranger to totalitarianism or persecution, and often speaks of martyrdom, but whose papacy has, as we approach the third millennium, been characterized by the theme of hope.
Notice that (so far) the years of John Paul's papacy, separated by 100 years, parallel those of Pope Leo XIII, who reigned from 1878–1903. John Paul has reigned from 1978, and, though I hope he reigns long and energetically well beyond 2003, the 100 hundred years between them recalls the pious but entirely believable legend of Leo's experience which led to his writing the Prayer to St. Michael, and ordered it be said after every low Mass. (Perhaps it wasn't a good idea to lose that practice.)
For those unfamiliar with it, the story goes that after celebrating Mass one day Pope Leo collapsed. When he came to he was deeply shaken and reported having had a vision in which he saw the devil go before the throne of God claiming that if he only had 100 years he could turn God's people against Him. As the story goes, God invited Satan to pick a century, and he chose the 20th. Some attribute the current pressure and intensity of evil in our midst as a sign that the evil one knows his days are numbered.
Various other items of Catholic prophetic lore tend to give credence to Pope Leo's story, (not the least of which is the plain murderous history of the twentieth century). There is also the witness of Fatima, where the Woman whose foot is on the head of the snake claimed, "In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph." She also warned of the errors of Russia, not evident at the time, which came to dominate the century. And then there was the conditional prophecy of a second world war, to follow the first, then in progress, if her warnings were not heeded, which alas, came to pass.
Now, under this Marian Pope, the errors of Russia, manifest in communism, have been all but crushed, and we face the new errors of relativism and the Culture of Death. Cardinal Newman spoke of a New Spring for the Church, a theme Pope John Paul has picked up, regarding a time of a new flowering of Christianity. Is the blood of the martyrs of twentieth century, which boasts more martyrs than all Christian centuries put together — shed and yet to be shed as errors linger — the seed of that new flowering? We'll see, as we watch and wait with joyful hope.
© 1999 By John Mallon