The Week Before Christmas


By Charlie Johnston

‘Tis the week before Christmas and I am keeping incredibly busy. I’ve got Christmas cards going out. I really want to get a lot out this year. When I am on the road it is such a frantic rush I end up with hundreds of little bits of paper with names or numbers or stuff…and am not always sure what is connected to what. This year, particularly, I want to get a lot of cards out.

Meantime there is the hustle and bustle of visits and chats with friends. Yesterday, my phone didn’t stop from about 9 in the morning until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I would get a call, another would beep through and I would respond to it as soon as I finished the call I was on…then another would beep through.

Meanwhile, today I completely geared up in case I have to start walking in the middle of winter. The woman at the store asked why I was preparing for a long hike in the winter-time. I said, ah well, just in case. She said, “Oh, a prepper thing, huh?” I thought about it a moment – and figured explaining the Jericho March would be a tougher thing to explain than just a prepper thing, so I just said, “Just in case.” She smiled and said, “Oh, we’ve had a LOT of people gearing up ‘just in case’ since last summer.” So I have my super thermal long underwear and my nanook of the north coat, a heavy duty pack on the way with a sleeping bag rated to 10 below zero (not to worry, I’m not taking my thermal undies off when I bunk down). I am very glad I have done this before. It is good to know from experience what to get…it is even better to know from the same experience what not to get. Weight is your mortal enemy on an extended hike. You pay extra (sometimes significantly so) for ultra lightweight quality materials. Trust me, it is well worth it. Always get quality for extreme use. I have had the same pair of sneakers for a year and a half. I love the comfort of them – but also know they would not last more than three days on a serious hike before disintegrating. My Keen hiking boots ready to go, along with several pair of thermal socks.

Anyway, I know you are getting short shrift while I prepare both to make merry for sure and to hit the road if need be. So today I repeat a story I really like about Pontius Pilate. This was an unusual one. I contemplated it for years and did a lot of research on the historical Pilate, but could not bring myself to write. Then all of a sudden on an evening, I sat down with my yellow pad and pen and started writing furiously until I was worn out. I finished the draft the next morning, then refined it in the afternoon…and that was that. Usually, once I actually reach the writing stage, something like this takes me three to four weeks to get to where I am satisfied. This one took less than 24 hours – and I like it a lot.


Christ and Pilate

(What follows is fiction. I used the literary device of an archaeological find, but it is fiction entirely from my meditation on the Crowning of Thorns. This is NOT definitely what happened with Pilate, but merely my meditation on what MIGHT have happened with him. The historical events described prior to Pilate’s departure from Jerusalem are largely taken from the histories of Josephus, though I have used some less reliable ancient historians for sources, as well. Actually, Pilate vanished into the mists of history after his departure from Jerusalem. Most think he receded from view somewhere in Gaul, rather than in the tiny of town of Pyrgi, as I have set him here.

Please enjoy this little tale. Let it give you food for contemplation. If you comment to tell me that this mystic or that saint imagined it differently, you might be missing the point. There are a multitude of such speculations. We are called to enter in, to ponder the Mysteries of the Rosary. That is what I do with these little stories. I invite you to do the same – and I won’t be the least bit upset if your imaging differs from mine.-CJ)

By Charlie Johnston

The document that follows is a letter from a collection of parchments found sealed in an ancient vase. It was discovered in the modern-day Italian City of Velletri. The collection apparently dates to the reign of Claudius Caesar and was probably hidden during the tumultuous and destructive reign of Nero. It is written in Latin with a generous sprinkling of Aramaic phrases. If authenticated, its significance is obvious. From internal clues, we date it preliminarily to the spring of 39 A.D.


Dear Portia,

Pilate is dead.

I am sorry to tell you so bluntly but, in truth, it is a relief. He took ill with that awful consumptive disease when winter set in and has suffered grievously. These last three weeks he has been almost constantly delirious, wracked both by agonizing pain and unceasing night terrors. You cannot know what a trial it has been. Were it not for my brother’s wife and a friend we made here in Pyrgi, I do not think I could have borne it at all.

We were never happy in Judea. Oh, Pilate was proud when he was named procurator, to be sure. When we marched in with our cohort to take residence, he flew the imperial standards high and with pride. We had heard the Jews could be a contentious lot, so Pilate thought we would get off on a good footing by establishing residence among the people. But the trouble began immediately. The Jews went into an uproar, claiming that the image of the divine Caesar on our standards was a blasphemy to their God. They claimed that the fortress we occupied, Antonia, was part of their temple – and our residence there a desecration. Their behavior was so insolent and riotous Pilate asked his predecessor, Gratus, to delay his departure a few days to give us counsel.

Gratus warned Pilate that the Jews were zealous and ready to revolt on anything touching their religion, but were otherwise dutiful and productive subjects. He named some members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council, with whom he had made useful alliances.


They would, he promised, be as zealous as we are in enforcing imperial law and extracting taxes if we gave them leave concerning their religion. Pilate suggested it might be time to demonstrate who was ruler and who was ruled here, but Gratus firmly discouraged such a course. We would find to our sorrow, he assured us, that the policy of Rome, itself, was to yield to the Jews on matters concerning their religion. It was the only issue that sparked rebellion and Judea was too important a holding to toy with when it was so easily appeased without detriment to genuine Roman interests.


So Pilate sent the standards off to Caesarea and we vacated the fortress. We moved into a castle on Mt. Zion that was more spacious, anyway. That became the source of yet another uproar. Pilate hung the golden shields in honor of our gods on the castle. Once again the Jews cried, “Desecration,” because the shields were engraved with the gods’ names. It set Pilate into a fury. He had respected their god, he reasoned, so they could return the favor and show a little respect for our gods. This was our castle and Pilate was the delegate in Judea of Imperial Rome. He refused to be moved. The Sanhedrin appealed to Rome. Gratus was right. The decree we received ordering the shields removed was signed by Tiberius, himself.

After his anger subsided, Pilate sought a means of improving his relations with the contentious Jews. He began to meet regularly with the Sanhedrin to seek their counsel. A common theme was the shortage of water in the city and the difficulty many had in transporting it and keeping their crops irrigated during the dry season. The council had heard of the excellent aqueducts we had in Rome and wondered if a similar project might be attempted in Jerusalem.

Pilate was delighted. He contacted Rome and obtained engineers for the project. Oh, what a wonderful time it seemed! Not only were we bringing water to our subjects; Pilate personally ordered that as many Jews as possible be hired to help in the construction. But this became the greatest source of controversy yet. Some priests complained that temple revenues were being used in the project. The Sanhedrin ruled that temple revenues could only be used for sacred purposes. Pilate was outraged. The bulk of the


project was being financed from his own treasury. He thought the Sanhedrin malicious, petty and ungrateful. He went before the high council and asked what could be more sacred than protecting the people from the effects of drought. He demanded to know on what grounds they could refuse to contribute to what would work primarily to their benefit. The council decided it would support a new levy on the people, but was adamant that its own revenues must remain untouched. Pilate cursed them and walked out. The Sanhedrin then inflamed the people into an uproar and the project was abandoned.


After that Pilate kept away from the Jews. He sought no further advice from the high council, nor did its members receive welcome when calling on him, even on matters solely devoted to the empire. He became very harsh in matters of imperial law and exacting the tribute. What else was he supposed to do? Every time he reached out to them, the Sanhedrin twisted it against him. He hated them.

The final straw came in the trial of the Jewish holy man, Jesus. It was right around this time nine years ago, when the Jews celebrate the Passover. People had been overjoyed when Jesus had come into the city the previous Sunday. He had gained much renown as a healer and miracle worker. Many of the common people had started calling him their king, the Messiah. This disturbed Pilate. But he also received reports that the Sanhedrin was enraged at the man, so decided to look further into the matter. Jesus had apparently beaten and chased many of the council’s revenue collectors away from the temple – and this at their most profitable time of year. That soothed Pilate. He figured any enemy of the Sanhedrin couldn’t be all bad. So he told his informants to keep him apprised of what was happening in the city.

Pilate learned a lot over the next few days. The Sanhedrin had once tried to recruit Jesus to their ranks, but he had spurned them, calling them hypocrites and snakes who bled the people rather than helping them. Shocked, the Sanhedrin returned his contempt in spades. They sent lackeys out to try to trick Jesus into saying something they could denounce him for. But his answers were too clever, always leaving the lackeys looking like fools. Even worse, some of the agents the council sent had defected and become adherents of the man. The more Pilate learned, the more he liked this Jesus, but tensions were getting so high he feared there might be an open confrontation before the festival was over.

Before dawn on Friday we were awoken by our attendant, who told us a group of Jewish officials was demanding to see Pilate immediately on a most urgent matter. I had had a terrible dream that night. I had seen this Jesus standing meekly on a hill, his face a mask of sorrow. All manner of furious people, their faces contorted in rage, were hurling themselves at him with swords and clubs. And all who reached him crumbled to dust as soon as their weapons touched him. He wept copiously, begging them to stop that he might help them, but they just kept on coming, destroying themselves in their rage. In my dream, Jesus looked deeply into my eyes, tears streaming down his sorrowful face. I shiver now at the memory of that gaze.

I was in tears, myself, as Pilate dressed to go downstairs. I told him please; please…if this had anything to do with that holy man, Jesus, have nothing to do with it. He must not harm Jesus. I told him of my dream. He told me not to worry; he would send the Jews away.

When Pilate got downstairs the whole Sanhedrin was waiting for him. They were in an uproar – and it was about Jesus. The council was making all manner of wild political charges against the man and demanding he be put to death. I’m sure my face paled when Pilate came up to tell me. He said he had to go or there would surely be a riot.


He knew the council hated Jesus and only sought to destroy him because of the following he had built, a following that threatened to topple their own authority. He said he would drag things out until midday when the people would begin to fill the square – and the weight of the people, themselves, would force the council to back down.


But he was home again in just a few hours, shaken and pale. He had spoken with Jesus. The man was not at all what Pilate had expected. He said he kept thinking of my dream as he spoke with him. Pilate said Jesus seemed incredibly sorrowful, but not at all afraid, so much so that Pilate thought it bordered on insolence. At first Jesus would not respond to his questions at all. Irritated, Pilate asked Jesus if he knew he had power to condemn or to spare him. Jesus looked deep into his eyes with a terrible pity and told my husband he had no power at all save that which was given from above. It stunned Pilate, so he asked Jesus if he was a king. The holy man did not answer directly, but said his kingdom was not of this world.

That was enough for Pilate. Clearly, this was no threat to the empire, just to the Sanhedrin. He decided on the spot to release Jesus immediately. But when he went into the courtyard to announce his decision it was already filled with people. To his horror, Pilate realized the Sanhedrin must have filled the square with its own people during the night. When the common people began to arrive at mid-morning they would be crowded out. He went to his seat before the judgment table and announced he had found no fault in Jesus and would release him. The crowd roared, demanding his crucifixion. All Pilate could do was play for time. So he claimed there were jurisdictional issues and sent Jesus to Herod for questioning. Herod questioned him and sent him back. Again Pilate went out and told the crowd that neither he nor Herod had found any fault in the man. But the crowd shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

crucify him mob

Pilate feared another revolt might get him recalled to Rome in disgrace. Desperate to damp down the tension, he sent Jesus off to be scourged, hoping it would satiate the crowd’s bloodlust.


I told him I was going back to the square with him. His face went absolutely white and he said no, I must not go there. But I was adamant. Finally he said I could go as long as I stayed out of sight of the crowd in the side hall of the west entrance.

After I was seated, the guard brought Jesus in through the east entrance, directly across from me. Portia, I have never seen a sight as terrible and terrifying. His face was battered and swollen, so purple I didn’t at first notice the bright red blood trickling from his forehead. They had forced some sort of cap of thorns and briars onto his head. It was these which, forced into his forehead, caused fresh blood to trickle. They had adorned him with a robe of the royal color, which matched the color of his face. In his right hand they made him hold some sort of stick. I finally realized the horrible joke; they had made a mock king of him. Pilate staggered when he saw him. I thought my husband would faint. He turned back to me with a look of sick desperation and, with one hand, motioned firmly for me not to move from where I was at.

Pilate leaned forward and gripped the table of the judgment seat with both hands. After the stricken look he had given me, I was astonished at the calm command of his voice as he addressed the crowd. He told them firmly he had found no fault with the man and was going to release him. The mob’s cry hit us both like a fist. “Crucify him,” they screamed. Pilate looked at Jesus, then back at me. From where I sat I could see something the crowd could not. My husband’s knees were shaking uncontrollably. He sat down. After a moment, I could see an idea had occurred to him. He rose again and spoke.

“It is our custom to release a prisoner each year on the occasion of the Passover festival. Whom shall I release to you; Jesus, called the Christ, or Barabbas?” he asked the crowd.

Oh Portia, how I admired the cleverness of our Pilate at that moment! Barabbas was a murderous insurrectionist who cared little whether it was Jews or Romans; men, women or children that he murdered, as long as he was killing.

pilate and jesus

Confronted with this choice the people would have to choose Jesus. The square was silent as the nature of the choice sank in. And then the cry began. “Free Barabbas!” It rose to an insane, rhythmic chant. Pilate staggered again and fell back into his seat. I looked across at Jesus. Bloody and battered as he was, he looked at my husband with such sorrowful pity you would have thought it was Pilate’s fate which hung in the balance. Then Jesus looked at me and, through the gore, I saw the man from my dream. I moaned in terror, sure we would all die there that day. Pilate looked over to me, his face sick with desperation and panic.


“Shall I crucify your king?” he pleaded with the crowd. Then I heard the voice of the high priest, shrill with malice and rage, cry triumphantly, “We have no king but Caesar.” I could not see the high priest from where I sat, but I knew where he must be; on the receiving end of the most smoldering gaze of murderous contempt I have ever seen on my dear husband’s face. The chant of the mob continued, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Anger at the high priest galvanized my husband. He ordered silence in a voice that clearly threatened to do to the crowd what they would do to Jesus if they failed to obey. He told them he had found no fault in the man, then turned to the guard and ordered that a basin of water be brought before him. He stood waiting for the basin, his stare daring the crowd to say it, to go ahead and break this sulfurous silence with their murderous cry. The mob did not accept the invitation. When the basin arrived Pilate solemnly washed his hands. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he told the mob, “Upon you it shall be.” I heard the high priest’s voice respond with gleeful triumph. “Upon us, let it be,” he cried.

I was horrified by the rage and loathing that filled my husband’s eyes; even more so by the look of terrible pity Jesus gave Pilate as the guard took hold of him to lead him away. When he came back into the hall to me, Pilate ordered a guard to fashion a sign to be affixed to Jesus’ cross. He ordered that it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

After we got home and the guard had been dismissed, Pilate spoke to me. “When they brought him in I understood immediately the horrible joke,” he told me. “But as I looked in Jesus eyes, something happened. There was a brilliant radiance surrounding him. I saw power coming from him like rays of the sun. He was majestic and noble and his eyes were filled with compassion for me. For me! Can you believe it? Here the mob is crying for his head and he is looking at me with compassion. I could see he is a king.” Pilate shook his head briefly in confusion, then corrected himself. “No, he is not a king. He is the king.”

“How, then, could you condemn him?” I gently asked.

“I did not!” Pilate said to me with sudden fury, then caught himself. “He told me his kingdom is not of this world and I believe him. Whatever world he is from is more than this one. They will not be able to kill him. The joke is on them. The Sanhedrin has tormented us from the very day we arrived, and now they torment this king. But they have reached too far. This one they can’t contain. They will see. It will be just like your dream. Their malice against him will break them, not him.”

Pilate was so earnest and agitated, I left him alone. To speak at all was to trigger an intense outburst from him. So we waited in uneasy quiet for news. Late in the morning the high priest came in a rage, demanding to see Pilate. He complained that the sign Pilate had prepared should have read, “He claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate gazed at the high priest with savage joy and contempt as he said, “What I have written, I have written,” then had him thrown from the castle. He grinned at me in satisfaction. “Imagine their terror when they discover they really have set themselves against their king.”

But it was not to be. Late that afternoon we had a terrible earthquake, followed by a brief, furious storm. Both Pilate and I feared my dream was coming true. Just as the storm died, a messenger from the guard came to inform us that Jesus was dead. Pilate was thunderstruck. He thought sure that Jesus would somehow turn the tables on the council. Now he was terrified. After seeing the kingly radiance surrounding Jesus, Pilate thought the business of the basin was a clever and stately way of shifting all responsibility over to the Sanhedrin. He had actually used the basin as a message to Jesus: the message to the crowd was an afterthought. But now that his impossible hopes had been dashed, he knew the basin did not clean his hands of Jesus’ blood. He was terrified.

That evening, a man named Joseph, who Pilate thought was allied with the council, broke the paralysis that had settled on my husband. This Joseph asked permission to take the body of Jesus and remove it to his family tomb. Pilate was suspicious. He thought it a trick by the Sanhedrin to further desecrate Jesus. But several women had accompanied Joseph and awaited him in the outer court. When they were told Pilate would not release the body, they wailed with such intense and piteous grief that my husband was convinced they must have loved the man, Jesus, and so released him to their care.

The next morning a priest came to ask Pilate to set a guard at the tomb. He explained that Jesus had told crowds that he must be put to death, but would rise again on the third day. The council feared his disciples might steal the body and create an even bigger following for him in death than he had in life. Much to the priest’s surprise Pilate immediately, even eagerly, agreed. The priest slyly observed that the high priest would be very pleased to know that the procurator had thought better of the matter.

“You tell that viper if he ever ventures into my courtyard again he will meet the same fate he contrived for your king,” Pilate spat at him with such fury the priest did not dare argue that Jesus was not their king.

After the priest left, Pilate shook with emotion. What emotion, I could not tell. It could have been fury, joy, fear or some intense mixture of these and more. “I told you,” he said to me, “Death cannot hold that man. He is a king and I will not let the council get hold of his body to defile it before he has accomplished his purpose. The council wants the guard to keep his disciples out. I set the guard to keep the council out.”

His eyes blazed with such intensity I feared my husband might be taking leave of his senses. I took great care to soothe him. He took care to order the guards he had appointed to keep him apprised of any news, and to defend to the death any attempted intrusion into the tomb.

It was just after noon the next day when one of the guards came, shaking with terror, to report that somehow the body had been stolen right out from under them.


Pilate looked at me and remarked that this was the third day. He ordered the guardsman be brought some refreshment, then kindly, but intensely questioned him. The guard swore the cohort had not been drinking or carousing, as they were fearful about incurring the procurator’s wrath. They knew how important this was. The messenger reported they had been standing guard when a brilliant light bloomed in the darkness, blinding them. It had seemed only a moment, he said, but when their sight returned they were all on their backs and it was dawn – and the rock had been moved from the tomb. Pilate asked why it had taken so long for them to come tell him. The guard responded that they had been frightened the procurator might have them executed and so had argued among themselves on whether to send one to tell him or to flee. Pilate asked if there was any other news he should know. The guard’s whole body seemed to wither in misery as he reported that some of the women who had been with Jesus claimed he had risen and even spoken to them.


Pilate was delighted. He assured the guard that none of them would be punished, that they should just keep quiet about what had happened, neither confirming nor contradicting any rumors that arose. The guard gloomily protested that already some of the council were spreading rumors that the guard had been drunk with carousing. This delighted Pilate even more, so much that he ordered three months wages be given as bonus to each of the four guardsmen, while re-iterating his order that they say nothing and completely ignore whatever rumors the Sanhedrin put out.

After the guard left I asked Pilate why he was so pleased.

“Don’t you see,” he asked me. “If the council is putting out such rumors it proves they do not have the body. They are trying to contain the damage. Their constant schemes have fanned the flames of public resentment against us since we arrived. Every effort we made to improve relations they used as kindling to fire the flames even hotter against us. But now they are caught in their own trap. Every rumor they spread, every lie they tell is another piece of wood they lay on the cairn that will consume them.”

I asked Pilate if he thought Jesus was really risen. He pondered for a moment, then smiled and said whether he was or whether he wasn’t, the Sanhedrin would have much more to worry about now than how to make our lives a misery.

Over the next few months rumors swirled throughout Jerusalem about where Jesus had been, who had seen him, who he had talked with and what he was doing. It was even reported, with witnesses attendant, that he had preached to a group of hundreds of people at a single time. The council was beside itself. I think Pilate was hoping Jesus might come to us and offer some words of comfort and hope. He certainly never tired of summoning witnesses to recount for him all the details of the latest sighting. Finally, word came that Jesus had stood amongst some of his followers and vanished into the heavens before their very eyes, and the rumors died down.



That, however, was not the end of the matter. More like the beginning, if you want to know the truth. The followers of Jesus were bolder than ever. They took to calling themselves The Way and holding forth in synagogues throughout Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin was constantly bringing members of The Way up on charges. Nothing delighted Pilate more those last few years than to tell the furious priests to “…see to the matter, yourselves” and not to trouble him on matters pertaining to their religion.

Of course, our relations with the Sanhedrin were forever poisoned after that. Not that they had been much to speak about before, but after that Passover it became a constant struggle. The Sanhedrin was constantly trying to undermine Pilate with Rome and Pilate was constantly trying to undermine the Sanhedrin with the people. It was ironic that during those last few years Pilate achieved a rather popular following among the growing segment of Jews who identified themselves with The Way. Both made the Sanhedrin squirm, though I think Pilate enjoyed it more than members of The Way did. Eventually, though, we were summoned to Rome to answer charges that we were conspiring with the rebellious sect known as The Way to overthrow the Sanhedrin. It wasn’t true, but certainly Pilate did always rule in favor of anyone he knew – or even thought – to be connected with The Way any time the council brought them up on charges.

In many ways it was a relief. Our time in Jerusalem had not been pleasant. After proving his loyalty, Pilate hoped to receive another, more auspicious posting. He would even have been content with a return to the Legion with a favorable command, though we had grown very fond of each other over the course of our troubled encounter with Judea and did not want the separation that re-appointment to the Legion would inevitably bring. Unfortunately Tiberius died while we were en route to Rome and the new emperor, Caligula, did not consider hearing our case a priority. We went to stay with my brother and his wife in Pyrgi, just about a day north of Rome, to await the emperor’s pleasure. To our surprise, The Way had established a few footholds even here, in the heart of the empire. We met two adherents who said they had been in the courtyard on the day of the great drama. One, Joses by name, came to visit us quite regularly, occasionally bringing a friend or two. Joses and Pilate became fast friends and loved to talk at great length about Jesus. I thank God for it. When Pilate took ill a few months ago, Joses took it upon himself to stay with us and help me care for my husband.

You have to understand, Portia, that over the last few years Pilate was not the same man you knew from your childhood or his early days with the Legion. He never slept well anymore and his days were ever more listless. The only time he seemed his old self was when Joses came around. Truth is, Pilate had become consumed with thoughts of Jesus and what he could have done differently that day. He feared he had failed the only real king he had ever met. It ate at him. Joses swore that he had been among the crowd that Jesus had preached to after having risen. I think that, more than anything, sealed Pilate’s attachment to him. Pilate asked him why the members of The Way didn’t hate him, even seemed to enjoy coming up to visit him, when they both knew that whatever his protestations, without his approval there could have been no crucifixion. Pilate’s voice trembled as he once told me that Joses had explained that if Jesus was to conquer death and rise, he must first die. To some in The Way, Pilate was a curiosity. For others, even though he was a Roman, he had spoken with Jesus on that last day and that meant something. For those who had been there, Joses said, yes, Pilate had a hand in Jesus’ death. But his was the only hand that day that had seemed unwilling. And more, Joses told him, every friend he had brought said afterward that they could feel the grief of it still hanging on Pilate like a shroud.

Sometimes in the night, Portia, I would wake to hear Pilate muttering, “Your king is innocent,” or “I find no fault in him.” He would toss and turn throughout the night. Even on the good nights, the bedclothes would be soaking in the morning. One terrible night I woke to hear Pilate screaming, “I wash my hands of it. I tell you I wash my hands of it!” I had to wake him to keep him from disturbing the whole household. When I did he kept looking in all directions in frenzied panic. He shrank against the bedpost and didn’t recognize me. He kept begging, “Please, please…” and wouldn’t suffer me to touch him for some time. It took me hours to calm him. Finally he drifted back to sleep and did not awake until late the next afternoon.

Joses told me that Pilate constantly asked him if he thought Jesus could forgive him. Joses tried to reassure him that Jesus already had, but Pilate would always mist up in disconsolate grief, telling him, “I could have stopped it, but didn’t. I should have stopped it, but didn’t. Oh why, oh why, oh why didn’t I stop it? I’ve been lost ever since.” It grieved Joses that Pilate could not understand how forgiving of weakness Jesus is. It is malice that destroys a man, Joses said. He kept trying to tell Pilate he had more to fear from his hatred of the Sanhedrin than of the role he played in Jesus’ death. But Pilate would not hear any defense of the Sanhedrin – and could not accept that Jesus would ever forgive him for letting them take him to Golgotha.

When the sickness came, Pilate got worse. He laid in bed and kept begging Joses to ask Jesus to come and forgive him. He said he could not believe he could ever be forgiven unless Jesus came, himself, to tell him. Over and over, it was all he would talk about, then sob uncontrollably. In these last three weeks, he was in constant agony. He could neither sleep, nor stay awake. He was either quiet and labored or raving. “Jesus, forgive me,” he would plead, “Come tell me you forgive me,” and then great, wracking sobs that tore my heart out.

Joses would sit with him sometimes and send me away to give me a break, but I could tell it was hard on him, too. Four days ago, he had to go away for a week, but said he would try to get back early. Thank God he got back late yesterday afternoon. Ever since he had left, Pilate kept asking me, “Claudia, why are you doing me this way?” and groaning in agony. It was a constant accusation. When Joses arrived he found me crying in the garden. I collapsed onto his chest weeping as I told him what had happened. I told him I knew Pilate was not in his right mind anymore, but it hurt so bad that, even in his delirium, he should think I was doing this to him. I cried and cried and cried some more. I told him I had to go back up to Pilate; I couldn’t leave it like this, but I didn’t know if I could bear it.

Joses cradled my chin in his hands and wiped my tears off. “We’ll go up together, Claudia. You know he doesn’t mean it and he needs you so much now. We’ll see him together and you’ll be strong,” he told me. It was such a relief to have Joses with me as we went in. Pilate started stirring immediately and then woke, confused and feeble.

“Look,” I said. “Joses is here to see you. See, Pilate, your friend Joses is with us.”

As soon as we entered I saw that Joses had started silently mouthing prayers. It seemed to give me strength. Certainly, having Joses here gave me something to focus Pilate’s attention on other than me or his pain. I kept telling him that Joses was here, over and over. It felt silly to keep repeating it, but I couldn’t help myself. It had become a mantra against the darkness. Joses had his own mantra. He did not cease mouthing his silent, urgent prayers. To the astonishment of both of us, Pilate started struggling to sit up. He didn’t have the strength for it, but was determined. Joses did not cease his silent prayer, nor I my cheery announcements as we helped move Pilate into a sitting position. Joses put his arm behind Pilate to support him. When Pilate was up, his head slumped limply on his chest and his arms hung as limply at his sides. He took deep, struggling breaths, as if he had just finished some fearsome effort which, I guess, he had. After a few minutes, Joses interrupted his prayer long enough to say, “Claudia, he’s trying to tell you something.” I looked down and saw Pilate’s fingers twitching purposefully at me. My heart sank, but I leaned in to him. As I did, he grabbed my arm with a strength I would not have thought possible in that skeletal frame. “I…I love you, Claudia,” he whispered in a gasp. Tears flooded my eyes. It was all I could do to keep from bursting into sobs. Instead I replied, “I love you, too, Pilate.” But as I started to sit back up, his grip was all the stronger and more insistent. He had neither lifted his head from his chest nor opened his eyes during this effort. Again, he took deep, gasping breaths, gathering his strength for something more. Twice more, he told me he loved me. After the last, without lifting his head or opening his eyes, the faintest smile of contentment smoothed his face. I told Joses I thought he was ready to sleep again.

We gently laid him back down. Oh what a lovely sight he was! His breathing was deep and strong and quiet, and the faint smile of contentment remained on his face. I told Joses, with no little amazement, that it was the first peaceful sleep he had had in months. Joses smiled and said, “He needed to tell you how much he loves you.”66066

We went to the anteroom and had some tea sent up. We talked quietly into the wee hours of the night. Every time I went to look in on Pilate he was breathing deeply and peacefully. What a blessing! Sometime during the night, he slipped quietly away. I think Jesus must have come before Joses and I went up to him last evening.

Your brother is at peace, Portia. I know it with certainty. And how glad the knowing is!

Your sister-in-law,

Claudia Procula

Posted in Conversion, Culture, Fiction, Obedience, Preparation | 413 Comments

For Our Priests and Pastors


By Charlie Johnston

For the last few years, I have been amazed at how deeply our Priests, Pastors, Deacons and Nuns care for us. I have had the great joy of traveling the country – and when I am on the road, I usually have two or three private meetings a week with groups of Priests and Deacons, small individual meetings, and orders of Nuns. So much is going on behind the scenes as these wonderful people labor (usually in obscurity) to bring hope to those they care for – by truly living the hope that is in Christ. They worry about how to do the work effectively. If you could see how deeply, how tenderly, how intensely so many care and give of themselves…how they worry whether they are getting it right…you would be profoundly heartened at the state of our faith.

Last year, Karen Pullano, who runs the lovely Godversations site, wrote a marvelous open letter to Priests. I am going  to reprint it in its entirety here.

But first a few things….

Some of the TNRS team asked me to put up an appeal for the family of an infant, Isabella Dejesus, who is struggling. I do not put these things up unless it is something I personally have verified or a key member of the team has checked. And of course, that is not the primary focus of this site, so I am sparing in putting them up. That said, Baby Isabella and her family have had a great struggle, my team has checked it, and so if you have a little, I ask you to check out the story on the GoFundMe Page for her. Please pray for Isabella -and in this season of light, if you can, help relieve a little of the financial pressure on her family. She has three siblings.


It has been a great year for pro-lifers. The bad year for Planned Parenthood (PP) is going to get worse in the next year. Between Christmas and New Year’s, I am going to put up a review of the last year. The House Select Committee and a Senate Committee have done pain-staking work to issue multiple criminal referrals in the trafficking of baby parts. They have dug in to do the hard work, laying their case brick by brick instead of making flashy headlines. You don’t hear PP much trying to confuse the issue publicly these days, because it would rather not talk about it at all. You see, David Daleiden and Congressional Committees have not just found a smoking gun; they have exposed a closet full of smoking guns. That has not just put PP in a precarious situation: it has caused some of their government allies to hedge their bets a little rather than going all in for fear of it backfiring both politically and legally.

Yesterday, former Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Sunni Mitchell was formally relieved of her duties with the Harris County, Texas District Attorney’s (DA) office. You may recall that she ran the Grand Jury that had been charged with investigating Planned Parenthood. In one of the single most astonishing acts of arrogant hubris I have ever seen, she instead collaborated with PP to twist the Grand Jury into railroading Daleiden and his partner in developing the videos, Sandra Merritt. Both charges were dismissed as this astonishing effort to weaponize the justice system came to light.

Texas Right to Life President Jim Graham vowed to oppose the re-election of Republican DA Devon Anderson, who presided over this travesty while playing pro-lifers for chumps. Anderson was trounced in the election. Graham caught some heat from career Republicans for the radio campaign he authorized against Anderson. But he has sent an important message to all, including career Republicans: you can’t count on social conservatives’ support by sending them quislings and playing them for chumps. If we had more pro-life leaders like Graham, Planned Parenthood would have been on the run a long time ago. The dismissal of Mitchell sends a message that if you weaponize the justice system to help your buddies at PP, you are no longer immune from consequences. That’s a good, solid piece of work.


And now, the marvelous piece from Godversations by Karen Pullano:

By Karen Pullano

An open letter to our beloved Catholic clergy, here in the Syracuse Diocese, and everywhere

Dear Father (Bishop, Deacon, Brother,…):

On a Sunday morning in July, I arrived at Mass a mental, physical, and spiritual mess. The busy summer schedule had me running ragged in an effort to keep all my little darlings (7 of them) busy and happy, as well as meeting all of my basic responsibilities. As the weeks of summer wore on, the frenetic pace caught up with me and the physical toll meant that I started sleeping through my “prayer time” alarm every morning. That is always the first sign on the slippery road to spiritual wasteland in my experience. I felt like I was in a vast desert with no water in sight. I doubted that even Mass could restore me to peace.

This particular Sunday, we had some (all-too-common) teenager miscommunication and couldn’t get all the kids to Mass. It was either some of us or none of us, so I was overwhelmed with frustration at life in general and myself in particular. Couple that with grieving the recent loss of my mom, the 2 year-old still-stinging loss of my oldest daughter, and the 7 year-old ache of missing my first-born son, and this mama wanted to throw in the towel. I never would, but it’s the honest truth of how I felt. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, overburdened, and feeling inadequate and powerless to fix any of it. I truly love and live to serve as a wife, mother, friend, and member of the body of Christ, but often it’s a difficult and thankless job. (Often it’s not, but on this particular Sunday I had lost sight of the flip side). As the Mass began and the priest arrived on the altar, he looked right at me and said, “Karen, it is well, I am here to serve you.” OK, not really, but I heard it and felt it and in that moment my hope was restored because a faithful and devoted servant of God was standing his post.

Later, I wondered in awe at the sacrifice and dedication it takes to be a holy and devoted priest in the Church today. Do you get lonely, irritated, tempted, selfish, or struggle with obedience? I certainly do. Do you sometimes feel so overwhelmed by the tasks before you that hopelessness, fear, and despair rear their ugly head? That sounds familiar. Does living your vocation faithfully require determination, faithfulness, and lots of supernatural grace?  Welcome to my life.  As I contemplated our different vocations, (and forgive me if I’ve presumed too much), it dawned on me in a new way; if you can do it, then so can I. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.  I want you to know, your faithfulness shines like a beacon in darkness and brings relief to the desperate, like finding water in a dry desert.

I can’t imagine my life with the absence of the priesthood. I don’t want to imagine it either. You’ve been there in every joyful, difficult, sad, questioning, and holy moment of my life. You welcomed my children into the Church and to the body of Christ. By the power vested in you, you’ve absolved me of my sins and counseled me. You united my husband and me in holy matrimony thereby cementing my vocation. You prayed with us and for us in our times of devastating loss. You have been there, every single Sunday of my life, bringing Jesus truly present to this sinful and needy soul. At every Mass you are John the Baptist crying in the desert, “Behold, the lamb of God.” Without you there would be no need to respond with humility and need, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”. There would be no exchange. There would be no Mass. There would be no hope. Without you the tomb would always feel empty and hopeless.

I have experienced a taste of that hopelessness twice before. It’s a feeling that felt to me like Good Friday x1000. Twice now, we have held a wake to say goodbye to one of our children. Twice, we have greeted thousands and smiled and cried for hours on end. Twice, we have gone home afterwards to stumble through the longest night and wonder how on earth we would face the morning. The tomb was empty and so were we. Then twice again, we have said goodbye and closed a casket and trembled on our way to a funeral Mass, silently screaming to God to let this cup pass us by. Both times we arrived to escort a casket into church and approach an altar flanked with you holy men of God. Devoted in service to Truth, you were standing there like pillars of strength and compassion. You represented the reality of eternity when we were tempted to wallow in the temporal. You represented Resurrection! We needed you and you were there, many of you, silently screaming back to us that we were not alone. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer together. We never walk alone. Those two funerals changed me in many ways, but the royal priesthood standing up for us is something I will hold dear forever.

I have felt since our son died seven years ago, that if his death helped bring one beloved soul home to our Savior then he did not suffer or die in vain. I would suffer it all again knowing how precious every one of us is to our Lord. The same is true for our daughter. So many beautiful testimonies of faith stemmed from her death and I know there is so much wisdom in allowing her to leave us. I freely offer Michael and Anna and trust in Jesus to work it all for good. I simply wanted you to know that by your faith this one soul has been soothed and saved.

From the very depths of my heart, I thank you:
I Thank you for answering your cell phone in the middle of the night when a terrified and desperate mother needed to know you were praying for her child.
I Thank you for going to the hospital, instead of to bed, to offer prayers and comfort when my mother was afraid and facing the end of her life.
I Thank you for the many house calls to unite our family in prayer when our son was dying of cancer.
I thank you for bringing Mass to our home when we were too distraught to bring ourselves to Mass.
I thank you Bishop for the personal hand-written, snail-mailed letter of encouragement and affirmation that renewed my strength again and again.
I thank you for your service to the kingdom of God.
I thank you for standing for truth, especially in the face of growing persecution for daring to speak it. The thing is, your faithful flock knows the Truth deep within and we need you to reaffirm it. The voices of the culture would have us buy into the lies and we might be tempted, if not for your voice of truth. As long as there is a spark of light, there cannot be total darkness.
I thank you for your prayers and Masses. You will likely never know what they have meant to me this side of Heaven.

May you have the courage to stand strong in this world as the tide rises against all that you have given your very lives for, and the fortitude to suffer for the Truth no matter what lies ahead. Just as you have reminded me time and time again, when you walk in obedience and service to the Truth, you never walk alone.
With gratitude, admiration and love,
Karen Pullano

“The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.  When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ∼St. Jean Vianney


Posted in Church Governance, Culture, Family of God, Solidarity | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 103 Comments

Musings: Kitty Cleveland, Russians, and Christmas Fudge



By Charlie Johnston

Our friend, Kitty Cleveland, has a new CD out, “Hail, Holy Queen,” devoted to Our Lady. I saw this message go up on her Facebook Page yesterday:

“I need your help! Billboard Magazine just called for an interview about the new “Hail, Holy Queen” CD–they think I’m going to chart, but only if CD sales keep coming through my website. Please spread the word. Thanks, friends! Keep it comin’! 😃

Kitty has been my favorite Christian singer for about four years. Actually, she is my favorite living singer, period. A couple of years ago, I discovered that she was a fan of this website, commenting occasionally as Christiaria. It is so delightful to find that someone you are a big fan of is also a fan of yours. She and her sisters, Beth and Carolyn, have


kitty and me

Kitty Cleveland and I leading a crowd in the Song of Thanksgiving.


become key contacts for me in the New Orleans area.

I went to Sunday Mass with them last year. Kitty is the singer at her Parish once a month. She asked me to come up to the balcony with her that Sunday and “help her out” by singing backup to her. I do okay harmonizing a little on the fly, so up I went. I was absolutely tickled – and was quietly boasting to people that I had sang backup to Kitty Cleveland. At a reception on that visit, I chuckled when I overheard Kitty telling someone enthusiastically that “Charlie Johnston sang backup to me!” Delightful when everyone comes out happy.

Would it not be absolutely fantastic if Billboard Magazine had a CD entirely devoted to Our Lady listed on its charts? I ordered mine this morning. If you’ve got a little extra in the Christmas fund, why not order one for yourself or a friend? They make great stocking stuffers! Let’s make Our Lady number one on the Billboard Charts! (And you will love Kitty’s clear, rich voice.)


The first “fake news” appeared in America before the founding of the American Republic. Pamphleteers put out terribly polemical stuff to support their cause and harpoon their opponents. This is the way of the world. That is why learning to think critically, to ask questions, and to check facts is so important. When dealing with children, it is important to distinguish between fantasy and reality – to teach them how to question things for plausibility. When we are adults, we are expected to exercise that rational skepticism for ourselves.

No doubt many of the founders were frustrated by the fake news put out by their opponents in polemical pamphlets. They combatted this by arguing the point and showing evidence for their case. One thing that often helped was having a few stable sources of news that carefully guarded a reputation for reliability. Sadly, the worst cases of fake news in modern times come from the establishment media. It has chosen to be a reckless partisan in affairs, rather than a responsible chronicler of them

The founders, like all Americans since, have been bedeviled by fake news throughout our history. They fought it with better arguments and evidence. One thing that no American patriot on any side in our history ever would have approved of is letting government decide what is and is not “fake news.” If the establishment media really wants to make things better, it could improve its standards and quit trying to be both umpire and player at the same time. Meantime, the rest of us should act like the adults we are rather than naieve little snowflakes who need to be protected from ourselves by Big Brother.


Potential Russian hacking of American secrets and Russian “hacking of the election” are two entirely different things. No serious person is suggesting the Russians hacked our election machinery. Rather, they are suggesting that Russia used information it had hacked from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and various officials to influence how people would choose to vote.

Foreign governments try to influence the internal politics of both rival and allied nations all the time, using whatever means at their disposal. The first big blow-up in US history on the matter came with the XYZ Affair early in the administration of John Adams. The Obama administration tried heavily handed to influence England citizens to vote against Brexit earlier this year. The same administration sent political operatives to Israel a few years back in a concerted effort to defeat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Such efforts usually trigger a nationalist backlash in the target country, but they are standard operating procedure in every nation on the globe.

For 18 months, Republicans have been warning that the nation’s secrets are at risk from cyber-warfare, particularly from China and Russia. That is largely what the concern over Hillary Clinton’s illegal homebrew server was about. The Obama administration was remarkably sanguine about the whole business – so long as it was just Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Syria, the South China Sea and legitimate American interests that were compromised. The establishment media agreed there was nothing much to see there. But as soon as progressive interests and Democrat fortunes are threatened, the left and the media are ready to go on war footing. No one is arguing that what either Russia or Julian Assange released constituted misinformation: it is conceded that the WikiLeaks materials gave an authentic glimpse into the ugly behind-the-scenes attitudes and actions of top progressive officials. National Review’s Deroy Murdock hilariously covers the substance of the purported Russian hack. But neither the anti-God progressives nor the establishment media have any principles at all any more except winning and imposing their will on lesser mortals.

National cybersecurity has always been important – even when it only involves the fate of nations and US national interests rather than the fortunes of the Democratic Party. As the public is not likely to be as aroused by the fact that it was the DNC and its officials actual emails that were released as they are by the idea of Russia interfering with America’s election machinery, the utterly corrupt media misleadingly spouts headlines that the “election” was hacked – when no such thing happened or is alleged. But this is the sort of fake news that props up the progressive media narrative, even as it will eat further away at its crumbling credibility.

Here’s an idea: let’s be serious about cyber-security, about protecting national secrets at all times – and leave the marketplace of ideas to sort out how people respond to attempts at meddling.


And now, my mother’s recipe for Christmas Fudge. This is real fudge – no marshmallows to stabilize it – so it is much trickier and requires a certain precision in timing. Leave it on the stove a minute too little and it will come out sticky and gloppy; a minute too long and


My Mom when she was 32 and I was 16

it will come out soupy and grainy. You don’t have to stir constantly, but almost. Use a wooden spoon only and always use a candy thermometer. I have rarely known anyone who routinely got this right the first few times…there is a certain feel to it. So don’t feel bad if your first batch does not come off right. Fortunately, kids always like the flavor, even when you mess the batch up. I think I have finally gotten the hang of it pretty well, as my last five consecutive batches have been perfect. It’s tricky enough that I would not be the least surprised to see my next batch botched, though. So here goes:


Tootie Johnston’s Christmas Fudge

You will need:

Wooden Stirring Spoon

Candy Thermometer

Large Saucepan

Medium Cookie Sheet or Cake Pan


4 cups sugar

12-oz can of condensed milk

1/3 cup clear Karo Syrup

8-oz Baker’s unsweetened chocolate

heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt

Spray the saucepan and the cookie sheet with Pam No-stick spray (either plain or butter flavor). Put all the above ingredients in saucepan and put on medium heat, stirring constantly. Put the candy thermometer on the side of the pan, making sure the bulb is submerged in the heated liquid. As it melts down, it will become a bubbling dark brown liquid. Watch the candy thermometer. You may occasionally stop stirring and lightly increase the heat to get the temperature up a little. Don’t stop too long, though, or some of the mixture may scorch. As soon as the temperature reaches the soft-ball stage, take the pan off the heat. (I usually double-check this after I have got it off the heat by dripping a little from the spoon into a clear glass of cold water. If it is right, the drip will form a soft ball – like dropping candle wax into a glass of water. If not, it will start to dissolve.) Have the following ingredients ready to add to the pan immediately:

2 1/2 tsp vanilla flavor

1 stick (8 oz) butter

The vanilla will bubble up like it is boiling before it settles in. Stir at least 175 times. When you have finished, the butter will be completely dissolved into the mix. At this point, you may stir in 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, then stir at least another 50 times. An addition I made is, after stirring in the pecans, to add a cup of raisins – and then stir another 50 times. Particularly after adding the nuts, and then the raisins, you will feel the mixture stiffening, getting harder to stir. For best results, stir a total of 300 times. This brings air into the mix and ultimately makes it very creamy. Finally pour it into the cookie sheet or cake pan and let it set fully.

Don’t worry about what is left in the pan. Both you and the kids will enjoy scraping and licking the pan. Also, what is in the pan will set much quicker than what you have poured into the cookie sheet – and by spooning out some of the pan you will know within about 15 minutes whether you have produced a solid batch or not.




Posted in Culture, Musings | Tagged , , , | 510 Comments

Mother of Conversion, Pray for Us

By Charlie Johnston

I was saddened to hear today that it is likely that Rob Sherman, former national spokesman for the American Association of Atheists, was probably killed in a small-plane crash over the weekend. We were an odd couple of friends. I frequently had him on my radio show back in the day – and once he launched a small internet-based radio show, I appeared with him several times.

He was very much a showman, but not nearly as hostile to Christians as his rhetoric often sounded. I actually regarded him as more an agnostic than an atheist. He was profoundly pro-life, confounding the expectations of many. We once did a whole show debating the existence of God. At the end, he conceded there was a rational basis for such a belief, while not conceding any belief, himself. Privately, we often talked of God and faith and what all people – and Christians in particular – are called to be. Rob was a lapsed Jew, his wife a Catholic.

He was my friend and will be missed. On this Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe – or Our Lady of Tepeyac as I call her, I pray that Rob felt the mercy of God and the effects of conversion as his plane went down. Our Lady of Tepeyac is the Mother of Conversion.

I highlight today the Prayer of Miraculous Trust, which always acknowledges Our Lady of Tepeyac. Lisa Fixler at Full of Grace has added some tri-fold prayer cards for the Surrender Novena at her online shop. She has also added “Squirrel Shirts” to the collection related to The Next Right Step. I am thankful for Lisa, as she has been a primary support for my work since shortly after I first met her and her family. I am to be confirmation sponsor for her son – so I need to get back home so I can do my duty.

In these fearful times, turn to the saints and the holy angels to help you keep your eyes on Jesus. Today, ask Our Lady of Tepeyac to keep busy throughout the next year, converting the world as she once converted all the Aztecs. Ask her to intercede for the vulnerable unborn. And never neglect to add your intercession to that you seek from the holy saints and angels in bringing a great new light to our often terribly dark world.

Prayer of Miraculous Trust


We all need prayer. In Catholicism, we speak of the communion of the saints, which means that all the faithful – both here and departed – are fully alive to God, and we have access to the faithful departeds’ prayers if we only ask. (for those who have any theological doubts on this point, please see Matthew 22:32, Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38). But the prayers of the Church Militant, that is the faithful still on earth, for each other are crucial – and even more crucial in these times.

Right around the turn of the millennium, the archangel, Gabriel, gave me a prayer and told me the time would come when we would need miracles – and many miracles would be wrought through the faithful use of the prayer.

Right now, many things are collapsing before our very eyes.

When the normal means of healing are easily available, you should always take advantage of them. When God has provided abundant means of normal medicine, it is a presumption to demand only His supernatural medicine. Ideally, it is best to take advantage of both. But soon (and it is happening far more rapidly than I expected) availability of normal services will be spotty – and if you have something chronic or are elderly, much will not be available at all as surviving doctors start working under an implicit triage mentality because of the shortages of supplies and equipment. God will not leave you bereft.

Along with this posting I have linked to a religious supply house that has printed up thousands of prayer cards containing this prayer and instructions on how to use it. It is the Full of Grace Supply House which is also linked at the right hand of this page. The woman who owns it gave me most of them to give away. I always carry a supply with me. I asked her to carry them in her inventory, so that as many as possible might have access to them.

Now, if you treat these as some magic object, I have utterly failed my duty to you. There is no magic in the card, nor magic in the prayer. Rather, the instructions for the prayer teach you how to align your will with that of God. Having said that, there have been many startling results from the proper use of this prayer. Let me explain.

First, the Lord often acts to confirm His intentions. I tell you to acknowledge Our Lady of Tepeyac, which is Our Lady’s proper title in this image, though she is commonly called Our Lady of Guadalupe. I know this because she told me long ago. She is sent as the Mother of Conversion in these terrible times. It pleases Our Lord that you acknowledge, then spread devotion to His servant and mother in this role He has given her for these times.

Second, prayer must begin with faith, the knowledge that God is in control of all things. But it must not end there. The demons in hell know that Christ is Lord, they know Scripture better than you and all the greatest theologians combined and, as James said, they tremble because of that knowledge. If all you have is faith, you have nothing more than the demons in hell.

Faith must lead to trust, the trust that once you acknowledge and follow Him, whatever the Lord allows to befall you is for your benefit or instruction or that of another that you may give witness to, perhaps never knowing until judgment the witness you have given by your trust. Many Christians treat prayer as the cloth with which they rub the magic lamp to bind God to their will. Prayer is to bind you to God’s will – and to begin to understand it. That cannot happen unless you trust, knowing that His ways are not your ways. Some purported faith healers teach that God will always heal those who trust Him. They are right, but not in the way they think. Their imaginations are so impoverished that, whatever they say, the only good they can envision is of this world. God always heals for eternity – that you may have abundant life with Him in heaven. If that means you must suffer some here to quell your rebellious yearnings, than suffer you will – if you trust God. If you are a particularly useful soul, God may allow you to suffer in penance for others who do not know they need penance, that more might be saved. Trust.

Trust will lead to abandonment. That is giving yourself entirely and willingly to whatever God wants of you. Gabriel came to Our Lady, Holy Mary, and told her she would get a great honor if she accepted – become the mother of Our Lord in His human incarnation. But there was a catch, This would happen in a way that would subject her to shame and, perhaps even a brutal execution. What incredible faith, trust and abandonment she lived to be able to say almost immediately, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.” Of course, as Gabriel noted when he first spoke to her, she is “full of grace.” It is hard to get outside yourself. Some years ago, I was undergoing some serious suffering – and it would not go away. I begged and begged to know what I was doing wrong so I could correct it and escape my sorrows. Finally, the Lord, Himself came and said, “This is not about you.” Then He told me who it was about – someone I dearly loved who, unbeknownst to me, was in great spiritual danger. The Lord asked was I willing to accept this penance on the person’s behalf, for he desperately needed it. Foolish and self-centered as I was, I am proud I said yes – and soon was rewarded by seeing how much it was needed. Abandon yourself to His will – and don’t feel bad when He shows you what a silly, little fool you are. He only does that to those in whom He sees great promise. Be glad of your rebukes.

Finally, it is good to have prayer partners. It is even better to have one who already beholds the Face of God, for the saints’ faith is assured and will not fail. Take full advantage of the communion of the faithful. We are really going to need all hands on deck.

Know that with God, the intention is the action. Keep your prayers of petition short. It is not the length of them that aligns you with God, but the trust behind it. If you had perfect trust, all your intentions would merely be stated and then you would accept perfectly what God sends you. If you pray long in petition, you risk deluding yourself it is the Herculean nature of your efforts rather than the effortless grace of God that brings light, and thus become vainglorious. And yet, do not begrudge those who must make long, moaning prayers of petition. A struggle between lack of faith warring with hope can make long prayer necessary. Brevity is not for all prayer. Prayers of worship, praise and thanksgiving – and those that involve the will of another, may be said at great length, either privately or in community. Remember that St. Augustine was bathed in a lifetime of his mother, St. Monica’s, prayers. Also, when a demon is involved, prayers of intercession may go for weeks, but that is best left to priests under most circumstances.

Do not say this particular prayer more than once for any specific intention. To do so is to fail in trust – and defeat the purpose of this prayer, which is abandonment to God’s will. Certainly, God knows how needy we are, so you may say other prayers for the same intention if the need arises, but not this one. In fact, following the lead of St. Monica, you should pray frequently on matters involving the will of another – but only once for this prayer, which is for abandonment to God. If you can, it is best to say it and then let it go, trusting that whatever comes of the matter now is for your eternal good regardless of what happens

Here are instruction and the text for the prayer:

A prayer to abandon yourself to trust in God; to bind yourself to His will with trust rather than trying to bind Him to yours. Pope Francis called Our Lady of Guadalupe the “Virgin of Tepeyac” at her last feast day. Tepeyac Hill is where she appeared, not Guadalupe, hence the title Our Lady of Tepeyac, Mother of Conversion. At its deepest level, this is a prayer that we all convert ourselves to God’s Holy Will.

Back of card: PRAYER OF MIRACULOUS TRUST:  (This prayer is to help you turn things over to God, trusting that once you have done so, whatever He then allows is for your eternal good and that of those you love.  It lets you ask what you want of God, then closes by abandoning yourself to what God wants of you.  Do not say it more than once for any particular intention, as this is an abandonment to trust)

Begin by asking for the help of Our Lady of Tepeyac, then cross yourself and say:

By the power of Our Lord, Jesus Christ; to the honor of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception; in service to her Immaculate Heart; I ask you Lord (state intention here and ask for the intercession of the saint of your choice).  I thank you for hearing my prayer.  Thy will be done.  Amen.

Cross yourself again, and give it over to God entirely with trust.”

I saw a pithy saying last week I will end with: “Don’t worry about tomorrow. God is already there.”

You can purchase English or Spanish versions of the Prayer of Miraculous Trust in prayer card form at Full of Grace Supply House, which sells them with my permission. I do not receive any portion of any payment you may make in buying copies of these prayer cards.

Our Lady of Tepeyac – Prayer of Miraculous Trust Holy Card

Estampita de Ntra. Sra. de Tepeyac – Madre de conversión; Oración de la Milagrosa Confianza


Posted in Conversion, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tagged | 443 Comments

The Politicization of Doctrine is a Blunder



Galileo before the Catholic Tribunal

By Charlie Johnston

In the early half of the 17th Century, the Catholic Church got deeply involved in scientific debates about heliocentrism (whether the sun revolves around the earth or vice versa). The Church formally banned the books by astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus that claimed that the earth revolved around the sun, rather than vice versa as the errant scientific consensus of the time maintained. This culminated in the formal condemnation of astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1633 for maintaining the same. It was one of the greatest embarrassments for the Church in its history.

It did not have to happen. As early as 1615 the man who would become the Church’s main point man on the matter, St. Robert Bellarmine, warned that treating heliocentrism as literally true would constitute “…a very dangerous thing, likely not only to irritate all scholastic philosophers and theologians, but also to harm the Holy Faith by rendering Holy Scripture as false.” The case was more complicated than is commonly known. Galileo was a good scientist, but dabbled in some very bad theology and some controversial politics. In the end, in an imprudent bargain, the Church did the state a favor by condemning Galileo on errant theological grounds to vitiate his political irritation to the state and theological irritation to the Church – neither of which had much of anything to do with his scientific research. In short, the stated grounds for his condemnation were not the actual grounds – and in the process, the Church gave itself a major, unforced black eye.

The simple truth is that while authorities of the Church often have good reason and always every right to weigh in on scientific, economic, and political (including diplomatic) matters, it has no binding formal authority on these matters, except to condemn means that are illicit by their very nature. Now the media is filled with reports that the Vatican is going to require Priests to preach about “global warming.”  At this point, the reports are a bit overblown, as it is not yet known what tack that requirement will take. If it is about man’s duty to act as good stewards over nature and our environment, it is in perfect accord with the Church’s responsibility to the faithful. If it is to prescribe which are the sole means to accomplish this, it is an usurpation of the primary prudential responsibility of the laity and can only lead to another black eye.

I do not argue that no politician has anything useful to say about the faith. But I have been a lifelong defender of the faith against efforts by political classes to usurp the Church’s lawful authority on faith and morals. Neither would I suggest that Church authorities have nothing useful to say about science, economics or politics. But I will defend the laity’s primary prudential authority on such matters against any illicit efforts by the Church to claim formal authority it does not and never has had – and that when it has tried to expand it, has usually badly damaged both the faith and the polis. The great danger when an institution claims formal authority it does not have is that it risks diluting and discrediting the authority it legitimately has.

I have noted consistently that on those matters on which Pope Francis has spoken definitively and Magisterially on matters of faith and morals, he has been solidly orthodox. I have had occasion to be dismayed at times by his seeming reflexive personal preference for temporal methods that are coercive and authoritarian – and that, when tried historically, have almost always yielded the opposite results of his nobly stated ends.

This is a time when the spiritual authority and prestige of the Church should be carefully shepherded and guarded. St. John Neumann once encapsulated the heart of shepherding prudence by stating that if a Bishop did not HAVE to speak on a matter, he SHOULD NOT speak on it. I pray that authorities of the Church will not add to the confusion that is rising in the world, but I am aware that some of these things must come.

I have been and will remain a consistent defender of the Church against illicit assaults on its legitimate authority by the imprudent ambition of the polis. But I will also be a consistent defender of the polis against any illicit assaults on its legitimate authority by imprudent clerical ambition.


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Each Soul is the Battleground


By Charlie Johnston

My public tours are over for the year and I am in the midst of visiting with family. Right now I am with my daughter, Christie, and her husband, Duane, and their daughter, Lily – a lively, smart and headstrong little girl. I made fudge yesterday (gave my daughter her choice for this trip – my famous fudge or my famous green stuff.) Tomorrow I go to Alabama for a few days visiting family there. Monday I go back home and will probably sleep for a week.

On October 13 of this year, I had a very rare type of vision. It was not about the future or the past, but about how God orders all things. I indirectly described the only similar major vision I ever had in the piece, “Into the Whirlwind.” Without going into great detail, there are a couple of striking things I was shown.

The most important is that ALL things serve to accomplish God’s will. ALL things. God never interferes with our free will. But He is omniscient and knows what we will do – and so orders it to accomplish His purpose. If you are Pharaoh, God knows the hardness of your heart – and uses it to demonstrate His power and to free His chosen people. If you are King David, God knows your intense passion and courage, including it slipping frequently into disorder. But He also knows your love. So He uses it to found a kingdom which is a foreshadowing of the Kingdom He will open up to us with the coming of Christ. If you are St. John Paul, He uses your fortitude, courage and brilliance to fortify His Holy Church. If you are Roman persecutors of the early Church, God uses your persecution to spread the Gospel and the faith throughout the world. Whether you are obedient or disobedient, good or evil, scheming or docile, whatever you do ends up serving God’s purposes, even when you intend exactly the opposite. The only thing that is ever at stake is your own salvation.

We are constantly revealing ourselves and giving ourselves up to judgment. If you speak of charity, but devise it so as to give yourself advantage, you reveal yourself to God. If you speak of faith, but are ever eager to be on the side that seems to be winning, you reveal yourself to God, even if you actually deceive yourself. It was not just St. Peter who was called to walk on water to Jesus, ignoring the waves of the Storm around him. We are all so called, called by God to ignore the fearful waves of trouble, the howling winds of ambition to keep our eyes on Jesus and use all He gives us to serve Him by serving His people. When you can recognize both temporal triumph and temporal disaster as the same fraud wearing different clothes; when you can recognize that the only reality that lasts is loving and serving God; when you understand that you most fully serve God by loving your neighbors and seeing in them His Divine Image, you are at the beginning of wisdom.

The devil already knows all this. He knew it from the moment of his rebellion. He knows he will not win – and that, in fact, every gambit he plays will only serve to accomplish God’s will. He knows he will get no kingdom after this world has passed, but will be as isolated and forsaken as all others who have rejected God. The devil is pure malevolence, his sole purpose to negate what God has created – to mutilate, torture, terrify, seduce, and ultimately destroy as many of the souls God has created as he can. That is the only “victory” he ever gets. The satan works with furious resolve to try to pervert your best qualities into parodies of virtue. He seeks to turn your love into lust, your initiative into greed, your search for righteousness into a shallow self-righteousness preening. With everything we do, we accomplish God’s will while revealing whether we are God’s or the satan’s man. It is only ever our soul that is at stake, not God’s sovereign will.

There is a great spiritual war going on right now…and each soul is the battleground.


In the late stages of big campaigns, I always dealt with a rising tide of panic and agitation on the part of insiders as election day loomed closer. It would get strikingly more pressured at about six weeks out, then become an unbelievable pressure cooker the last three weeks. Panicked allies would tell me four or five times a day how we had to throw everything out and do some wild desperation move. Some of the more nakedly ambitious sorts would start rehearsing their excuses and recriminations before any decision had been made. It happened the same whether it was a winning or losing campaign. It was always useful to me, for intense pressure truly reveals character. I was always surprised at how some who had seemed strong to me were merely reeds shaken by the wind – and some who seemed timid were shown to have great fortitude and at their very best in a storm. I came to look forward to the revelations of character the pressure cooker period would reveal. It helped me make better informed decisions after the issue was settled.

My examination of conscience in the weeks leading up to decision rarely involved mere victory or defeat. I always trusted that, if I had done my work well with fortitude and refinement, God’s will would be accomplished through whatever the final result was. I would ask myself if I had done all I reasonably could to accomplish victory. Not, mind you, that I had made no mistakes – if I made no mistakes I regarded that as evidence I had not worked hard enough. Had I fought with vigor and skill, with honor and fortitude, in a way that I would be content with my conduct whatever the outcome? If I had, I was content to leave the results to God. I am sad to say that there were some victories where I was not entirely satisfied with my conduct – but also gladdened by  some losses where I was quite pleased with how I had comported myself throughout. Certainly candidates, staff and volunteers all appreciated that the stormier it got, the steadier and more deliberate I got. It helped keep all focused and panic at bay.

Now that we have entered into the year of fulfillment, I see signs of the same thing among some readers here. More than a few have asked for serial clarifications, a few have tried to come up with novel ways in which I would be right even if I were wrong about a fundamental milepost (kind of a corollary to those critics on other sites who have been arguing that just because I have been strikingly right about the sweep of things, that does not mean I am actually…right). None of this means much, just the sound and fury that always rises as you approach a critical moment.

It is pretty simple and does not require clarification. If I have been accurate that there will be no peaceful transfer of power from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, I will be publicly around until July 5, 2018. If I have erred about that, I will take responsibility for it and quit the scene. If the latter happens, I will remain on full alert even in exile until July 5, 2018, which is the end of my time of active service, always in complete obedience to the lawful authority over me.

God is always at hand to those who call on Him. His goodness endures forever. I know He comes to reclaim His people, not to destroy them. I know some of the details of how He intends this, but only some. I know He will accomplish it.

I guess my way of assessing things is a lot different than most people’s. I described it in the piece, “All In.” I meant what I said in it. That is the way I do things.

As we draw closer to an hour of fulfillment, I imagine the questions will get more intense. So long as they are civil and not hectoring, I will clear them. But I will rarely answer them. I have said what I have said and I take responsibility for every bit of it. We are all revealing ourselves and delivering ourselves up to judgment. Remember that before panicking.  I have been true to my promise of long ago – and I have been greatly heartened by how many have taken heart from it. It has been a good few years of work. And on the big things, I have almost always been right. While past performance is no guarantee of future results, I have every expectation that it will be the same this time – and I have another year and a half of heavy work before me.


Our team member, Beckita, sent me a note to say she thought I should reprise the piece, “Through a Glass Darkly” once more as we have so many new readers – and she considers it absolutely foundational. So I reprise it below:

Through a Glass Darkly

deep space stars.jpg

By Charlie Johnston

Authentic prophecy is always an invitation from God. It is an invitation to remember His goodness in times past, to see His mercies in times present, to come back to Him with our whole heart, and to call others to do the same. It is guidance on how to act in particular times and circumstances to accomplish this. It is assurance that He is there, that He loves us, that He wants us back, and that He will walk with us if we heed Him. It is an invitation first to the one called to prophesy, and then to all who will hear. It is an invitation to come to God and participate with Him in His gathering of His children. The most important part of prophecy is its call for what we should do.

It is a great achievement of the devil that he has seduced so many into reducing prophecy to fortune-telling, a sort of mystical mystery theatre in which most act as passive spectators, choosing the character on-stage who best appeals to their interests, beliefs and vanity – then sitting back and enjoying the show. God calls you to act, to act with Him, to act selflessly to rescue His children from despair and disorder. If the emphasis of any mystic is on what will happen rather than what you are called to, it is a diversion, not prophecy. Authentic prophecy is active, requiring you to stretch out your heart and your mind to God and to stretch out your hand in solidarity with your fellows. It is not passive.

Many seem to think interpretation of prophecy is simply getting the narrative right, then charting it two-dimensionally. The foolishness of this reminds me of the ancient fable of the six blind men and the elephant. The Book of Revelation is fascinating for many reasons, not least of which that it presents the closest thing to a raw telling of what the mystic actually is shown than anything I have ever seen. Oh, there is plenty of interpretation in it to make it somewhat comprehensible to us, but St. John gives us a good look at much of the raw material he was working with. Revelation has been seriously studied by thousands of great saints and theologians – and there are almost as many variations in interpretation as there are people who have studied it seriously. There is a general consensus on some larger themes in it (though even here some things are hotly disputed) but there are huge disputes on the meaning of many of the details.

Now, as then, a glimpse into eternity does not produce a neat, little, linear narrative. If it were so, I would not have spent a lifetime being instructed. I have told you I spent nearly two decades getting much wrong when I was instructed by my angel. I think you know that, in earthly terms, I am a pretty smart fellow. If it was as simple as studying a linear narrative, I would not have needed five decades of instruction and testing. So, with a caveat that I cannot describe it with precision unless I made up a whole new vocabulary, let me tell you a little about how it actually is.

I gave you a hint of it in my piece, “Into the Whirlwind.” I described the cosmos, in part, in these words:

Imagine that God showed Job our world, sparkling blue and green like some impossibly rare and precious gem, glittering with life and light. Then God shows Job the entire universe. Think of Job’s wonder at the billions of stars, comets, quarks and planets all pulsing and whirring, a symphony of light and rhythm…”

When you are shown, when you get a glimpse into eternity, it is like that. Trillions of parts all pulsing and whirling, traveling at different speeds and directions, often changing speeds and directions. It is like a three-year-old trying to make sense of the working of a nuclear reactor. At the most elementary level, you try to discern the convergence point of several different elements. It is a game that appeals to your vanity – kind of like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube writ large. Except it is impossible. Things change speeds and direction regularly. After a while, if you are wise, you largely drop that effort and focus on patterns that emerge. While you can’t discern all – or even many – of the details, you can see the larger trends they form.

There are several complications even in this. First, some things are symbolic and some are literal – and it can be difficult to recognize the difference. Some things can’t be changed; others are changed dramatically by our response. It is similar to a cruise liner sinking in the open ocean. Once it reaches a certain point in its distress it is certain to sink. It is almost certain that some people will die. How many will die, though, depends on the behavior of those caught in the catastrophe.  If everyone is in panic and acting in an “every man for himself” way, many will die. If many are steady and resolute, they can help others do the same and many lives will be saved.

Meantime, there is a huge disconnect between how things appear here and how they appear there. We come up with clever schemes we think will solve problems – and most don’t even make a dent in the heavens. The sincere and humble prayer of a single person can change multitudes. When you get a cohort of people praying – and living the prayer of doing, of denying their own appetites and caring for those around them tenderly, it can change the trajectories of entire realms of those moving parts. If you knew the power of sincere, humble prayer and doing the little right in front of you, you would eagerly live it well. The machinations of those in power are mere sparklers in comparison to the majestic, tidal power of a single sincere and humble prayer.

Obviously, I explain this allegorically to you. I do it to give you some sense of what it is like, not what it is. Applied to current times, the Storm is something that is set, it must be fulfilled. But the intensity and duration of it can change based on our response. Some things about it have already changed. The intensity was increased by our determination to persist in rebellion; the duration of its fullness has been decreased because of the rise, often quietly, of renewed faith and fidelity among many who have already despaired of hope in human devices. There are far more troops out there ready to  answer the call. Even in the midst of the Storm, we have entered into a great Christian revival. What God intends is that you live it and bring the hope that is in Him to those around you. If you do that well, it will spread like wildfire. It is not sufficient that you be right, but that you be effective, which means you must bury your ego. If you simply browbeat those around you, so they run away from the faith, you have utterly failed. If you never defend the faith when it is assaulted, you have utterly failed.

I am very careful in dealing with my critics. If they seem animated by a restless malice – or a vanity to prove themselves right – I largely ignore them. If they are serious, perhaps pointed, but showing no signs of malice or vanity, I try to answer them well – sometimes provocatively, sometimes gently. Many of my honorable critics have helped refine my thinking. But the key reason is that I am not sent primarily to say, but to do: to give heart to people, assurance that God is right at hand to them, in the midst of a great crisis in world and salvation history that they may endure until rescue. I am responsible for doing that for my critics, as well, insofar as it can be done, as for everyone else. So I largely refrain that their malice or vanity does not fossilize around them – and when they see God act, they may take firm hold of Him, whatever they think of me.

When I hear purported private revelations, there are certain things I watch for. Does it sound primarily like a running commentary on current events? While authentic prophecy does touch on some current events, its focus is always on the eternal and what our response to it should be. So if it sounds like a radio talk show, it may have value, but it is not prophecy. Does it have heavenly beings profusely condemning various people or peoples? In my entire life, I have never heard Our Lord or Our Lady speak in bitter condemnatory tones about anyone. I have only heard the angels speak with contempt for one person, one time. Often, they condemn sin, but there is a yearning sorrow, almost a lament at times, for their poor lost children The focus is always calling the children of the Kingdom back, not casting them into outer darkness.

The Rescue, late in 2017, is one of those things that is certain. I get nervous about it sometimes because I have frequently been wrong about times – but this is one of the incredibly rare occasion where I was told that, specifically, rather than the enigmatic “soon” or “now.” But I am constantly examining and re-examining those matters which are interpretation, for it pleases God to show me, too, how little I understand. Until my spinal event in 2003, I always assumed I would be in excellent, robust health throughout the Storm. It seemed a good interpretation because I could not see how anyone could do the things I was called to without such health. But it pleased God to show me that He writes straight with crooked lines – and that my robust health was not necessary to accomplish His purposes. I assumed too much. It is why I am grateful for my little disability, often calling it “God’s leash.” It reminded me that God is not at all dependent on me, but I on Him.

I constantly go back to what I call “first things,” what I was told specifically or the larger, immutable principles that have been embedded in me, to re-examine my interpretations. I have often said there will be no presidential election this year. Actually, there are some narrow circumstances in which there could be, but the results would be irrelevant. What I was told was that President Obama would not finish his term and that our next stable national leader will not come from the election process. You could have an explosion of events after an election and before an inauguration. You could have Obama declare a national emergency, cancel elections, extend his term and then depart before the extension was up. The most likely scenario is that everything will be up in the air before election, but there are narrow circumstances where that may not be.

I knew that the fullness of the Storm could have begun as early as the summer of 2012. I was grateful that it did not. But I thought, along with many of my critics, that with all that had to happen, we really did need to enter into the fullness by mid-2014. I somewhat nervously was telling the Lord that I knew He knew best, but didn’t we need to get a move on? After enough of this, He appeared to me and simply said, “When I act, it is done.” It was a reminder to me that, even with all the instruction, I was thinking of these things and time in the way men do, that He is not subject to such limitations. I have since come to see what a grace the delay is. If anti-Christian governments had wanted to assume emergency powers, the fall of 2014 was about the last time they had a reasonable chance of imposing it and making it stick for more than a few weeks. Since then, their real power has been ebbing away even as they act more arbitrarily and oppressively. Their very oppressive and harassing actions have sapped the fundamental consent of their citizens.

The key to everything in these times, after five decades of instruction, is not in the grandiose, but the simple. Acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you. That is wisdom that will last and will not fail. Live this well and you are already part of the Rescue.

I want to finish with a meditation which originally appeared as a comment here. It was written by YongDuk, the pseudonym an American Catholic Bishop uses to comment with. I often hear people explain to me the meaning of various Biblical prophecy and private revelations. They give me their complex explanations for the two-dimensional linear narrative they have come up with. I usually listen politely but know that, like early Job, they have not entered into the whirlwind and have no clue that the things they speak of are too big for us – and not subject to linear narratives. Whatever YongDuk’s intention was with this piece, I recognized it as one of the best meditations on prophecy I have read.

By Yong Duk


While quite possibly historical, the city and tower in Gen 11:3-4 are allegorical to all the false gods that we humans make for ourselves, to make a “name” for ourselves, to make ourselves–individually or collectively–a man-made habitation away from God and above other people or proper hierarchies and authorities out of ourselves: our creativity, intellect, bodies, spaces, etc.

«They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.”

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky,* and so make a name (Heb: shem) for ourselves.»

The tower in Genesis 11 comes out of the city and therefore the city might be seen as the essential component wherein mankind fosters the creation of false-god — again individually and collectively — as the Author is careful to note who first founds a city in Gen 4:17. (The clan is wherein God and the Family of God is protected.)

The theme of Cain and Abel are sown through Genesis and the Torah into the rest of Scripture. The structure of the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 echoes the list in Genesis 4 and 5.

There is a change in Genesis 11:

Initially, it is an individual and individuals acting. After the Flood, it is the collective.

Genesis 10 and 11 shows that while Shem, the firstborn son of Noah, is still alive and kicking, almost immediately (within a generation or so) the collective revolts against him and in him, as the Patriarch of the Family of God, against God by the theme of city being reintroduced. This introduction of the tower shows the degree of the pride and perhaps even intends to show the degree that the Flood failed to due its job.

Charlie many times speaks that he hopes that it is generations upon generations before the Great Apostasy happens after the Storm. While Grace (i.e. sanctifying grace wherein we become friends of God and temples of the Holy Spirit) had not yet been restored in the case of the Flood, St. Peter echoes the theme of Noah’s Ark in his epistle, so that we should see our Time of Grace (the fullness of time, Gal 4:4, when God sent for His Son, born of Mary) as parallel to the Time of the Flood and the restoration of humanity. Yet, how few of us ponder the connexions? How few of us truly sift through our egos and tear down our temples to false gods. How few of us stop aiding and abetting in other’s building bricks that lead to temples to false gods in them?

And then, with the Storm and after the Storm, who of us will to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” How much time, years or generations? (I mentioned weeks ago that it will be the challenging of hierarchies that will usher in the Great Apostasy. It is making for ourselves a “name” over and against the Patriarch and Patriarchs of the Family of God. This is reflected in Genesis 11 in the Schisms and Heresies throughout the Ages, the break up of families and the family.) How will we respond and will we endure and judge righteous judgment?

St. Peter says as much in 2 Peter 2:

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned…
and if he did not spare the ancient world,
even though he preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness…
and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah…

making them an example for the godless [people] of what is coming…

and if he rescued Lot…that righteous man…
then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial…

Charlie mentions the role of the prophet in preparing in speaking of what is to come.

The object of prophecy in the Old Testament is to remind people, to cause people to remember what God has done for them.

The Prophet points to the past to prepare God’s People for the future trials and to live righteously:

“See what God has done for us? He has done it again and again and again in Christ and will do it yet again! But will you do it again?”


Posted in Conversion, Discernment | 592 Comments

In Praise of Donald Trump


(I have just put up the video from my talk in Racine, Wisconsin on the Visit Videos link at the top. I particularly enjoyed this one because my two oldest grandkids, Mya and Camron, were there with me. The following article is not the meaty one I am working on, but a prelude to it.-CJ)

By Charlie Johnston

Donald Trump has had an amazing month. After stunning the establishment by winning the presidential election last month, his transition has been steady and quick to act. Despite the establishment press squealing that the transition was delayed and chaotic, Trump has acted more quickly and decisively than any incoming president-elect in my lifetime. (I guess for the press, waiting six weeks to make your first choice is being “deliberate” if you are a Democrat, but having it almost finished before six weeks is up is “delayed and chaotic” if you are a Republican).

The quality of Trump’s appointments is top-notch. Most of his appointees are solidly pro-life, but he has reached out to all elements of the Republican Party, uniting them with real enthusiasm. After a bitter election where establishment Republicans sometimes openly opposed him, Trump has shown a magnanimity to his opponents few expected. Even his new incoming White House counsel, Don McGahn, is a solid pro-lifer. Trump has done no


Moon over Mt. Meeker


mealy-mouthing on his pledge to defund Planned Parenthood and make it stand on its own two feet instead of taking half a billion dollars out of taxpayers’ pockets each year. I am rather persuaded that his conversion to the pro-life cause is real and deep.


His deal to save the Indiana plant of Carrier Corp. sends a powerful message, saving 1,000 American jobs. It is particularly stark in contrast to President Obama last summer condescendingly telling Trump that there was no magic wand he could wave to save jobs – and that Americans were going to have to get used to the fact that those jobs are going away permanently. Trump didn’t need a magic wand; just a pen and a telephone. He can’t and won’t be able to do this every time – or even most times – but it sent a powerful message to average Americans in flyover country that they have an advocate coming in – and not someone who will tell them they are too stupid to understand that nothing can be done.

The establishment media told us the stock market would tank with a Trump victory. Instead, it has soared. Goldman Sachs put out a bullish report suggesting Trump will be good for almost all sectors of the economy.

The media and the foreign policy establishment are getting a case of the vapors over Trump’s talks with foreign leaders, particularly his call with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, arguing it is a great provocation to China. After eight years of leading from behind and allowing China to disrupt international shipping and passage in international waters by building artificial islands and claiming them as sovereign territory, this is a welcome rebuke to China, pulled off with a little finesse. The U.S. has managed little more than letters of protest as China has violated international law and menaced its neighbors in the South China Sea. Trump sent a shot across their bow by accepting the call from President Tsai. The last time the press and foreign policy establishment was in such horror at the clumsy, provocative antics of an incoming president it was to shriek what a dangerous, fumbling amateur Ronald Reagan was. The nervously timid press and foreign policy establishment can’t imagine there is any way to deal with bullies and tyrants other than weak-kneed appeasement and bowing.



My volunteer coordinator, Mary, with her husband Mark.

The appointments of several solid generals to top positions in the administration signals to our military that they will be treated as soldiers once more, not as social workers. They will once again be able to play for the team they thought they signed up for in the first place. In his Victory Tour Thank You Rally in Cincinnati on Dec. 1, Trump reiterated his support for America’s police officers and its military.


The establishment media is doing its best to provoke a fight with Trump, failing to understand that the election was also a repudiation of its condescending hectoring of the public. Trump will love those fights, for they will cement the discrediting of the media altogether. The media loves to make mountains out of conservative molehills and molehills of progressive mountains. You can only get away with that when the folksies haven’t figured it out. The folksies have figured it out. The media might try reporting straight news even-handedly, at least if they are capable of it any more.

The unhinged left continues to attack, charging racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and whatever toxic “ism” it can pull from its near-exhausted shelf of insults to substitute for making an actual coherent argument. It is ludicrous that the party that calls Trump an existential threat still hasn’t finished lionizing the late Fidel Castro (who executed conservative and Christian dissidents) as a hero. Kind of shows what their actual values are. I would be glad that the left considers anti-Semitism a bad thing again, after nearly eight years undermining Israel and blaming “Jews” for every problem it doesn’t blame George W. Bush for, except that Democrats seem poised to elect Congressman Keith Ellison as their new party leader, despite his ties to the anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood and former ties to Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.

The virtue of last month’s election is that it showed large swaths of the country are no longer willing to be bullied about and condescended to. The virtue of the transition to this point has been that it has shown what real hope looks like for people who want to work and be left alone to practice their faith, raise their families safely, and defend their communities against terror. Such people would be peeved, indeed, if the unhinged left snatched that away from them.

America once had a sane left. It needs it again. The bully-boy left has been driving voters away from it for over a decade. Unfortunately, when it can’t get what it seeks at the ballot box, it often starts rioting and using raw force to get its way despite the public’s disapproval. The stakes are higher than ever after this election: allowing the results to stand strikes a death blow to the ambitions of European globalists and American “progressives.” I am not worried about recounts. If the globalist-progressive cult is developing any strategy to overturn election results, the recounts are just a magician’s distraction. Whether or not the cultural divisions in the west have become malignant will be the subject of my next column.

Less obvious (but more fundamental) is the question of whether the election results lead to Americans embracing a renewed commitment to being a moral and religious people. Our falling away from fundamental tenets of faith, honor and decency are what got us to this pass in the first place. Until that is renewed with vigorous commitment, any dawn is a false dawn merely delaying the inevitable collapse. But have no fear: this is the year of fulfillment – and God comes to reclaim His people, not to destroy us. In good times and in bad, remember to acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you – and you will be a participant in the true dawn.




Posted in Culture, Discernment | Tagged , , , , , , , | 383 Comments

Passing Through


Green Bay team. The tall fellow at the back, Don, is the team leader.

By Charlie Johnston

I am working on a meaty piece. I rather think the cultural, spiritual and political divisions in the western world have metastasized into a true malignancy. If that is so, things cannot get better until a great crisis has been reached and passed. But oh, the reaching of it is agonizing, indeed.

I have a presentation in Lafayette, Indiana tonight and another in Springfield, Missouri on Saturday. I have started to get some requests for more Skype presentations in various countries. I am glad to schedule them provided there is a good translator.

Below are details for this week’s public events:

Lafayette, IN (Free Event)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

6:30 pm:  Rosary   7:00 pm:  Public Talk

Outpost Catering-Sgt Preston’s, 2501 US-231, Lafayette, IN 47909



Springfield, MO (Free Event)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

7:00pm:  Republic Community Center, 711 East Miller Rd., Republic, MO 65738

Contact Stephen at

Volunteers needed

Posted in Speaking Tour | 220 Comments

Sex and the 2016 Election

Below is an analysis of the 2016 election from a spiritual perspective by our friend, Dan Lynch.

This morning, I finished my first international presentation, speaking to a conference in Guadalajara, Mexico via Skype. It was wonderful! Though it was slowed down a little by the need for translation at each step, how glad it made my heart to see the faithful heart of the Mexican people. The questions were pretty much the same as I usually get in my presentations in the United States. Always and everywhere the answer is the same ordinary way: acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you. I have had one of the best jobs in the world these last few years, a job that has allowed me to see the great Christian heart rising around the world. May God richly bless and guide all of us back to Him and the joy He has prepared for us. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard…

And now, asking the Lord to create in each of us a clean, pure heart, here is Dan Lynch’s analysis:



By Dan Lynch
It seems that the issues of the election of 2016 had much to do about sex. However, it was not about the sex of the candidates, male and female, and the potential first woman President, but about support for immoral sexual acts. “If all the fury directed at religious believers could be pressed into a single word, as it can, that word would … be sex.” (Mary Eberstadt, “The New Intolerance”, First Things).

Hillary Clinton supports the immoral sexual acts of same-sex relationships; public accommodations for those who claim to have changed their sex; abortion from conception to partial birth for the unwanted human beings conceived by sexual acts; and, against consciences and religious liberties, mandatory provision of services for celebrations of same-sex relationships; mandatory payment for contraceptive insurance coverage; mandatory payment for abortions from our taxes and mandatory requirements for doctors to perform or refer attempted sex-change operations. Mrs. Clinton said that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

Mrs. Clinton’s response to those who opposed her support of immoral acts was not reasoned argument but simple name-calling. She said, “To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”

Donald Trump wrote to the Catholic Leaders Conference, at which I spoke. He said:
I have a message for Catholics: I will be there for you. I will stand with you. I will fight for you. I am, and will remain, prolife. I will defend your religious liberties and the right to fully and freely practice your religion, as individuals, business owners and academic institutions.

As First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State, and two-time presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton has been hostile to the core issues and policies of greatest concern to Catholics: life, religious liberty, Supreme Court nominations, affordable and quality healthcare, educational choice and home schooling.

You may read Donald Trump’s full letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference here.

Catholics, who comprise 25% of the voters, accepted Mr. Trump’s message and their votes, together with those of other people of goodwill, resulted in his election.

It seems that our society is divided by moral issues and not by political issues. Reasonable minds may differ on political issues and come to different, but moral, prudential judgments. Not so with moral issues which are absolute and can easily be known through the natural law that God implants in our hearts and by the exercise of right reason.

Our division is between light and darkness and between those who follow the light of God and those who stumble in the darkness of moral evil. It is a division between God and Caesar. Those who cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion said, “We have no King but Caesar!”  They did not recognize God as their true King. Neither do many today who call themselves liberals and progressives. Their king is the state and not God.

However, St. John tells us, “Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9).

In fact, many “progressives” are secular humanists who believe only in this world in which humanity without God will try to make its own heaven on earth.

 “Progressivism” is ideological, coercive, and ultimately opposed to the truth about human sexuality, marriage and the family. “Progressives” replace these truths with their ideology and attempt to use the state to further it with its mandatory sanctions. They act as if God does not exist. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever.” (Romans 1:25).

They are rebels against God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ and they will not serve him or his and his Church’ s teachings on the natural moral law about what we must do or not do in order to have eternal life and happiness with him. It seems that they are not progressing but regressing to the moral rebellion in the Garden of Eden.

The truth against the rebellious and morally evil practices of contraception, abortion, same-sex sexual relationships and transsexuality is simply revealed to us by God. In the Garden of Eden God created them male and female, two separate sexes. He did not create any so-called “transgender” sexes. He told the man and the woman, Adam and Eve, to unite and join together to become one flesh and to multiply. Union of husband and wife with an openness to new life is how he established true marriage and the family with its purpose for the procreation and education of children.

 Some of the rebellious practices against these truths cause abuse against the dignity of women, many of whom think that they are sexually liberated. However, many are in fact used and abused by men who treat them as objects and not as persons. Just one small example of this comes from the words of JayZ. He is a rapper who sang at a rally for Hillary Clinton without any later correction or comment from her about his lyrics.

His lyrics motivated my daughter, Maggie Eisenbarth, who gave birth to Fletcher, her ninth child, two days after the election, to post the following on Facebook on election eve:

Seriously! Last night I was curious enough to watch JayZ, some other rapper and Beyonce at some free Hillary concert/rally and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A lot of “eff this and N%$#@ that”, and to really make it sweet and to get thanks from Hillary was, “…bringin’ back 5 or 6 hoe, @#$% them, then we kick em… she deserved that…” It was grotesque, dark and evil. Raise the bar country! Raise your children on the Truth.

In response to Hillary’s supporters who didn’t acknowledge his abusive lyrics, Maggie wrote:

No woman will ever be free as long as we allow and condone men referring to us as hoes and reference abusing us. It’s not complicated, it’s wrong. It is not music. If you’re not going to wonder what Hillary is all about when this is what she chooses to represent, then don’t play the same game with others. It is hypocrisy. I think our country and our children deserve the Truth, deserve light, deserve goodness, deserve to grow and be nurtured absent vulgarity, profanity and evil. I believe in a better day, a better America. Would Allison Krauss please come forward and sing for us all now, that would make me happy, that and honoring God in our country.

Maggie’s post exemplifies the division in our society between light and darkness. Let us pray a novena to Our Lady of America for her to mediate a river of the light of God to our society. May this light penetrate and melt
the hearts of the secular humanists who support moral evils. May they turn to God who lovingly waits for them to receive his mercy. His merciful arms are wide enough to embrace all repentant people of good will and to forgive them so that they may have eternal life and happiness with him.

However, it seems that their minds and hearts have been made dull and hardened and that God has placed a veil over them so that they cannot understand and accept the natural moral truths of life, marriage and the family. It seems that this veil will not be removed unless and until they turn from the idols that they have created of their own enlightenment and sexual revolution and accept these moral truths.

Let us pray that secular humanists come to know the truth, the love and the mercy of the one true God. He tells us that, “if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The birth of any child, like Fletcher, my new 25th grandchild, is a sign of hope for the future. As President John Kennedy once said, “Children are our most important natural resource and our best hope for the future!”

Let us be hopeful! What St. John Paul II wrote to Europe, also applies to the United States. “Be certain! The Gospel of hope does not disappoint! Throughout the vicissitudes of your history, yesterday and today, it is the light which illumines and directs your way; it is the strength which sustains you in trials; it is the prophecy of a new world; it is the sign of a new beginning; it is the invitation to everyone to blaze new trails in order to make the continent a true common home filled with the joy of life.” (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Europa, 121).

lynch profileDan Lynch is the Director of Dan Lynch Apostolates promoting devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jesus King of All Nations, Our Lady of America and St. John Paul II. He is an author, public speaker and a former judge and lawyer in Vermont. He has appeared many times on radio and television and has spoken at conferences throughout the world. You may learn more about Dan here.    

Posted in Conversion, Guest Columns, Mary Immaculate | Tagged , | 261 Comments

The Divine Symphony


By Charlie Johnston

Even the most venial sin, when habitually engaged in over a long period of time, creates such a hole that we end up in a pit. The aim of Christian solidarity and ministry is to help each other out of the pits that we dig for ourselves in order that we may walk in the plain path of the joy that is in the Lord.

I have always been short of patience with those who use their knowledge (more often what they merely think is their knowledge) of Scripture, the Magisterium and the Catechism as a blunt object with which to assault those who have ended in a pit. We are to help each other out of such pits, not merely berate each other for being in one. But I am equally impatient with those who, with false mercy, suggest to the sufferer that he is just fine in the pit he is dug into and has no need to do the hard work of crawling out. If we merely enable what got us stuck in the pit in the first place, we remain mired in the mud, unable to walk freely in the light of Christ’s love. Our duty is ever to extend the hand of fellowship to each other, remembering always that nothing is so easy to condemn as a sin we are not tempted by – and nothing so easy to justify as one that we are tempted by. Both approaches end up in a pit.

Authentic mercy and justice are the parallel guard rails on either side of the narrow road of authentic righteousness. Veer too far to either the right or the left and we end in a pit.

I thought Pope Francis’ comments at the close of the first session of the Synod on the Family in October, 2014, perfectly captured the challenge before the Church. He warned against five temptations and outlined the way forward with concise elegance and orthodoxy:

“ – One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and

Pope and Our Lady of Tepeyac - from Beckita

Pope Francis

not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.


 – The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

 – The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

 – The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

 – The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).”

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

These marvelous comments laid out the way forward perfectly, succumbing neither to an excess of legalism or indulgence. The point, clearly, was to draw us out of the pits we had all dug for ourselves – and to do it as loving brothers always focused on the majesty of truth without imputing unworthy motives to any whose emphasis or style was different from the Pope’s.

I was dismayed a few weeks ago when Pope Francis, contemplating young people who love the Latin Mass, suggested it could only be because of a certain “rigidity” and “hostile inflexibility” on their part, because they have no memory of when the Latin Mass was the ordinary form. My preferred form of the Mass is in the vernacular, said ad orientum, using communion rails. My brother, Steve, who was alienated from all religion for several decades and was never Catholic, converted in 2009. He fell in love with the Latin Mass shortly thereafter for its transcendent beauty and reverence. I have many friends, including some in their 20s, who love and prefer the Latin Mass for the same reasons. I well know that some people use the old as a cudgel against the new – and I have never shrunk from chiding those people. But I would no more think of condemning people for preferring the beauty of it than I would of condemning them for preferring Toscanini while I prefer Beethoven. Which particular type of beauty speaks most intensely to a person is just a matter of style and preference, not substance – and anyone who appreciates beauty with reverence is my friend. It startled me that the Pope would open up this reflection merely to insult those who had a different preference than him rather than to understand and appreciate them.

The 17 Bishops the Pope recently elevated to Cardinal were notable for their monochromatic political and ideological views. They could have popped out of a Xerox machine. It disturbed me that the Pope who, two years ago, spoke of a magnificent symphony of voices working toward the same end, now wanted to make clear there was only one type of voice he wanted to hear. I am an old trumpet player – but I am not under the illusion that an orchestra would be improved by suppressing all instruments save the trumpets.

When four senior Cardinals, led by Cardinal Raymond Burke, released their formal request for clarification of parts of Amoris Laetitia, I was heartened that we were moving toward serious refinement of doctrine here. Contrary to what many think, doctrine has not been deeply refined over the millennia by easy unanimity, but by the dynamic tension of


Cardinal Raymond Burke

disagreement and strife – even among saints who were contemporaries of each other. When such situations arise (as they often have) it is a signal that something particularly weighty is in development. I was surprised that they had had no response from the Pope during the two months that the request was entirely private. These were not just some guys, but senior Princes of the Church. I was dismayed when the Pope then responded to what he imputed their motives to be, rather than the subject of their questions. He suggested that their questions were cover for a certain “rigidity: on their parts, masking an ulterior motive. It strikes me that in routinely dismissing and insulting those responsible voices who have a different approach or emphasis than he does, the Pope has been progressively getting more…well, rigid.

In January of 2015 I voiced the sense I had that somewhere along the line, Pope Francis was going to make a significant blunder. I added that, as the blunder became clear, it would refine him, leading him into a true greatness as he ultimately redoubled his efforts to lead as a universal Father. Later in the year, I noted that I suspected the blunder was to see things for a time through a primarily political and ideological prism, rather than a spiritual and faithful one. Of late, the Pope has often sounded more like an American politician, reflexively insulting those who do not share his approach in a contest of wills, rather than the Pope of two years ago who so elegantly synthesized the virtues of many divergent points of view in approaching the pastoral challenges which confront the Church and the world. Pope Francis has a swashbuckling style, one that I expected from the Pope who would carry us through the final journey of the Storm. When properly ordered, this style has a holy boldness that cuts through the clutter of contention to forge unexpected paths to sanctity. When disordered, it degenerates into mere partisanship.

Pope Francis has a great heart. He truly and passionately wants to bring everyone back into the safety of the Barque of Peter. Right now, his passion has led him to act as if everyone who talks like he does shares his great heart. It is ever true that not everyone who agrees with you is your friend, nor everyone who disagrees with you, your enemy. This will pass. In fact, today’s caustic partisanship is merely Pope Francis’ prelude to greatness. His swashbuckling boldness will eventually carry us all through the heart of the Storm to safety. I don’t mind that the Pope is a saxophone, but am disturbed that, for now, he seems intent on banishing the trumpets, french horns, clarinets, violins – and all instruments that are not saxophones – from the divine symphony. But it will not prevail. He has too great a heart for such an approach to define him for very long. The divine symphony will be heard in all its richness and depth, calling people out of the pits, rather than merely comforting them where they are.

The time will come when Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke become affectionate allies. This will be a sign to you. When it happens, you will know we are fully underway to Rescue.






Posted in Church Governance, Conversion, Discernment, Solidarity, The Rescue, The Storm | Tagged , , , | 382 Comments