In this symbolic work, both Christ and Antichrist are depicted, and the people of the times are faced with a choice. Which path to follow? There is much confusion, much fear. Most of the figures do not comprehend where the roads will lead; only a few little children have eyes to see. Those who seek to save their life will lose it; those who lose their life for Christ's sake will save it. —Artist's commentary
ONCE again, I hear clearly in my heart this week words which rang out last winter—the sense of an angel in the mid-heavens crying out:
Keeping in mind always that Christ is the victor, I also hear again the words:
You are entering the most painful part of the purification.
Few understand how deep the rot of corruption in Western society runs into nearly every facet of society—from the food chain to the economy to the environment—and perhaps just how much of it is actually controlled by a few of the wealthy and powerful. More and more souls are waking up, however, as the signs of the times no longer belong to the domain of a few religious circles, but dominate major news headlines. I don't believe I need to comment on the present turmoil in nature, the economy, and society in general, except to say that they are being used to mold a new world order in which freedom is determined by the state, rather than arising from the inherent rights of man.
The temptation is ever present to despair in the face of this "dictatorship of relativism"… to stare in fear at what appears to be a hideous Beast rising slowly from beneath the sea of modernity. But we must resist this temptation to defeatism, and cling to the words of the late Holy Father, John Paul II:
BE NOT AFRAID!
For they are the words of Christ throughout the Gospels, before and after His death and Resurrection. In all things, Christ is victorious and assures us we must never be afraid.
REFUGE FOR THE FAITHFUL
I have spoken often of Revelation 12 and the present and coming battle between the Woman and the Dragon, between the serpent and the Woman's offspring. It is a battle for souls which no doubt brings many to Christ. It is also a time in which persecution is present. But we see in the midst of this great battle that God provides a refuge for His people:
The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days. (Rev 12:6)
I believe it means protection on many levels: physical, spiritual, and intellectual.
This past Christmas, my spiritual director and I were chatting with a local butcher whose family has lived in the area for over a hundred years. We were talking about the history of the region when suddenly he became emotional. He recalled the Spanish Flu which passed through the countryside during the previous century from 1918-1919, killing over 20 million people worldwide. He said that the Shrine to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, located about 13 miles or so from our town, was erected by locals in order to implore Mary's intercession and protection. With tears in his eyes he said, "The plague went all around us and never came here."
Many are the stories of protection of Christians through Mary's intercession throughout the centuries (what mother does not protect her little ones?) When my wife and I were in New Orleans a couple years ago, we saw with our own eyes how many statues of Mary were unscathed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while houses and fences and trees all around them were demolished. While losing most of their possessions, many of these families were protected from physical harm.
And who can forget the eight Jesuit priests protected from the atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan—only eight blocks from their home—while over half a million people all around them died. They had been praying the Rosary and living the message of Fatima.
God has sent Mary to us as an Ark of Protection. I believe that means physical protection too:
At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer [of the Rosary], and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 39
Indeed, the most valuable grace Mary brings is the salvation Jesus won for us through the Cross. I often picture the Ark of Protection as a lifeboat, one which is sailing all those within it to the great Barque of Christ. The refuge of Mary, then, is really the refuge of Christ. Their hearts are one, and so to be in the Heart of Mary is to be taken deeper into the Heart of her Son.
The important point here is that the greatest refuge Christ offers the Church in this battle against the dragon is protection against losing our salvation, so long as we desire to remain with Him by our free will.
What I mean by "intellectual refuge" is that a time is coming when there will be false signs and wonders and nearly irresistible temptations to follow the "logic" of a new world order. How will we possibly be able to discern which road to take?
The answer lies in this: pure grace. God will provide interior lights to the mind and hearts of those who have humbled themselves like little children, those who have entered into the Ark during this time of preparation. To modern senses, how silly and antiquated are those souls who thumb Rosary beads and sit in front of Tabernacles! How wise these little ones will be in the days of Trial! That is because they have repented of self-will, and surrendered to God's will and plan. By listening to their Mother, and being formed in the school of her prayer, they are acquiring the mind of Christ.
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God… Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone. For "who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:3-16)
This is not to say that those who have no devotion to Mary are lost or will be lost. (see Protestants, Mary, and the Ark of Refuge). What is most important is that one follows Christ. But why not follow Him by the surest means which He Himself has left us, namely, the Woman, who is both the Church and Mary?
This Woman represents Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, but she represents at the same time the whole Church, the People of God of all times, the Church that at all times, with great pain, again gives birth to Christ. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Castel Gandolfo, Italy, AUG. 23, 2006; Zenit
Herein lies the mystery to the constant refuge Christ offers His followers: it is safety in the Church and Mary, and both lie deep within the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
And do not forget… the angels will be with us, perhaps even visibly at times.