Seek First the Kingdom - The March of Hope - Chapter 8
Witnesses in a Great Cloud
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The previous chapter, combined with its imagery, was a purposeful setup for telling the all-important story in this next and pivotal juncture concerning the March of Hope. The story I have to say to you in this and the following chapter, on the heels of the contemplative, panoramic imagery introduced just previously, drives to the central theme of the March of Hope and is, in fact, the mystical reality leading to the apex of the mountain top to where I am leading. There, on the top of that mountain, is the view to the other side that has astonished me, and is a land that, once I understood what it was at which I was looking, I felt the great compulsion to run down and seek other travelers to tell them what I have seen. I have seen a vision of something that has forever altered my life. It is so astonishing that I have sold everything I have to obtain it. It is the pearl for which one would sell all he owns to purchase.
You might recall that this journey began in 1984 when I, in a moment, not unlike a bolt of lightning, came to understand the apostolic authority of the Catholic Church and, in a second beyond that, to understand and believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Very soon after that, I found myself curiously fascinated with the person of, and even praying to, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The connection between my conversion to the Church, the Eucharist, and the Virgin Mary could not be mistaken as a coincidence or deriving from psychological forces. It came to me from without; it simply was the I AM. Furthermore, it was a force consistent in both content and effect as described in the Sacred Traditions of the Church and the writings of the Fathers and saints. It was not a unique experience but one that has been experienced as an ordinary course of events in the life of the Church down through the centuries. It was the great surety and certainty of dogma, and it was alive.
I also came to understand and believe a little later that the graces of my conversion, poured into my soul by the hands of the Virgin Mary, were won for me in Christ by the blessed little St. Thérèse of Lisieux. While on earth, she proclaimed that she would spend her time in heaven converting souls, and I genuinely believe I am one of those souls she converted.
I want you to remember this general theme and sequence of events when I eventually tell you the marvelous story of how Joan of Arc became such an important person and relationship in my life. Though subjugated appropriately first to Jesus Christ and then to the Virgin Mary, her role in my life has been just as pivotal as and complementary to the role Thérèse has played. Why is she the one leading me on my journey? As Our Lady has bequeathed me particular graces I do not deserve, I have, through these graces, found the similarities between the Great Event of 1984 and the coming of Joan of Arc remarkable. But we must go one step at a time to get this story right.
I am telling you what happened after The Freedom Dance brought me to that beautiful mystical mountainside where the dark Revolution must be left behind and where I must now cross over a threshold to a new and beautiful land that leads to the City of God. I have described that threshold as being the very gateway into the mysterious land of Roman Catholicism. Seeing in your mind that the top of the mountain is the gateway to this land will bring together these two images, that of a mountain top and that of a gateway. I continue to press the imagery of both the active element of the journey, going through a gate, with the contemplative aspect of watching the mist rise from our mountaintop or hillside.
I felt compelled to tell my journey beyond and through the walls of Catholicism. I realized that many souls may wish to travel it and should do so by the will of God, who established his Church on earth in the form of the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ. He established neither a religion nor a philosophy nor an Eastern New Age spiritualism but a Church, and this is the crux of our communication problems with the rest of the world. The Catholic Church is not a man-made religion. It is an institution founded by a Godman! You obey it; you don’t theorize over its potential self-affirming value in your life. You follow it because it is life; it is God’s revelation.
But to my primary point, who could know about this great land if those of us who have been bold enough to accept its promises do not run back to tell others? The vast majority of souls in the modern culture are struck numb (and dumb) with twenty-four-hour media, vulgar music, and useless gossip for entertainment. The kingdom of God cannot be found there. Why spend so much time with it? Why, quite frankly, spend any time with it? If one is looking for riches, one does not spend most of one’s waking hours on skid row asking for venture capital. If one is seeking God, the true God of Christian revelation and his kingdom, one does not look in the modern culture or its entertainment and media industry. The Evil One does not want you to pray; he is in full charge of our so-called progressive culture. Twenty-four-hour noise and soul garbage fill our minds and hearts like cigarette smoke fills one’s lungs.
Many people hear about the Catholic Church from those outside who know little about her. Relying on the media to inform you of the Catholic Church is like depending on the press in Tehran to teach you about the American Revolution and the development of our constitution. Worse yet are the ex-Catholics who leave a Church and preach against a Church that does not exist. I have been astounded to hear their errant understanding of doctrine as they attempted to condemn her with "Bible-based" speculation. Yet, others will look to them as "experts" on Catholicism who have escaped the torture chambers of oppression and are living to tell about it. Who will tell people about the great land that lies through her gates? I have done that through The Freedom Dance, and the following discussion of Joan of Arc is its apex. Walking through the gateway of the kingdom with her is the direct path through the heart of Mary and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
To safely go forward, it is vital that we first keep track of the order of things, that is, the authentic order of our values in this land of Catholicism. In this genuine ordering of values, we find the safety of the path of the Dogmatic Creed. In this ordering of our values, we ensure we follow the correct guideposts and do not end up again in the Dark Forest. One of the greatest gifts that Christ gives to us in his Church is an understanding of the correct ordering of values. This enlightenment from the Holy Spirit through the magisterial teachings of the Church is vital to being safe on our journey.
This last point cannot be stressed enough, for everywhere in our modern world, we see one of the greatest wiles of the evil one. Nothing can confuse the hearts of people of goodwill more than having them pursue all the right things in all the wrong order. For example, people speak of "tolerance" for others' lifestyles and world views or "respecting individual rights." But now, this otherwise good value of "respecting individual rights" forces us to subjectively respect the opinions of those who choose to terminate a baby's life in the womb. Without any moral authority, we have the framework for an actual conflict here. Clearly, the two sides are irreconcilable. Either the life may not be taken, and one side is "oppressed," or, conversely, the life can be destroyed in the name of "individual rights," and the other is oppressed. The modern world has cast off any notion of a moral authority to guide us other than that of individual conscience, but here, we have two opposing "consciences." We cannot escape the duality of it and the inherent conflict.
The Evil One has all of modern society going in ever-widening and ever-more dizzying circles. The chief weapon is moral and religious relativity. No one can say that anything or any religion is absolutely true. It must all be kept as a matter of mere opinion. We should accept all beliefs as equally valid. The notion that no belief should be assumed absolute implies an absolute hierarchy of values. And the promise of this confusing relativity is similarly deceptive, that is, the commitment that this will lead to peace and eliminate the dualistic conflicts that people of genuine, dogmatic belief are accused of causing. But we see above that this belief does nothing to eradicate dualism and conflict; in fact, it increases it. With no higher authority on which to call than that of our own individual belief systems, we increase potential and actual conflict exponentially.
The reduction of moral authority to no more than personal opinion leaves us spinning in circles. And the joke on us, enjoyed by the hellions of the netherworld, is that we are all arguing over "good values." We are all being "good people." We are also very "lost" people. Without proper, objective moral authority, no authentic progress can be made.
So, moral and religious relativism and actual progress are antithetical. And in an age that has long ago thrown aside the Church as the proper moral authority, we have turned to allow our political leaders to be that authority as people with nowhere else to turn. Now we are down to simply following what his personal opinion is. The circle keeps spinning faster.
That great society of Christendom in the Middle Ages would know that what we are attempting to pass off as a legitimate culture is sheer nonsense. They knew that moral authority rested in Jesus Christ and the Church he founded. They fought the Crusades, and rightfully so, to defend that culture and Church. In the modern, “progressive” world, we have surrendered with no apparent will to fight for any belief. “The military spirit is quite different from that of the executioner.” Pacifism, whether spiritual or military, is part of the decline and completely ignores the proper hierarchy of values. It contributes nowhere to actual progress. The early Crusaders fought to defend the great land behind them, not out of hatred or bigotry for what was before them. And while it is true that some later Crusades were less than noble (notably the 4th, which resulted in the sacking of Constantinople and a deepening of the existing wound between the Eastern and Western Church), the Faith was generally there in its proper order for the defenders of Christendom. The Faith and the culture developed out of it were worth dying for. In sad contradistinction, in our culture, belief is, after all, only a matter of opinion. Of course, Crusades make no sense to us today. Why battle over something irrelevant or impossible to truly define as an absolute belief?
So, let us ensure that we follow this March of Hope on the Dogmatic Creed of Roman Catholicism with great attention to the authentic order of our steps. Otherwise, we could easily fall into a dark crevice and hurt or even kill ourselves.
With all this in mind, I ask you to finish your respite, and, having now caught our breath, we will return to moving toward what I have called the apex of my journey. I have told you that I must tell this story, for I cannot leave the story of Catholicism in the hands of a media and culture that are the sworn enemies of the Church. And I have told you that we must take this step by step to keep from losing our way to the great promise lying through the gates and over the mountaintop. Without this care, the story might never be understood. We might never arrive at the great land.
Where do we begin in describing these next steps on the March of Hope? We start not with philosophy, spiritualism, or even theology but with a person who is the summation of all proper values, Jesus Christ. Any hierarchy of values that does not recognize Jesus Christ as the point to which all other valid values are directed is not authentic. Von Hildebrand states it as follows:
“The heroic man is simple, and his heroic act becomes the simpler. Every heroic act is the victory of a dominant aim over a multitude of petty ties and distractions. All experiences which enlarge our hearts, which expand and embolden our souls, and which render us able to sacrifice inferior things heroically – as does, above all a great love under Jesus – contribute to our achieving true simplicity. What we must seek is a general readiness to give away lower things for the sake of higher ones, according to the divinely sanctioned legitimate order of values, and in this sense, ultimately, even to abandon any and every high good for the sake of the highest one – that is, Christ.”
A proper order of things is a hierarchy of values that supports a willingness to give up even "good" objectives for the sake of the highest, Jesus Christ. I am, in the proper state of things, willing to give up, or at least subjugate anyway, what I consider to be a "right" to render obedience to the opinion, law, and attitude of Christ. I believe in "tolerance" wholeheartedly, but I want to see that value in its proper position related to Christ.
Jesus was compassionate but did not tolerate evil, nor shall we if we wish to keep the proper state of affairs. Under Christ as our God, Savior, and moral authority, we are no longer "good" people squabbling over which "good" value should super cede another in a divided, pluralistic society. We are now united under the banner of the Cross and understand what we must sacrifice for authentic progress. This was the superior attitude of ancient Christendom to our own culture. This is why Crusaders carried the banner of the Cross to defend their land, families, and Church.
In other words, describing the following steps on the March of Hope begins with Jesus Christ. From the early chapters in this book, the first order of things to which Our Lady was leading me after the great moment of my healing and restoration to sanity was to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Mass, the sacraments, and the primary sacrament deriving from the Mass, the Eucharist, along with obedience to the magisterial teachings of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, must be that to which we surrender or subjugate all other values, even our highest and most cherished ones. All described above is Jesus Christ as he teaches through his body, the Church, under the Pope's and Magisterium's direction and leadership. He administers his sacraments through his priests and Bishops, and he stays with us really and substantially in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the entire human race. Any order of values that does not recognize this is inauthentic and, ultimately, divisive and deadly, despite even the sweet promises of universal love that some value schemes offer.
You may be pausing for a moment now, perhaps a little confused. Having read all that above and knowing what you do of Catholicism and the land inside of that faith I have described, your curiosity might be piqued. Have I not consistently and boldly proclaimed my great love for and surrender to the Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary? I have, and I do. I follow the Tradition of the Church from apostolic times forward of devotion to Mary.
Devotion to Mary has been the most significant earmark of the Church’s faith after that of Jesus himself. Devotion to Mary is not a new doctrine nor a novel aberration of the faith. Devotion to Our Lady has been the Tradition of the Church from the moment Jesus Christ gave his life on the Cross to the earliest Church Fathers, through the Middle Ages, surviving the attack on it in the Protestant Revolution, and into the modern world of the 21st century. Not only is Marian devotion a beautiful and consistent reality of historic Christianity, but it is also essential to our salvation according to the teachings of our great saints. It is also quite a joyful path and is true, as St. Louis de Montfort made clear, the ultimate and most direct path to Jesus Christ, our highest value!
I consecrated myself to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the formula given to us by Saint Louis de Montfort and, later in life, by that of another great saint, Maximilian Kolbe. They are essentially the same, and both are highly approved by the Church. Pope St. John Paul II was consecrated to Mary under the De Montfort formula. In this consecration, we give everything we have, all of our natural and spiritual goods, our very souls, to the Holy Mother of God as the shortest, easiest, and safest path to her Son, Jesus Christ.
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