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Reemergence of the Church Militant: HHS Mandate Calls us to Spiritual Battle
By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
"We see evil wants to rule the world and it is necessary to go into battle against evil. We like it does in so many ways, bloody, with various forms of violence, but also disguised with good and thus destroying the moral foundations of society" (Pope Benedict XVI) Most of us could not have foreseen this turn of events just a few years ago. Oh, we knew the culture was decaying and we were doing all we could to not only stem the tide but effect its renewal. However, now we find Catholic Colleges and other institutions, which so clearly serve the common good, having to find "safe harbors" to win more time to fight the unjust actions of an American Administration.
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - As the August 1, 2012 date for the initial implementation requirements of the HHS mandate draws closer, an opinion from the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund) is advising Catholic Colleges of a "temporary one year safe harbor" which might enable some non-profits to delay the consequences of non-compliance for one year.
The details were contained in an opinion from legal counsel which can be read in its entirety here. This opinion was sent to that outstanding guardian of Catholic identity at Catholic Colleges, the Cardinal Newman Society, one of many great resources marshaled together for the struggle ahead.
However, what is becoming increasingly clear is that we are living under an ominous cloud of oppression. At its center are the unconstitutional actions of a Federal Administration which is growing increasingly hostile to the Catholic Church - as she seeks to be faithful to her mandate to proclaim and live the fullness of the Gospel in a Nation which she has served so well since its founding.
Most of us could not have foreseen this turn of events just a few years ago. Oh, we knew the culture was decaying and we were doing all we could to not only stem the tide but help to effect its renewal. However, now we find Catholic Colleges and other institutions, which so clearly serve the common good, having to find "safe harbors" to win more time to fight the unjust actions of an American Administration.
I contend that no matter what happens as this all unfolds, it is challenging us to deeper prayer, reflection, preparation and reasoned action. We need to relearn how to live in spiritual battle mode. This is a part of a larger intense spiritual warfare which we must understand properly if we hope to properly participate in.
On Monday, May 21, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI held a luncheon with members of the College of Cardinals. His purpose was to thank them for their kindness in wishing him a Happy 85th Birthday on April 16, 2012. In addition, he wanted to thank his friends for wishing him a happy seventh anniversary of his election to the Chair of Peter on April 19, 2012.
Vatican News reported that the Holy Father reminded his brothers upon whom he relies upon for advice and counsel that "The Church, the Mystical Body, exists on this earth, and is called the Church militant, because its members struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil."
In what was reported to have been a warm yet quite candid luncheon, Pope Benedict XVI shared many of his moments of joy during his apostolic ministry as the successor of Peter, as well as insights into the struggles. European sources indicate that the Pope told the Cardinals,
"(I) especially thank the Lord for many years has given me, years with many days of joy, wonderful times, but also dark nights. But in retrospect it is understood that the nights were necessary and good."
"We see evil wants to rule the world and it is necessary to go into battle against evil. We (see) it does in so many ways, bloody, with various forms of violence, but also disguised with good and thus destroying the moral foundations of society."
"We're in this fight and (in) this fight it is very important to have friends. I am surrounded by friends of the College of Cardinals: they are my friends and I feel at home, I feel safe in the company of great friends who are with me, together."
The use of the phrase "Church Militant" for the Church on the earth used to be very common in the Catholic Church. However, for lots of reasons, including a possible misunderstanding of the term, the term has fallen out of use since the Second Vatican Council.
In 1953, the Pope who had led the Church through two decades of darkness in a world besieged by war, Pope Pius XII stated, "We belong to the Church militant; and She is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass Her destruction."
We are becoming increasingly aware in our time that we are the Church militant as we battle the ravages caused by the culture of death. In addition, as we witness the growing hostility toward the church throughout the world, we realize that we are indeed engaged in a spiritual warfare.
The Apostle Paul reminded the Ephesians that the real enemy we struggle against is the devil with these words, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:11,12)
I was recently reminded of some potentially prophetic words written by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in an extraordinary little book first published in 1971 and entitled "Faith and the Future". The Cardinal who is now the successor of the Apostle Peter, bearing the name Benedict XVI, wrote:
"From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge - a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices that she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges.'
"In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession."
"In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will be normally provided in this fashion. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly."
"But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world."
"In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship" (Pope Benedict XVI, Faith and the Future, pp. 116-117).
Let us pray for this dear Pope who bears the name Benedict. Let us stand in solidarity with him in this struggle against the darkness of our age. The growing persecution of the Catholic Church is giving rise to the re-emergence of the Church Militant. We are all enlisted. We are witnessing the reemergence of the Church Militant. The HHS Mandate calls us to learn to live in Spiritual Battle.
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