Saturday, February 11, 2017


God gives us signs; our shepherds give us signs.  In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI gave us a sign when, surrounded by earthquake damage in the church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L'Aquila, Italy, he laid his pallium on the tomb of Pope St. Celestine V, who abdicated in 1294.  Four years later -- and four years ago today -- on February 11, 2013, he announced his abdication.

For the benefit of those who believe (and those who disbelieve) in signs from heaven, on that day, God commanded, or at least permitted, lightning to strike St. Peter's Basilica.  (Yes, God pays attention to details, down to the subatomic level, and even the most trivial things cannot happen without His permission; otherwise, He wouldn't be God.)  To underscore His point, His providence arranged for Filippo Monteforte of Agence France-Presse to capture the moment on film, thusly:

It is superstitious to believe that our lives and the course of history are governed by the motions of stars and planets, or that we can predict the future based on tea leaves or goat entrails; but it is not superstitious to take heed of signs in nature.  Our capacity and inclination to read these occurrences as signs is God-given.  The God Who created us gave us our taste for symbolism, and He satisfies it without the need for us to make up for any lack of ingenuity on His part.  Chapter 27 of Matthew's Gospel records that when Jesus was crucified, darkness covered the earth for three hours; and upon His death, the earth quaked, the rocks were split, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.  These were signs that indicated that this execution on Calvary was quite out of the ordinary.  Even the changes of season are freighted with spiritual significance, and not because we give them that significance ourselves in order to satisfy some primitive instinct for religion.  They are significant because God, Who is a God of Order and Harmony, interwove nature and salvation history.  There is no reason to believe that God has ceased giving us signs, merely because, in our modern, rationalist age, we choose to chalk them up as mere coincidences.

So what was the nature of the sign given here?  Was it a sign that God was angry with Pope Benedict for having stepped down from an office that is normally held until death?  Or was it a sign that this abdication marked the beginning of a punishment to be visited upon the whole Church for her unfaithfulness?

Four years on, the answer seems clearer.  The shepherd who tried to rule his flock and undo the damage of the last half-century with fatherly gentleness is gone, and a wrecking ball has been appointed to fill his place.  Our present Pope is admired by the world.  He publicly celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant revolt, and heaps contumely on those who try to live as faithful Catholics.  On his watch, the punishments that should be visited on the priests and bishops who openly proclaim errors land instead on faithful clerics and tradition-loving religious orders.  We find ourselves in the midst of a showdown between several cardinals and the Successor of Peter, over the appearance that the latter has publicly countenanced grave errors concerning marriage.  The Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta is feeling the mailed fist of this highly authoritarian Pope.  Meanwhile, the "progressive" elites in the Church, down to the lowest levels, are having their Big Mo, and are more blatant and arrogant than ever.  Sunday Mass is increasingly a narcissistic display featuring the preaching of Marxist interpretations of the Gospel; keeping the obligation becomes more and more burdensome and tedious.  A feeling of unease and confusion seems to pervade the Church, even among those who, on an intellectual level, are not confused about what the Church teaches.

The reading of the lightning strike on St. Peter's as a sign of trials to come seems amply justified by events.  Now we await signs that these trials may soon end.  Perhaps we are seeing it in the political arena, where voters in Europe and America are giving the Order of the Boot to left-wing ideologues of the sort that have infested both Church and State for decades.  This is not the same as a conversion to the True Faith; but it does show that people are at last ready to discard the slick, shiny notions of godless "progress" and "change" that have captivated so many in the West since the "Enlightenment," and that have wrought so much death and destruction.

The devil has his hour; but, as Bishop Sheen used to remind us, he gets only an hour.  God, on the other hand, has His day.


  1. I can't look at the face of this Pope without a feeling of disgust. It troubles me greatly, because I want to be faithful to the Magisterium and all I see is the undermining of the Church as I know it. I feel that the structure of the Church is disintegrating.

  2. Anita, I congratulate you for this courageous article.

    You are correct. It was once again myopia on the part of the press to be shocked and surprised by Pope Benedict's resignation, when in fact he had alluded to the possibility several times during his papacy.

    But was the resignation a righteous act? I don't know. It must be extraordinarily difficult for an 86 year old man to function as head of state. At 85, Deng Xiaoping was still the "paramount leader" of China at the time of the Tienanmen Square incident, but to what extent he was effectively in control of state or party apparatus is unknown (outside of a tight circle of elites.) But the Vicar of Christ is much more than just a head of state. The last pope to have lived so long was Leo XIII, in a simpler time. So let's pray for the pope emeritus.

    And of course, let's pray for all of those who continue to affirm the teachings of the faith, as we have received them.

  3. I don't know either if Pope Benedict's abdication was a righteous act. I'm not even sure we can call it a "disaster" in the sense that it caused the problems we now face. I think the problems were there already, waiting to happen. Now all the poisons that lurked in the mud are hatching out.