As a cradle Catholic who has lived most of my life in a totally Catholic milieu at school, work and home I have always felt "safe" on the road of faith. However, I no longer feel safe. I no longer take it for granted that this narrow path will be clear and that I will be able to keep to it. In the aftermath of the Synod I have heard of the tragic reaction of Catholics leaving the Church.
Over the past two years of confusion and disorientation, my morning offering has become more important as the start of my day. Like many faithful Catholics, it is my first act of my day when I wake up. Making the sign of the Cross, I pray a prayer of entrustment and a petition for divine protection composed by St. Mariam Baouardy, the Lily of Palestine:
Holy Spirit, inspire me.
Love of God, consume me.
Along the true road, lead me.
Mary, my good mother, look down upon me.
With Jesus, bless me.
From all evil, all illusion, all danger, preserve me.
However, I realize that at some point I've unknowingly changed St. Mariam's prayer in response to the betrayal and confusion in the Church and an increasingly immoral society. I now pray: "Along the true road, keep me safe." On reflection I know I've done this as a spiritual reflex to protect myself from the constant pressure to apostatize.
Bracing Against the Riptide of Practical Atheism
This relentless pressure to apostatize — to have done with Christianity — takes a variety of forms, both crude and subtle: the negative caricatures of faithful Christians in the media, the juggernaut advance of militant secularists and the gender ideologues, and the compromise and betrayal of the Faith by some bishops and priests. These act like a constant undertow that I have to brace myself against to stop them dragging me under. Sometimes it feels like I have to fight every day just to stand still in my faith against the riptide of practical atheism and anti-Catholicism, both inside and outside the Church.
At other times the revelation of a new evil or the uncovering of a greater darkness in an evil long known hits like a body blow, shaking faith in the power of good, and — I'm ashamed to admit — even my faith in the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Just the other day, when the media were announcing the Chinese Communists' decision to abandon its criminal and disastrous "one-child policy," a statistic was included in a news segment as a casual aside. Over 400 million babies have been killed through abortion in China over the past 40 years. That's 1500 babies murdered every hour for 40 years. And these are the babies killed in just one country. This is so vast a crime that it is impossible to comprehend.
Throwing Pebbles at a Sherman Tank
Before the enormity of such depraved evil my faith — the faith of one billion Catholics alive at this moment — seems so weak, almost inconsequential. Using an evocative phrase from Michael D. O'Brien's recently published sequel "Elijah in Jerusalem," our words and actions against the murder of 400 million babies seem like "throwing pebbles at a Sherman tank." Michael O'Brien goes on to point out that this sense of hopelessness and futility is just what the devil wants us to feel. The protagonist of his novel, Bp. Elijah, reflects on the strategy of the serpent:
He must be wary of the seduction of its eyes. It mesmerized. It sought to neutralize Christ's servants throughout the world by defamation, then isolation, and finally discouragement. It was deluging the earth with the lie that the Savior was an old myth that had lost its relevance and influence, a tired story soon to be forgotten by all but a pitiful remnant. The Serpent would convince, if it could, even the believing remnant. By whispering, insinuating, and paralyzing, telling them they were forgotten, defeated, and that their Lord would remain eternally absent. (145–56)
Michael D. OBrien's novels often feature the working out of Almighty God's salvific plan through the faithful "little ones" — children, old people, sick, disabled, simple people, and the bright and talented that have been purified by suffering. He reiterates the ancient, ever-new wisdom that we must totally rely on the Father's providential care, the Son's intimate, eucharistic grace — the "sweet fire" — and the guidance and promptings of the Holy Spirit. To protect ourselves from being mesmerised, and destroyed, by the serpent Michael O’Brien exhorts us to recollect:
Christ calls us in every generation to "stay awake and watch." God desires, above all, that we have faith in His coming victory and be attentive to the "still small voice" of the Holy Spirit, as did the prophet Elijah. In this way we will come to know what we need to know, when we need to know it." (9)
There are many examples of Christians around the world who heed Our Lord's call to stay awake with Him as the Church endures Her Garden of Gethsemane. In the second part of this article I will report two recent examples of heroic Christians and people of good who will not be discouraged or beaten down, but continue to resist the lies of the Serpent.
This article originally appeared in the Catholic Voice newspaper and is republished here with permission. It has been edited for style.