As many of you have probably surmised, I have had quite the struggle the last month. It has run the gamut from physical illness to family issues to spiritual matters and more. It did not trouble me much. I rather expected that would be the case as we reached the end of the beginning. I hope I am genuinely out of the woods now, but that is in God’s hands. If so, I will write regularly, for there is much to be said.
I am going to be starkly candid about some things today in a way I have not been before. I fear often I mean one thing and people hear another. I speak of the blessings that come from taking the next right step, the participation in redemption that suffering can be, the peace that comes from truly turning it all over to God. Alas, all too often, I find that people think if they can just get the right formula from me of doing the right things, they will be exempt from the consequences of the Storm.
We will not prevail in the battle that unfolds before us. Things will continue to deteriorate with a few false dawns tossed in – and then when all have lost hope, we will be miraculously and visibly rescued by Our Lady the Immaculate Conception. Things are NOT going to get better in a temporal way. If you have lost your money, you are not going to get it back for any length of time – you have only beaten the rush before all money is worthless. If your doctor or medicines have been taken from you because of changes in health care, it is NOT going to get better. The destruction of national borders is NOT going to resolve itself, war will NOT be avoided and vast civil strife can NOT be averted. There is no place of safety except in God as the darkness surrounds us – and that does not guarantee temporal safety, only spiritual safety. If you have gotten anything other than that as what lies ahead temporally from anything I have said, you have misunderstood me or I have not been clear enough. The rain from this Storm comes and, as it is written, falls on the just and the unjust alike.
On two occasions, while fully conscious, I have been moments from death. That does not count the several times I was lost and revived on the operating table during my complex spinal cord surgery 11 years ago. I was unconscious throughout and only learned of it later. (Ha! During that near-death episode I did NOT see a light or have a conversation with my heavenly friends. Given my history, you might think I would have. I figure God just told my angels, “Ah, let Charlie rest through this. We’ll talk to him when he’s awake again.”) I have been in a handful of genuinely life-or-death situations. In none of these was I ever confident that God would spare me temporally because I was His instrument. People often ask me how many times during my pilgrimage I thought of giving up and turning back – and are generally surprised when I rather emphatically say never. Some assume that it must have been easier than they had expected. It was not. I got to know hunger at times in a way I never did before or since in civilization – and got sick of trail mix, I might add. I was threatened with knives and a gun and spent a lot of quality time with wild and often dangerous animals – cougars, wolves, bears, foxes, bobcats. I did not persist because I thought I was exempt from death or serious injury – but because I was willing, if that is what was required, to be obedient until death. I literally would rather have died than fail in what I had promised God on the matter.
This gets to the heart of the matter. The change I am speaking of, the transformation does not come because you find a special in with God that exempts you from temporal suffering – God did not even give Himself that exemption (another way of saying His Only Son). Rather, it is seeing that everything here, all the greatest accomplishments in history, have all the meaning of getting the first spot in line at the bus stop on the 43rd day of fourth grade. The ONLY things that have meaning here are trusting God and helping others to do the same. Trusting God does NOT mean that He will do what you want or think is good; but that once you embrace Him fully, whatever He allows to befall you is for your good and will help bring more people home to heaven. I do not say accept your cross; I say embrace it and rejoice in it.
That is not to say you should seek suffering. That, too, is a vanity. Rather, accept what God sends and what He asks of you. I have received great temporal honor and acclaim at times and suffered terrible humiliation at others. While the former is as pleasant as a bowl of ice cream and the latter as nasty as a bowl of castor oil, both have their purposes. I regard temporal triumph and disaster as the same fraud wearing different clothes. Both are just efforts to distract you from the meaning of life, the former by deluding you that you are greater than you are and the latter by deceiving you that God has left you. Both have the same meaning as winning or losing the first place in line at that bus stop I spoke of.
I often think people just keep playing the wrong game, bringing a football to a basketball court or a basketball to the baseball diamond. You can’t achieve victory if you don’t even know what game you are playing. God instructs us to do His will and to help our neighbor, so why do so many spend so much time trying to dominate their neighbor or aggrandize themselves? Even if you completely succeed, you lose.
Once you truly abandon yourself to God, what wonderful peace and freedom there is in it! You don’t spend your time worrying what people think of you; you chuckle at the two frauds of triumph and disaster and you find real joy – even in the midst of the most terrible of trials. To have real confidence in God and in heaven as your rightful home, that is real peace and joy. Once you do, God can make use of you – and if He does, He will put you in what are, temporally, some godawful situations (if you’ll pardon the pun). He’s not looking for a bunch of teacher’s pets, but for people who will go out and do the work, be a sign of hope to those around them. Any temporal prestige is only useful to the extent that it helps you do His will and bring hope to others.
I say we have reached the end of the beginning and so we have. What we are going through is in the image of Christ’s passion. Collapse has come: the monetary system throughout the world is all smoke and mirrors now; the rule of law in the western world is a mere shadow, a chimera. Like the harbinger of a great earthquake, the threat of war rumbles throughout the world. The world is on the cross right now, though death has not yet come for the way things were. It will. We lack the power and ability to recover now. With the death of the old order, there will be darkness for a time, darkness and despair. If you put your hope in the restoration of the old order, your hope is in vain, for the old order is in its death throes. Put your hope in resurrection knowing, as I have told you many times, this is NOT the end. Rather, it is prelude to resurrection. Resurrection is not the last-minute escape from death to return to the way things were. The prelude to resurrection IS death. And from the seeds of what was, God raises up something new and true. The old order is almost completely dead, then there is darkness and despair for a time, then the miraculous sprouting of something new, a glorious rebirth of society as God intends it, reborn by His command. But like the resurrected Jesus, even those closest to Him will not, at first, recognize it for a continuation of what was.
We are only a few years away from that resurrection of society. As I have said, if you keep faith and act as a sign of hope, your children, your grandchildren and generations untold will call you blessed and give thanks for the glorious world you participated with God in bequeathing them. But…the Storm is upon us. Many will be swept away by it. All will suffer, many will die. No family will be left untouched by the Storm – NO family. Everyone who gets their primary sense of security from anything other than God will have it taken from them. EVERYONE. And deceiving yourself that you are God’s special pet is not trusting in God for your security – it is just a more subtle way of trusting to your own cleverness.
I was told – and reported to my priests back in the 90’s – that if I gave my final acceptance to the work God had laid out for me, I would almost immediately enter into a prolonged period of intense suffering. It was part of why I procrastinated about it so long. When I did undergo consecration, it came as promised, culminating in the life-threatening neurological event that, in the best case, was supposed to leave me paralyzed on my right side. What a blessing it was! When you are stripped of nearly everything – including confidence in your own health; when your mortality becomes your boon companion, you realize God is enough in a way you had not previously imagined – and you become free to work on His behalf unburdened by fear. When I embarked upon my year-and-a-half pilgrimage walking 3,200 miles across America with my disability, I was by no means certain I would not be badly injured or killed. But when disaster befalls you, that is when you have the greatest opportunity to build your trust in God.
I know, that if I keep faith, I will not die before the Storm is broken. That is because of the work appointed me. I do NOT know that I won’t be maimed, mutilated or seriously injured and further crippled. But God willing, I will endure to the end, trusting that whatever befalls me is for my good and that of others. What I most passionately want is heaven – and to help bring along as many I meet as I can. If suffering, being maimed or mutilated, helps accomplish that, then I say with Our Lady, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” God help me if I should EVER covet the first place in line at the bus stop.
This is what I mean when I tell you how blessed and joyful you will be if you embrace God and His will: that you will participate with Him in the resurrection of our poor, bleeding, wounded world; not that you will get a better place in line at the bus stop.