St. Stephen the First Martyr
Mark will be speaking and singing in Columbus, Ohio April 3rd. Click here for more details on this and other events.
THE liturgies at St. Stephen's Parish in New Boston, Michigan are perhaps the most beautiful I have attended anywhere. If you want to know what the authors of Vatican II intended with liturgical reform, you can see it there: the beauty of the sanctuary, the sacred art, the statues, and above all, the reverence and love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist in this little church.
This parish is also where the Divine Mercy message of St. Faustina had its beginnings for the English speaking world. In 1940, a polish priest, Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski, fled from the Nazis to Lithuania. He promised the Lord that if he could get to America, he would devote his life to spreading the message of Divine Mercy. After a series of miracles along his journey, Fr. Jarzebowski ended up in Michigan. He participated as one of the weekend priests at St. Stephen's, all the while working on translating and spreading the Divine Mercy message until the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, Massachusetts took it over.
Needless to say, this is a very special church, and the place where my current mission trip to the United States began last week. Something changed while I was there. The message which I am being compelled to give has a new urgency, a new clarity. It is a message of warning, and a message of mercy. It is the message of Divine Mercy:
Speak to the world about my mercy. Let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy… —Jesus speaking to St. Faustina, Diary, n. 848
Fr. John is the pastor at St. Stephen's, and is at the heart of the truth and beauty which is emerging from this little parish. During my three-day mission there, if he was not saying Mass, he was hearing confessions. He was constantly surrounded by altar servers dressed in cassock and surplice, who were not only children, but full grown adults—men who clearly thirsted to be near the "source and summit" of Jesus in the Eucharist. The presence of God permeated the Liturgy.
I have never encountered a soul who loves to pray as much as Fr. John. He is also gifted with visits every day from the Holy Souls in purgatory.
Every night in a dream, a soul comes to him and asks for prayers. Sometimes they appear in an interior vision during Mass or during his private prayers. Recently, he received a very intense visitation which he gave me permission to speak about.
PERSECUTION IS NEAR
In the dream, Fr. John was standing in a group of people who had been segregated. There was another group of people who were walking away, and another group who appeared to be undecided as to which group to belong to.
Suddenly, the late Fr. John A. Hardon, a famous Catholic writer and teacher, appeared among the group who were going to be martyred, of which Fr. John belonged. Fr. Hardon turned to him and said,
Persecution is near. Unless we are willing to die for our faith and be martyrs, we will not persevere in our faith.
Then the dream ended. As Fr. John recounted this to me, my heart burned, for it is the same message I am hearing also.
I have often written about the signs of the times around us. These are the "labor pains" Jesus spoke of, and of them He says:
These things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains. Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.(Matt 24:6-8)
We see this played out in Revelations 12 also (keeping in mind the extraordinary apparitions of our Blessed Mother in this last century):
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun… She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon… the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. (Rev 12:1-6)
The Woman (a symbol of both Mary and the Church) has been laboring to give birth to the "full number of gentiles." When she does, a persecution will break out. I wrote recently how I believe that a unity among the "gentiles," that is Christians, will come about through the Eucharist, precipitated by a universal "illumination" of consciences. It is this unity which will draw the anger of the dragon and persecution from his servants, the False Prophet and the Beast—Antichrist.
Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus. (Rev 12:17)
When pondering the nearness of this, the Lord spoke very clearly to me that this persecution will come about quickly.
Remember the French Revolution. Remember Nazi Germany.
Once the machine of totalitarianism is in place through the erosion of freedoms and the complacency of the masses, persecution will come quickly and with little resistance, or rather, little capability for resistance.
If the warning of the Mother of God at Fatima is understood in its broader sense, ("Russia will spread her errors throughout the world and many nations will cease to exist."), what is now occurring globally is a new wave of the original forces that launched the tide of the French Revolution, followed by successive revolutions that increasingly secularized the human community. Then came the great waves of the Communist revolution, Fascism, and so forth, wave after wave that reshaped human societies and institutions—indeed the very perceptions of life itself. We are presently in the midst of the worst and most dangerous wave of all, the tsunami of worldwide Materialism. —Michael D. O'Brien, Sign of Contradiction and the New World Order; p. 6
As I wrote in The Perfect Storm, this illusory structure of Materialism appears about to collapse. But Satan knows that the material can never satisfy the human heart. It is the Great Deception. For when we've had our fill of junk food, a banquet of seemingly rich and satisfying foods will be offered. But they too will be empty of the nutrients of Truth, mere genetically modified copies of the real thing, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And so, I hear again a warning.
This new world order will be presented in the most enticing and peaceful terms. What many Christians will expect to be enforced by threats and violence will instead be presented in terms of tolerance, humaneness, and equality—at least in its early stages. Many Christians who have compromised with the spirit of the world, having only shallow roots in the Gospel, will be uprooted by this tsunami and carried away in a wave of deception.
What am I saying here? That we need to simply live what Jesus has told us to live from the very beginning!
…whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35)
This earth is not our home.
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. (John 12:24)
We are called to live as pilgrims, strangers and sojourners.
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. (John 12:25)
The Body is to follow its Head.
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. (John 12:26)
And following Jesus consists in this:
If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Lk 14:26-27)
BEWARE THE WOLVES!
Errant theologians have watered this down. Misguided clergy have failed to preach it. Modernist philosophies have replaced it. This is why the Sacrifice of the Mass has been reduced to a "community celebration." Why the word "sin" is rarely used. Why confessionals have cobwebs. They are wrong! The Gospel, the message of Jesus, is that Salvation comes through repentance, and repentance means turning from sin and following in the bloody footsteps or our Master, to the Cross, through the Tomb, and toward an everlasting Resurrection! Beware of those wolves in sheep's clothing who preach a different Gospel than the one Christ has given us. Beware of those false prophets who try to douse the flames of Hell, and attempt to line the Way of the Cross with daisies and padded cushions. Stay away from those who remake the narrow road to Heaven into a superhighway, paved with the comforts of this world.
The engagement ring of the Bride of Christ in this life is suffering. But the wedding ring in the next is eternal joy in the Kingdom of God, given to those Blessed who endured persecution (Matt 5:10-12). Pray, then, brothers and sisters, for the grace of final perseverance.
Those who are like Me in the pain and contempt they suffer will be like me also in glory. And those who resemble Me less in pain and contempt will also bear less resemblance to Me in glory. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary, n. 446
Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), so as not to spend what remains of one's life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God… For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God?(1 Pt 4:1-2, 17)
Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you… Watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man. (John 15:20; Luke 21:36)