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When the sanctuary lamp is extinguished, what will you do? Are you prepared for that day? It may come sooner than you think!
In March of 2020, religious and civil authorities citing health concerns unexpectedly locked us out of our churches. This lockdown had a significant impact on the health of our souls.
For most of us, the closure of churches during our lifetime was unprecedented. None of us could have imagined such a complete shutdown of the sacramental life of the Church.
Public Masses were not celebrated. The Blessed Sacrament was not distributed. Baptisms and weddings were forbidden. Funerals were postponed for months or canceled. The loss of grace during the worldwide church closures was immeasurable.
The fact that the authorities were successful in implementing such measures once means that it is not a matter of if but when they will do it again. Therefore, what precautions are you taking for yourself and your family in preparation for the next severe wave of persecution?
I do not wish to incite unnecessary fear or panic, but the signs are clear that the period of general peace we have enjoyed in the West since the end of World War II is ending. These are not idle predictions but observations made by a 61-year-old man who witnessed the gradual collapse of the Catholicism he grew up with in Chicago. Its disappearance went unnoticed and unlamented — no epitaph or even a funeral.
As a Catholic, I have seen the church where I was baptized, St. Peter Canisius in Chicago, gutted and sold. I have witnessed the closure of my grade school, St. Gertrude's, which had 1,100 students when I attended. I taught at the High School Seminary Archbishop Quigley for seven years before it was abruptly shut down and never reopened. The two parishes where I once worked, St. Michael's and Resurrection Parish, have also been permanently closed.
Despite the Catholic Church I knew as a boy in Chicago being erased — with few remnants remaining — I persist, and my faith remains steadfast. Yet, even now, there is talk of transforming the once magnificent St. Adalbert's Church into an events center for secular purposes such as concerts.
The persecution has already begun in earnest, both from inside and outside the Church, and the faithful are losing. So, where do we go from here?
Given the aftermath of the church lockdowns and the accelerating dissolution of parishes, I believe a more severe persecution is on the horizon. But during this relative calm before the storm, all of us should take steps to prepare for the next assault. Just as the wise virgins in Matthew's Gospel brought extra oil for their lamps, we must plan ahead and ready ourselves for the upcoming challenges.
Have you stocked up on nonperishable food? Are you familiar with methods of purifying water and distinguishing between edible and poisonous plants? These are the types of considerations that a prudent person takes seriously and prepares for in case of necessity.
One of the first actions our enemies will take when they gain complete control is to disable our cell phones and cut off our internet access, a task that is distressingly simple.
What measures are you taking to maintain contact with loved ones or to plan for travel when you are severed from the internet or deprived of your usual methods of communication? Knowing the physical addresses of family and friends — and making plans to get in touch through alternate means — will be crucial. Possessing printed maps will aid in navigation.
But don't forget spiritual preparations! Having tangible books for prayers, references and inspiration will be the difference between mere survival and thriving. Do you have a Bible and prayer books on hand? Are there vigil lights available to brighten your home when the power and fuel lines are cut? Do you have crucifixes and images of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother and your patron saints?
Fellow priests should also prepare. Like the wise virgins in the gospel parable, ensure you have at least one eucharistic prayer memorized. Memorize the rituals for baptism, confirmation and marriage. While someone can easily take away your ritual books, erasing what you have committed to memory is much more difficult. Many Masses were celebrated in concentration camps during World War II without the convenience of ritual books. We should prepare for similar hardships.
As a priest, I have assembled a portable Mass kit for when I am on the move. It includes everything necessary for celebrating the Holy Mass properly. This easily transportable kit consists of a portable altar with adjustable legs, a chalice, ciborium, lectionary, sacramentary, hosts, wine, relics, icons and other essentials. I have made these preparations because once the persecution begins, these materials will become unprintable and likely unobtainable.
At some point in the near future, the sanctuary lamps in our churches will be extinguished. This process has already commenced. But despite the persecution, we priests must remain committed to administering the sacraments because it is our solemn duty.
Persecution is coming. Let us not deceive ourselves but prepare for it now in order to thrive. In Christ, we will be victorious. Rather than fearing persecution, let us fear sin and the loss of grace.
Though the powers that be may extinguish the sanctuary lamp in our churches, they cannot extinguish the burning lamps of faith and belief in our hearts. Remember: "Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:16).