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"It is important that the good — who are the majority — wake up from their sluggishness and do not accept being deceived by a minority of dishonest people with unavowable purposes."
With these words in his "Open Letter to President Donald Trump," released on the first Saturday of June in this most distressing and unprecedented year of 2020, Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò has kindled a light for the Church in these hours of darkness that shines as a beacon above the present chaos and confusion.
Like the paschal candle that rises in the darkness on the night of Easter, inviting the children of Israel to follow it through the turbulent waters of the Red Sea to freedom and joy, so Vigano's powerful and prophetic words invite the Church of 2020 to reflect on what is really happening with the eyes of faith and to raise our eyes to the things that are above and to what endures.
Viganò addresses his letter to President Trump, thanking him for his unprecedented pro-life witness. This gratitude should have been expressed by the bishops of the United States on the occasion of President Trump's visit to the John Paul II Shrine to promote religious freedom. But since it was not, Abp. Viganò has chosen to fill a vacuum of leadership, expressing this gratitude on behalf of the many faithful Catholic laity and clergy who recognize Trump's courageous leadership on behalf of life.
But Viganò also intends by his letter to instruct the faithful and all people of goodwill — to rouse us from our sluggishness — inviting us to understand and reflect on what is really happening.
As a good teacher and father, Abp. Viganò is reminding the flock to remember what is most fundamental, what is most essential — an act of leadership that is vitally important since we live in such superficial times. Invoking the foundational text of Genesis chapter 3, he reminds us of the biblical nature of a struggle as ancient as Eden: The serpent wages war against the woman and her offspring.
This is the same struggle that Our Lady reminded her children of at Fatima in 1917 — it is a battle for souls, a battle that involves the entire human race, a battle that will ultimately end in victory for the woman and her divine Son but that, at present, in many ways appears to be tilting in favor of the serpent.
Viganò reminds us, in accord with fundamental biblical principles, that although the wicked — the children of darkness— constitute a minority, they hold undue authority and power over the good — the children of light. This means that the good suffer at the hands of the wicked, and in a mysterious way, this also happens within the Church.
How refreshing and consoling it is to have such clarity spoken to us from a Catholic bishop!
To the laity, Viganò speaks as a shepherd, reminding them of the most fundamental teaching of Sacred Scripture regarding good and evil, Heaven and Hell, and the cosmic battle over man's eternal destiny. To priests, he speaks as a father, encouraging them to persevere in fidelity to the Deposit of Faith at a time of unprecedented confusion and false teaching within the Church. And for faithful bishops, he acts as a model, showing them how to courageously teach the Faith with clarity, fearlessly naming the invisible enemy whom many of their brother bishops serve.
To all men and women of goodwill who listen, he reminds us that the hope of victory in this battle does not lie ultimately in any political movement or human allegiance but in the power of prayer. In other words, only God can save us from the overwhelming onslaught of evil that we find ourselves in the midst of, and He assuredly will, provided that we remain faithful to his Word and to his law.
All of us right now are tempted to doubt that God has the victory in hand. We look at the chaos engulfing our nation, we see how the sea is turbulent and the waves are crashing, and we doubt the narrative of faith that tells us: "God is in control; good will triumph over evil, light will ultimately prevail over darkness."
The media certainly presents us with a false and orchestrated narrative of what is really happening, as Abp. Viganò identifies. But at times, without realizing it, faithful people may find themselves frustrated and discouraged because they have internalized their own "narrative" of "the way things ought to be" that is at odds with the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds us.
The Israelites doubted Moses when they found themselves pinned between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, and when they experienced hunger and thirst as they wandered in the desert: "It's not supposed to happen this way; if God is really God this journey should be a lot easier," they thought.
Likewise, the two disciples who met the Risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus doubted Jesus: "It wasn't supposed to happen this way," they said as they walked along, looking downcast. They had become discouraged by the turn of events, the news of the day, because what happened didn't match with what they thought the "narrative" should be.
Perhaps at times we are tempted to become like them, discouraged at how intimidating the battle has become. We may be tempted to become angry at the Church, angry at the false shepherds, angry at the lack of leadership, angry at the lies and deception that momentarily seem to triumph, angry at other Christians, angry about so many things we are powerless to change. "It's not supposed to be like this!" we say to God and others, in as many words.
The psalmist knew this place well: "How long, O Lord, will you forget me? How long will you hide your face?" It is a place of fervent prayer and radical surrender — the place of the realization that only God can save us, no one and nothing else.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus knew this place: "They stopped, looking downcast ... 'We were hoping that he was the one who would set Israel free.'" It seemed to them that God had forgotten and abandoned them. And then the Risen Lord opened their eyes and invited them to remember what they had started to forget: "Was it not necessary that the Messiah would undergo all this so as to enter into his glory?"
Archbishop Viganò's letter recalls to us a fundamental truth that it is imperative we remember in this crucial hour: Is it not necessary that this battle takes place? Is it not by way of extreme trial that the worth of good men is proven? Is it not the nature of the wicked that they seem to triumph by every standard of the world? Is it not only when men have exhausted every other human hope that they will finally be able to trust only in God and so be set free?
Yes, it is true, the courageous archbishop tells us: The world at present is being deceived by an invisible enemy. But this moment will pass and good will prevail, if only the sons of light shake off their sluggishness and realize that this is their finest hour.
Thank you, Abp. Viganò, for kindling a flame in the darkness, for opening our eyes, for reminding us who we are and the battle we have been called to. May this flame shine over us brightly, illuminating the battlefield — a testament to what will endure when all of this madness is but a memory. And may God grant all of us, and especially our bishops, the grace to stand firm with you in courageous witness to the truth. Come, Holy Spirit!