The tragedy and scandal of our time is that very many of us have arranged our lives so as to be blind, deaf and numb to the promptings of divine grace.
How would you answer this question asked by Jesus, “… when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
If Our Lady told you that many souls are lost to Hell because there is no one to pray and sacrifice for them (as Our Lady told the children at Fatima), and you believed her, how would you change your life?
Let’s address Our Lord’s question first. I am inclined to give a provisional answer and reply, “It depends.” Depends on what? I think it depends on how faithfully monastic and contemplative religious communities live their vocations. You might scoff: “Really? A handful of eccentrics hidden away in cloisters and hermitages can make a difference in this world—and the next?”
The scoffing summarizes our contemporary problem. Unlike the faithful monastics and contemplatives, many in our culture have forgotten the perennial truth summarized by St. Ignatius Loyola: “Man is created for the praise, reverence and service of God.” The faithful monasteries arrange their lives accordingly, seeking to live without distraction or compromise the truths the world seems hell-bent on forgetting or denying: Only God is God, only God is worthy of worship, only God can satisfy the human heart. And the all-holy God, to whom we might pay lip service in praise of his mercy, is also just.
Nowadays, I am asked frequently, “Father, what is keeping the wrath of God from visiting judgment upon the earth, upon us who have rejected his Christ, and who have abused and forsaken his Virgin Bride who is his Church?” I believe that what is keeping the sky from falling is the prayer and sacrifice of faithful monastics and contemplatives—those generous men and women who have offered themselves as testimony and oblation, in the hopes that when the Son of Man returns, he will find faith on earth.
I’m also frequently asked these days, “Father, what can we in the Church do to fix the mess we’re in?” I want to reply, “We cannot do anything to fix this mess.” I want to do so without endorsing the error of fatalism—that form of despair that denies human freedom and responsibility. And I want to do so without endorsing the error of quietism—that form of despair that counsels total passivity.
Instead, I want to advise that the only thing we can “do” in this present crisis is to imitate the faithful monastics and contemplatives. They value the praise and worship of God above all else and so can we; they offer themselves and all they do—however humble—as a sacrifice to God and a service to neighbor and so can we.
Here come the protagonists of the Church’s Act 3, and it’s exhilarating
Friends, we are surely in a time of profound and pervasive crisis. This crisis cannot be put right apart from the power of God’s grace—which we are constantly offered. The tragedy and scandal of our time is that very many of us have arranged our lives so as to be blind, deaf and numb to the promptings of divine grace. Hungry, we refuse to eat; thirsty, we refuse to drink; blind, we refuse to see; deaf, we refuse to hear; lonely, we refuse to love. Our hope of divine rescue is less likely to be mere wishful thinking if we follow the example of the good monastics and contemplatives. But how?
I have in mind a friend in California who works with the “abuelas,” Latina grandmothers who refer to themselves as the “Guadalupanas”—women of simple and fierce faith who pray the Rosary constantly, while caring for their families. And I’ve met such “abuelas” of many cultures—Irish, Italian, French, Polish, Ukranian—who pray constantly while performing simple, unglamorous and unnoticed acts of charity. I have seen similar fidelity and charity among elderly widows and widowers who get themselves out of bed and into church for early morning Mass every day. Such lay people, I believe, are part of the network of prayer that is keeping the sky from falling. Each of us, according to our circumstances, would do well to imitate them in some way.
Find the monastery nearest you and support the community through prayer, generosity and service. Learn about their founder, charism and members. Assist them in their good works of charity, sacrifice and intercession. Their works and witness—and ours—united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, are what we can offer God and neighbor during this time of darkness and trial.
If we do that, then we can be part of a good answer to Jesus’s question: “When the Son of Man returns, will he find any faith on earth?”
When I write next, I will discuss invoking the Precious Blood of Jesus during times of crisis. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
Why do certain monks and nuns live “behind bars”?