By Charlie Johnston
Public surveys of late have consistently shown that the number of people who believe in God in America is in precipitous decline over the last decade, though it is still over 50%. In Europe, the Old World that first colonized the New, belief in God has utterly collapsed, hovering at barely over 20%. This is not an expression of confidence in the new world order that secular activists have made. Rather, it is a cry of despair. Seeing the wreckage secular activists have made of our culture, of our communities, of our very relations one with another, many people wonder how a loving God could allow a movement that believes in no light, no love, no warmth and no joy to rise with so little resistance.
I have long said that joy will rise even in the fullness of the Storm, as God reveals Himself to those who will receive Him. I have also said that if you scratch the surface of a cynic, nine times out of ten you will find a disillusioned idealist looking for a reason to believe again.
Regular readers know I am reticent in talking about signs and wonders – and slow to get enthused about images of Our Lord and Our Lady appearing in public places. That is for three main reasons.
1) We sometimes impose our expectations on things, straining to force an interpretation that the evidence doesn’t justify. When we do, we can come off looking silly, and end up discrediting our faith to those who do not already share it.
2) I think most genuine personal supernatural manifestations are, in fact, little graces from above – pats of encouragement and intimacy from the Master. Those things should routinely be treated with the same circumspection we would treat a compliment from a parent or colleague. If the person making the compliment wants all to know, He will reveal it. Otherwise, I generally prefer to take heart from it and keep to my work.
3) An absorption into these things can cause one to focus on the trappings of faith rather than the heart of it, which is to go forth. Even worse, there can become a self-absorbed quality in it that smacks of boasts of being the Divine Teacher’s Pet. When this arises, we squander the grace embedded in such things.
These are not hard and fast rules. I do not hesitate to tell people of little such graces privately when it seems to me it might give them heart or hope. I have even said some of them in public forums for the same reason. But every time I discuss one, there is a rill of fear that runs through me that I may be giving in to vanity and squandering grace. I take deeply to heart the old dictum that what Our Lord sees in secret, He will reward openly. I guess you could say I am a miser: I hate to think I might squander any of my heavenly reward.
I was told long ago not to concern myself with systemizing miraculous bits of evidence…just let it be. Wisdom reveals itself – and His children recognize their Master’s voice. In the fullness of the Storm, I was told, God would reveal Himself in ways that were undeniable to all but the invincibly ignorant and maliciously defiant.
In the last week, I have seen two things so striking – in both my personal life and in the world – that I cannot help but think they are the first strains of the overture heralding God’s visible entrance center stage. The first one, the personal one, was the note falling out of my Grandmother’s Bible on Christmas Eve – written by my Mother wishing me a Merry Christmas on this Christmas when we are apart. She died three and a half years ago. I was amazed that that note, which I had never seen before, should fall out of that Bible, which she and I both cherished in memory of her dear Mother, on that day. I wrote about it in the piece, “What is Truth?” I put the note back in the Bible for safekeeping, intending it to be a cherished memento. And now it is gone. I looked in the place where I put it, and it is gone. So I went through the whole Bible. It is gone. I think my Mother did, indeed, wish me a Merry Christmas and express her solidarity with me for the coming year. It was on ordinary paper, in ordinary ink, in her ordinary handwriting. It was here for Christmas – and now is gone. Plenty of room for skeptics to have reasonable doubt, but I believe my Mom dropped by to give me her love on Christmas, a day I have loved intensely from my earliest days. Your loved ones who have gone on are lovingly watching you, too. Thanks be to God.
The second thing is from Transfiguration Parish in Marietta, Georgia near Atlanta. The image, a picture of which is at the top of this article, emerged on a Parish window on December 12th of this year – the Feast Day of Our Lady of Tepeyac, or Guadalupe. This is no generic image of Our Lady. It is an image of Our Lady of Tepeyac. You don’t have to squint or turn your head to some peculiar angle to see her. She is there, compelling.
I have often called Our Lady of Tepeyac the Mother of Conversion – for that is what she did in Mexico. She converted the Aztecs of Mexico and crushed their brutal cult of human sacrifice almost overnight. I have said I was told she would convert all who would hear and receive her during the Storm…that she would ultimately convert Islam through its women…and that she would reclaim the hearts
and souls of all those who have left the faith in Europe and the rest of the Old World. She is the Mother of Conversion and will transfigure the heart of the world even in the midst of the Storm, before she comes to Rescue us as the Immaculate Conception, late in 2017. As with the calendar, these two aspects of Our Lady overlap with each other in these times. This image appeared at Transfiguration Church. The world is about to be transfigured – and Our Lady of Tepeyac will both walk with us, keeping us safe under her mantle and revealing her loving heart to all who embrace it.
Now the curtain rise on a year that will be remembered as the Year of Paradox, a year when those who put their hope in secular things, in temporal might, see those hopes put to utter ruin. Yet even in the midst of the rubble of our poor, bleeding world, true joy and hope will burst forth, gushing like a sudden spring of clear, pure water in the barrens. I have said that I was told that Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje are manifestations of a single event. This is the hidden sign of Lourdes to be revealed this year. The fountain at Lourdes gushed forth in the midst of a garbage dump, bringing healing mercy to all who would accept it. Our world has become a garbage dump, but just as at Lourdes, Our Lord’s grace will burst forth with healing mercy for all who will come to His waters. Thanks be to God for Pope Francis’ declaration of this as the Year of Mercy…so that even as the terror, the strife, the passion of the world deepens, His Mercy bursts forth to refresh us and fortify us to endure the Storm.
This year, 2015, a year of trial and sorrow, despair and division, terror and strife is the year of Lourdes – when Mercy burst forth in the midst of the dump. Next year is the year of Fatima, when the scope of the battle is fully revealed. But all who press on through the battle have recourse to God’s mercy. And in the end, Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart will triumph…and the people of the kingdom, and the people of heaven, shall rise together, shall rise forever, and God shall rule.
We are called to be the Family of God. He lives – and He is revealing Himself. He calls you to proclaim Him by your lives, by your tenderness, by your mercy, by your fortitude, by your love, by your unflagging resolve. Those in despair, blinded by the things of this world, will hunger for the Lord this year. But to find their way back to Him, they need someone to gently lead them, to gently care for them…not to berate them, but to love them and so, wiping the scales from their eyes, prepare them to behold the wonder the living God is working in their midst through His most favored daughter – even as the darkness thought it had prevailed.
You be the light, the joy that illuminates the Face of God for all to behold. I tell you, the Christmas after next when we read that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, we will exclaim with joy that WE are the people who have seen that great light. Blessed are those who light the way home for their brothers and sisters. We are the Family of God.