We live in a time of great confusion, and the only remedies for such a calamitous condition are great clarity, great courage, and great faith. The Church is under attack both from without as well as from within, and buffeted about in the tumult are Mass-going Catholics, who cry out for light, strength, and hope. Nearly a thousand years ago, the secular leader of all of Christendom, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Germany, sowed deep confusion amidst the faithful, even to the point of attacking his own people. He was excommunicated four times, and was even compared to the Anti-Christ by Pope Gregory IX.
In the midst of one of his wars against the papacy, Frederick II sent his Muslim army into the town of Assisi, where it was intent upon slaughtering every last Christian. In the middle of this assault was a convent of Franciscan nuns, the head of which was St. Clare. As the Muslim army made its way down the street, and in fact erected ladders to climb into the convent courtyard itself, the nuns all gathered around St. Clare to ask her what they should do. Rather than offer the soldiers money, ask the general to give a speech to the nuns, or invite the general in for dinner, St. Clare, frail with illness, held up the Blessed Sacrament in the courtyard of the convent and, with tear-filled eyes, cried out to Jesus, begging Him to save them. Suddenly, and without any other explanation, the army turned around and left.
This little story about St. Clare’s great faith is meant to give a moment of clarity to the witness of God’s presence in the world that we Catholics are called to manifest. St. Clare didn’t send for an army from another town, she didn’t cash in any political favors, and she didn’t try to bargain with the enemy. She put aside all fear of the external assault bearing down on them, and simply asked Jesus Christ, ever present in the Blessed Sacrament, to save them.
Today, there are many sources of confusion for Catholics all across the nation, leaving many wondering about where to turn or what to believe. Catholic Relief Services has apparently been giving money to organizations expanding the culture of death. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, even in the midst of an investigation by the Vatican, gave a speaking platform to notorious occultist Barbara Marx Hubbard. And even though the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is in the middle of a lawsuit against Obama for attacking the religious liberty of Catholics, the Al Smith Foundation has invited Barack Obama to keynote its annual fundraising dinner.
This kind of cavorting with entities and individuals who very clearly hate the Church and would sooner see Her transformed or destroyed is terribly confusing to Catholics, perhaps even scandalous. Just imagine if St. Polycarp, a direct pupil of the apostle John, had justified and rationalized the offering of a mere pinch of incense to Caesar as his lord, instead of suffering death by burning alive at the stake? Or consider the fate of all of Christendom had St. Athanasius invited the heretic Arius to speak at public functions, rather than rebuking him, even to the point of being deposed. And think about what state the Church would have been in had Pope Pius XII dined and shared a joke with Adolph Hitler.
Chapter 12 of the Book of Sirach in the Old Testament says, “No good comes to those who give comfort to the wicked, nor is it an act of mercy that they do.” In fact, while the entire chapter speaks directly to those who continue to justify the recent scandals in the Church, verses 10-18 explain perfectly what is wrong with giving money to pro-abortion organizations, giving occultists a place to speak, or dining with such a clear enemy of the Church as Barack Obama:
Never trust your enemies, for their wickedness is like corrosion in bronze. Even though they act deferentially and peaceably toward you, take care to be on your guard against them. Treat them as those who reveal secrets, and be certain that in the end there will still be envy.
Do not let them stand near you, lest they push you aside and take your place.
Do not let them sit at your right hand, or they will demand your seat.
And in the end you will appreciate my advice, when you groan with regret, as I warned. Who pities a snake charmer when he is bitten, or anyone who goes near a wild beast? So it is with the companion of the proud, who is involved in their sins:
While you stand firm, they make no move; but if you slip, they cannot hold back. With their lips enemies speak sweetly, but in their heart they scheme to plunge you into the abyss.
Though enemies have tears in their eyes, given the chance, they will never have enough of your blood. If evil comes upon you, you will find them at hand; pretending to help, they will trip you up, Then they will shake their heads and clap their hands and hiss repeatedly, and show their true faces.
These are indeed times of great peril for the souls of men, the balance of which many will be helped or hindered by those in positions of authority in the Church. In his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Without great clarity, great courage, and great faith, many souls will be lost. Jesus told Peter to “feed My sheep.” Perhaps now is the time for us to beg graces for our shepherds, because if they won’t feed us, who will?
Michael Hichborn is the director of the Defend the Faith project at American Life League.