Circular Letter: Fall 2017
The Strength of GOD
Over the past decades, we have witnessed an ever-greater cultural struggle between good and evil. Terrorism, the struggle for religious freedom, the fight against abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, along with the great confusion around the definition of marriage, sexuality and family life are grave concerns of the Church and society today. In every age, God has raised up Saints to be a light to the world in times of darkness, persecution or spiritual confusion. These Saints, such as Pope John Paul the Great and Mother Theresa of Calcutta in our own times, and the many Saints and martyrs throughout history, have exhibited great fortitude in their struggle against evil, sometimes even to the point of giving their lives. But Saints are not born Saints. Like us, they needed to struggle with the daily challenges and bear the weight of the Cross with courage, prudence and fortitude. What makes the difference is how they confronted these challenges and from where they drew their strength.
Rather than seeking strength and courage in the face of challenges from self-help courses, worldly distractions or even alcohol or drugs, etc., the Saints put their trust and found their help in God. “Happy are those whose strength is in You… They go from strength to strength… For the Lord God is a sun and shield… No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in You” (Ps 84:5-12). In the Old Testament we find many examples of those who defeated the enemy under insurmountable odds solely by the strength of God. Think of David who before slaying the giant Goliath said to him, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head…so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hand”. (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
Again, the Lord sent home all but 300 of the army of Gideon which originally numbered 32,000 men in order to vanquish an innumerable host of Midianites. For if more Israelites were to engage in the battle, the Lord said, “Israel would only take the credit away from Me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me’” (Judges 7:2). Judith, who cut off the head of Holofernes, bore witness to her own weakness and to the strength of God working through her saying, “The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman” (Judith 13:15) . These are but a few examples found in Scripture. Yet, long before any of these events of the Old Testament, at the beginning of time when God created the Angels, we see St. Michael, an Angel from one of the lowest choirs, defeat the highest of all Angels, Lucifer, the “light-bearer”, and cast him and his legions from heaven – by the strength of God!
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down… They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”. (Rev 12:7-11)
In all these instances, we see how the servants of the Lord, who were committed to serving GOD and not themselves, were given the strength of victory from the Lord.
As Catholics, we too need to clothe ourselves with fortitude, that is, with the strength which comes from God, in order to engage in the spiritual warfare of our days. “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the principalities, against the virtues, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). In other words, St. Paul is saying, we are fighting not merely against men, but against the fallen angelic powers. For this reason, it is imperative in our times to take the hand of the holy Angels and work with them in the battle for the Kingdom of God.
The call of GOD to fight at the side of the holy Angels against the evil one and his accomplices is for us a wake-up call and an admonition. The evil one does not sleep. Therefore, we too may not sleep nor squander time. Everyone who has heard the wake-up call of the Angel in his heart needs to grasp the hand of his heavenly companion and the Angel will put him in the proper place and at the right task. Everyone is his own place, living out first his duties of his state in life and united with the holy Angels, can participate in this great work for the Kingdom of God.
Thus, the battle field is already set, one already stands here and another there. Although they may be far apart, they are united with one another spiritually via the LORD in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle must always be our center. From here, the Angels go forth with their protégés to their day’s work and employment. To this center, Mary brings souls who are seeking help. Here the intercessions, prayers and petitions are transformed into the actual help of GOD. Thus, GOD is always the center: HE, His Cross, His Blood, His love.
For years, we have sensed the hand of our good Angel in our own. Do you not sense it? Then you must become simpler, must learn to listen even more keenly, to obey and to be silent towards the interior within and silent from within outwards. Then the invisible Angel will become for you a reality. Through prayer and spiritual reading, we want to find the Angel of God and with him take the right path, however steep, and give the last and our utmost for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Our Lady said to the children at Fatima, “So many go to hell because there is no one to pray or sacrifice for them!” We want to answer the call of Our Lady, availing ourselves of the light and help of the holy Angels.
The power of God is inexhaustible: His almighty arm is always over us. It is the radiant force of God’s influence on the whole creation, as well as on every individual creature, especially on men. God’s power also lies in His Word and works through our words. It is light and strength given to us for our mission, our task. And finally, the strength of God stands behind every sacrifice.
Are we afraid of our weakness? We must remember the experience of St. Paul. In order to keep him humble in the face of the sublime revelations he was privileged to receive, he writes “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated” (2 Cor 12:7). Perhaps it was a persistent temptation of the flesh or a trying physical ailment. At any rate, when he begged the Lord three times to remove this weakness from him, the Lord responded,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (1 Cor 12:9-10)
Therefore, we need not fear our own limitations. When God gives someone a task, a mission, He also gives him the strength necessary to accomplish it. St. Michael fulfilled his task in the trial of the Angels by the strength of God. By the humble recognition of his own nothingness, armed with the shield of faith “GOD IS!” and girded with the sword of the burning, zealous love “Who is like God?”, in a vehement battle he cast the proudest, strongest, first-created spirit, the light-bearer together with his legions, into the abyss.
This indicates the way for us. The more man becomes conscious, in the depths of humble self-knowledge, of this call of God to fight for Him, so much more will he live by the strength of God, by His grace, and under the influence of his Guardian Angel. He recognizes that the thoughts and plans of God have different dimensions than our own and gladly reaches for the shield and sword of the Angels, in order to be allowed to stand in their ranks as one of God’s legionaries. It is through continual union with God in prayer that man begins to understand this call of God and follow the lead of the Angel. Prayer may not remain on the surface, but it must reach deeper. Daily we must come into that intimate, personal contact with God, recognize His presence and His love, and respond to it with our own love. Only then can we work with the Angels in the battle for souls.
This communion between Angel and man in working for the Kingdom of God is experienced first, but not exclusively, in the Sacred Liturgy. Pope Benedict XVI, while yet a Cardinal, once preached in the Abbey Frauenwörth on Lake Chiem, “In our earthly Liturgy, we men are not only among one another. We are joined together with the Angels of God before His face. We mutually pervade one another, we enter into the choirs, and they into ours. That makes the Liturgy great: we open ourselves for what is great, before the Angels and with them we stand before the face of God…” (July 18, 1993).
The communion of Angel and man is based upon the efficacy of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Like the consecration to the Blessed Mother, so also is the Consecration to all the Holy Angels a covenant founded on the consecration to Christ in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Accordingly, they renew in a certain way the baptismal promise. In the baptismal promise, we renounce the fallen Angels and say “yes” to Christ. This “yes” to Christ and the union with Him at Baptism effects not only the union with the other human members of the Church, but also with all the holy Angels. St. John Chrysostom writes in his homily on Matthew II, 1:
For such is the city of God, having the Church [ekklesia] of the firstborn, the spirits of the just [men], the general assembly [ekklesia] of the Angels, the blood of Redemption, whereby all are knit into one, and heaven has received the things of earth, and earth the things of heaven, and that peace has come which was longed for of old, both by Angels and by Saints. For in the Church, Christ is not only the Head of men, but also the Head of the holy Angels, as St. Paul says, “He is the head of every principality and power” (Col 2:10) and of all the other choirs of Angels. (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theol. III 8, 4 sc).
Further, in the Catechism we read, “Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of Angels and men united in God.” (CCC, 336).
Since our battle is not with flesh and blood, but against the deceptive powers of hell, we must learn to discern the spirits. The Angel always wants us to give more, not to hide behind our set prayers said with little or no attention, our spiritual pictures and comfortable “middle class” spiritual life which seeks to avoid any inconvenience or confrontation, any sacrifice or humiliation, or demands on our time or pocket book. Just as the Angel of Fatima questioned the children who were simply playing as normal children do, he challenges us also to do more: “What are you doing?! Pray, pray very much! …Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you!” If we are to fight at the side of the holy Angels, we must learn to abandon our self-will and open ourselves for the inexorable will of God for us. We must learn to give ourselves and to give more, to accept all God sends to us. We must learn to forgive the “unforgivable” and to go a second mile. Then the strength of God will fill us and draw us forward. Then and only then will our spiritual lives begin to burn and shine, to grow and bear fruit.
The enemy, on the other hand tries to coax us, “Tomorrow I can help that needy person; today I have enough to do.” “How can I stand up for the teaching of the Church at work; everyone would look down on me!” “A little compromise doesn’t matter, everyone else is doing it!” Such persons will never receive the strength from God to become holy. They may always have the name of God on their lips, and yet their heart is far from Him. They hide from Him by displaying the Crucifix and holy pictures on their walls, praying endless litanies, reading spiritual journals, joining societies and similar means of protection, in order to avoid God’s clear eyes which see through their mask with unerring justice. They bolt their doors by being politically correct and seek to keep a distance, in order not to be solicited by beggars or raided by a thief who might rob them of their self-assurance. Yet the LORD says He will come like a Thief, indeed, the most dangerous of all thieves, before whom no lock or bolt can stand fast. He sees through our façades which we set up with the insignia of prayers and medals, in the hopes that God might pass us by.
Thus, there are people who outwardly may appear to be Saints and exercise an immense influence on their surroundings, and yet the Lord will one day say: “Friend, I know you not!” The false spirit, like an angel of light, even mimics God as do also his minions on earth who are interested in honor and power. While politically and bureaucratically correct they do not advance the cause of God nor spread the light of the Gospel. Behind them stands the evil spirit, who even in his fallen state retains his natural power to deceive and coerce mankind. In the end,
the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord (Jesus) will kill with the breath of his mouth and render powerless by the manifestation of his coming, the one whose coming springs from the power of Satan in every mighty deed and in signs and wonders that lie, and in every wicked deceit for those who are perishing because they have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved. Therefore, God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrong-doing may be condemned. (2 Thess 2:8-12)
Theirs is a religion of compromise. Even when they see the truth, they call it a lie so that they do not have to conform their lives to it. In the final analysis, they bow down before him, the enemy of St. Michael, Lucifer. God let Satan retain his natural strength and he now uses this strength to deceive man and thereby strike at God, God in creation and, above all, God in man.
Thus, strength is set against strength, the strength of God against the strength of hell. Blessed is he who feels today the hand of God resting upon him and does not let himself be deceived when brother rises up against brother, and nation against nation, and when by the deceptive power of hell, its emissaries are made out to be “angels” and “saints” (cf., 2 Cor 11:14). This is manifested, for example, in the “mercy” killings of assisted suicide, or the “fairness” of allowing also homo-pairs to adopt and raise children. Priests are accused of “hate speech” when they speak the truth, and businessmen and doctors are fined for “discrimination” when they follow their consciences with regard to health insurance or engaging in unethical practices. The demon seeks to obscure the truth, to feed men’s pride and deceive them into following the mistaken path of a false conclusion, of disobedience and defiance, of hypocrisy and heresy.
But the true strength of GOD is always made evident by the same distinguishing mark for Angels and men, namely, by a pronounced transparent clarity. In the light of the holy Angels, there are no compromises nor equivocal words or paths; there are no complicated or blurred concepts of God, but rather, humble and strict obedience to the law of God. The more transparent a person is towards God, the more he will become simple, unconditionally faithful to the commandments, truthful, and in the same measure, the strength of GOD will increase in him. The strength of the Angel will come upon this person more, since it is actually the strength from God. Mary can become more effectively for him the Mediatrix of Grace, the spiritual vessel by which GOD extends to him His strength and His love. He who drinks God’s gift of grace from this chalice will not thirst, nor wither, nor be lost for eternity.
We have all more or less sensed the demands of the Angels upon us. They want to draw more out of us than what one experiences in a good “average” Christian. For with this “Christianity sold by the yard” we will neither gain honor before the Angels nor be of use in the battle against the spirits of darkness. We must grow beyond our self-complacency and lukewarmness, from the worldview of this age; not that we stand out as “special” or peculiar or even crazy, but such that we are noticed for living the word of Christ authentically in the world and have overcome the world through the Cross and the love of GOD. Then God Himself will be our strength. As our Mother Gabriele writes, “The Lord Himself helps us carry the cross, if we but love it, if we but consent to it, if we want to go with Him wherever He leads us” (Spiritual Maxims). The clear spiritual childhood and communion with the Church may never be artificial holiness or only a façade. The sure sign of its genuineness can be found in our willingness to bear the cross, to give ourselves, to sacrifice.
The wake-up call of the holy Angels is clear, and God has shown us that if we take the hand of these Brothers, then their light will lead us to God as whole persons, integral fighters, usable instruments in the Hand of GOD. Each of us, therefore, must stand fully conscious at his station, not crooked, not halfway nor discontented. In every walk of life, we can become Saints. The interior preparation must always precede the exterior preparation, beginning from the heart. In daily life with its difficulties, in the interaction with our neighbor, we must prove ourselves. From there we must – drawing all along with us – “grow into God”.
Through interior preparation, we must become more and more oriented to God from within. This interior preparation consists in a growing into simplicity, into living spiritual childhood before GOD; it consists in proving our fidelity in the face of adversities and insults, in darkness and desolations. It further consists in becoming free from self-will and self-love, from self-esteem and over-sensitivity, and therefore in a loving, free and prompt obedience.
Finally, it consists in a conscious discipline of will, in order to bring measure and order into one’s own spiritual life. Our soul will thereby become clear and strong, and we will then be able to hold out in trial – in silence, in expiation, in humility.
The Angels want to lead us to empty our soul from all the unnecessary junk of attachments and to fill it up with fervent love for God and watchful readiness: this is our interior preparation.
Only when we are interiorly clear, will we be able to be a light for others.
Only when we are interiorly strong, will we be able to lead others.
Only when we are interiorly little and humble, will we become free and cheerful.
Only when we can serve, may we dare, before GOD, to give orders. (OA)
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