By Charlie Johnston
A few days ago I visited with a priest who pointed out a significant error I had made in a comment I made to a post on December 30 of last year on the Consecration of Russia. I was describing my encounter with National Park Rangers during my Novena in Mt. Meeker to end my pilgrimage. My explanation of the episode made it appear as if I had rescued the world from having the Storm enter its fullness three years ago. That is not what happened: my obedience allowed me to see God’s extravagant mercy in a unique way – but it was the growing prayers and return to the faith of many throughout the world – and God’s extravagant mercy – that spared us from the full onset of the Storm then. It was a very emotional moment for me, for I had been dreading it for months…and then to see it delayed filled me with the sort of joy I imagine Abraham must have felt when God stayed his hand with Isaac. After over 400 posts and almost 10,000 comments, I imagine I have said a few other things clumsily and appreciate serious counsel on any that have appeared. In any case, here is my corrected version of that comment, followed by a reprint of the story of the Shrine..
“When I was on my pilgrimage, I very much dreaded going to the top of Mt. Meeker. I had been told that when I reached the summit – which I was directed to climb to – the gates of mercy would be shut and the Storm would enter into the fulness of its fury. The sides people had chosen by this time would be hardened. One could still get back to the side of faith, but it would be much harder and entail much sacrifice – and few would make it successfully.
I am obedient. I walked across the country with serious neurological damage. But I dreaded this. I had also lived, since childhood, the agreement that I would obey any legitimate authority on earth when it exercised legitimate authority in contradiction to what I had been ordered. This is not as shocking as you might think. God can melt legitimate authorities objections – and on several occasions He has when it was necessary. It is humble submission, keeping my feet on the ground, and not becoming an unaccountable law unto myself.
I suffer an often hidden disability. I could not walk up the mountain and back in a single day. So I was walking up and camping during the Novena. The third day, I was confronted with National Park Rangers who rousted me at gunpoint, for camping was not allowed beyond a certain area. Once they realized I was harmless, everything was fine. But I was not allowed to camp close enough to the summit to be able to make it up and back in a single day, given my disability. I was utterly delighted. I had to feel something like my namesake, Abraham, did when the Lord pulled his hand back from Isaac. For the last few months of my pilgrimage, I dreaded getting to the top…it felt like I was going to be spiritual executioner to many. The Lord used my normal obedience to legitimate authority to spare me this. On the fifth day, I did as best I could, regardless. I got above the tree line, but I clearly could not make it to the top and get back down before it was deep dark – and I had already encountered four bears in the mountain. So I never reached the summit.
During the rest of the Novena I was given to know that because of the growing obedience and prayers of many, God would shorten the number of days in the fulness of the agony of the Storm. Because of my obedience to His command and my later obedience to legitimate ordinary authority, I was given to see that mercy in a unique way. And the Lord would leave the gates of mercy open for people to cross back over easily into the faith and truth as the onset of the fullness of the Storm was delayed. But had I stubbornly defied normal authority and snuck up to the summit as I had first promised, I would have been punished by God for my disobedience.
You can make of this what you will, but I was profoundly grateful to God – and learned something about the extent of His tenderness and mercy – and how He is ever ready to bend His demands when we live obedience. I have read several times that one of the few things that made St. John Paul visibly angry was when some well-meaning person told him he needed to consecrate Russia properly. Any of you who wish can correct what you think is St. John Paul’s great error on the matter. Both by temperament and personal experience, I completely believe he did NOT make a partial job of it, but did precisely what God wanted of him in the matter. And I am happy to take that conviction to my judgment. Never make the mistake of underestimating God’s tender mercy.”
And now, the reprint of the background on the Shrine: