By Charlie Johnston
Thank you all for your many prayers. The truth is I have been in a bit of a funk since December 20. I think I have been grieving for what has passed away. The old order is gone. Oh the forms remain: we argue about politics, argue about whether unilaterally releasing terrorists back to the battlefield within a week of their cohorts murdering thousands of Christians and westerners as if it is the same thing as arguing what the budget for widgets should be. I said back in November that all the last American election would show is how impotent the political system now is to confront the problems before us. And so, the president issues more unconstitutional and anti-American edicts before breakfast each morning than all his predecessors combined, the Congress howls like a tortured dog in its impotent rage, and we draw a little closer each day to the doom that eagerly seeks to embrace us. Many people still deceive themselves there is a political solution to all that is wrong in the world. I don’t begrudge them. The forms remain, the substance is dead and I say let the dead bury their dead. We have work to do – and it is faithful and cultural, not political.
Though I got noticeably physically ill on Christmas Day, I went into a lethargic depression on December 20, when I was shown a vision of a fountain of demons spewing up and spreading across the whole world. This last Saturday night I learned I was not shown a vision on that matter; I was shown what was happening as it happened. I was shown much more about what I have been contemplating for a month – and so am much cheerier today. I told you a few weeks ago, perhaps improvidently, about the line of division that would come when I reached the summit of Mt. Meeker – something that I was prevented from. In the coming year, everyone will go through the Lord’s refining fire. All will make their blunders. For those who genuinely love and hold fast to Christ, this fire will be a purification, a burning away of their flaws and vanities, that will leave them forged with the steadfast resolve they need to endure and truly be a sign of hope, another Christ, to those around them. Some very ordinary people will find a little glorification and beauty through this purging forge. For those who have made their own selves the sole recipient of their worship, they will simply be consumed by this purging fire, all to be left the fury and preening bitterness that their infernal master has formed in them. This fire will not so much change souls as reveal them for what they are. It is the final forming of the lines of battle. There will be a few surprises, some we know and think to be deep turning out to have no root within them; others we thought to be lukewarm suddenly blazing with fire for the Kingdom when their trial is through.
I won’t tell you to be joyful when your fiery trial comes. No one greets pain and uncertainty with joy. But regard it as you would emergency surgery – a little fearful that you may be too far gone for it to help and yet mostly hopeful that it will get you on your feet with steady resolve. I will tell you not to gloat if you see your neighbor undergoing it first. Your time will come – and any passive malice you feel towards others only means there is more flaws to be burned from you than you would like. This year will be a great opportunity for truly learning how to live solidarity with each other.
Offer your suffering up, particularly this year, for those you love and those around you. The lines of division are being finalized. Before the year is out, all will have been revealed for what is in their hearts. As it advances, it will get steadily harder for people to cross back over from serious disorder into faithful soldier. As my son and nephew sometimes like to say, it’s go-time!
Pelianito had a wonderful column the other day that touches on this matter from a different, but equally intense, perspective. If you have not visited her websites, I strongly recommend you do. I am re-posting her column in its entirety here. It is a gem, but when you go to her website you will find yourself at a sort of divine jewelry store. Also, Mark Mallett is ON FIRE of late. You need to keep careful watch on his site, as what he writes is very appropriate to these times of fulfillment. And now, Pelianito’s piece on Holiness:
Holiness is not optional…
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
“…cannot be my disciple.” These are harsh words for the followers of Jesus, then and now. Jesus gives us two choices: carry your cross and come after me—or don’t; be my disciple—or don’t; live with me forever—or don’t. Two choices. Seen through the eyes of faith the choice is obvious, a no-brainer.
Then why do so many, and even so many Christians, seem to be making the wrong choice? “Carry a cross? Now? Can it wait until after the game?” “Be your disciple? Sure! I’ll give you an hour every Sunday. You’re welcome.” “Live with you forever? Wow! That would be great! Come back when I’m on my deathbed and we’ll talk.”
Frank Sheed in his book Theology for Beginners says:
“As a body, we hope to go to heaven, which means spending eternity with the Blessed Trinity, and we expect the experience to be wholly blissful; but in the prospect of spending an hour with the Blessed Trinity here below, there is no anticipation of bliss.”
So many of us are like St. Augustine before his conversion, who prayed: “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” Yet he was converted. Our gratitude can never come close to thanking God for the unfathomable mercy and patience he grants to sinners. What hope this gives us for ourselves and those we are praying for! St. Augustine and St. Monica, intercede for us! Beg the grace of conversion for all those we are praying for and for all sinners! Pray that all will finally make the right choice.
I have been reading the book, The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin. The book draws on the wisdom and experience of the saints on the path of holiness. He makes this statement in the first chapter:
“Holiness isn’t an ‘option’. There are only saints in heaven; total transformation is not an ‘option’ for those interested in that sort of thing, but is essential for those who want to spend eternity with God.”
Total transformation is essential. Period. Ralph Martin goes on to point out that we must aim high to enter heaven. If we aim for purgatory and miss—well, there just isn’t a good backup plan if you miss purgatory. Aim high. And you can’t aim higher than total transforming union with the Trinity.
I found Ralph Martin’s book a few years ago after attending the annual retreat of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis, where we were graciously blessed to have Fr. Thomas Dubay as our retreat master. He spoke on the universal call to this transforming union through contemplative prayer, which is beautifully outlined in his book, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer. After hearing what Fr. Dubay had to say, I thirsted for more. That is what led me to Ralph Martin’s book, which in my opinion is a must-read for all Catholics who wish to grow in holiness. One of the gems I gleaned from these experiences is that if you aim high there is no need for a backup plan. If you really desire this union more than you desire to cling to what is standing in your way, God will grant it to you. You will become a saint, for his mercy desires to give you this gift far more than you could ever desire it yourself.
St. Therese of Lisieux and all the saints who walked the way of perfection learned and taught that total trust and confidence in God was the secret to holiness. Self-reliance is death; self-abandonment is life.
One thing that gave me great hope in listening to Fr. Dubay at the retreat was that in living faithfully the Rule of the BSP, the penitent has a great head-start on the path of self-renunciation so necessary to transforming union. Devotion to the sacraments and time spent in prayer foster the deep conversion of heart that God desires from all his children in order that the words of Jesus may be fulfilled: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23)
St. Teresa of Avila teaches that there is no reason why a person who is living a good Catholic life can’t progress all the way to “spiritual marriage” in this life. Then what is stopping us? Our bridegroom awaits. What will we choose? Brothers and sisters, let us choose the cross. Let us choose discipleship. Let us enter into the life of the Trinity. It is the fulfillment of all desire, most especially God’s desires for all of us.
“I set before you life and death…Choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Finally, a report on a homily by Pope Francis a few days back from the Vatican Insider. Spiritually, he is working valiantly to prepare us for this great Storm which truly is, as one of his predecessors said, a springtime for the Gospels. It will help you to gird your loins.