“Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain the just;
let the earth be opened,
and bud forth a Savior” (Is. 45:8).
I recently made an hour-long trip to another town in Massachusetts, in order to do some urgent Christmas shopping. On the way up, I chose the quickest and most direct route possible. But after the task was completed, I decided to zig-zag my way back home. The general area surrounding the town is quite scenic, and since I had lived there many years ago, I decided to nostalgically wind my way through a number of old familiar places. I thoroughly enjoyed the long idyllic meandering drive, except for one disturbing feature. As I drove through one town or village after another, I was struck by the changes in the Catholic landscape. I passed through no fewer than five consecutive towns in which parishes had been closed. Many moons ago, I had attended these parishes and presumed they would always be available to God-seeking souls. The mountains were still in place, the rivers wound the same courses, and the fields had remained where I remembered them. But in many places, the Catholic Church had tragically departed, leaving those rustic towns partly or entirely deprived of God’s magnificent truth and saving grace. It changed the scenery in the bleakest way. For nature had remained, but super-nature had left. The sun might as well have set over those snowy hills once and for all, for a darkness of another type had prevailed.
That evening, the thought of this tragedy remained on my mind. Before retiring for the night, I sat at my desk to chant night prayer/compline. During the Advent season, I sing for this final hour the ancient chant Rorate Caeli, which is one of the four essential chants of the liturgical season. It is a mournful meditation on the fully merited divine abandonment of Jerusalem, due to her countless offenses. The antiphon-refrain is taken from Isaiah 45:8 in the Vulgate-Douay tradition.
“Rorate caeli desuper, et nubes pluant justum.
“O heavens, send your rain upon us, send down the Just One to Israel.”
Another translation sings,
“Drop down dew from above, ye heavens, ye clouds rain down the just one.”
This antiphon is a plea to God for His mercy, that He would not abandon Israel forever, but would one day send the long-awaited Savior. Going even further, the verses contain a sentiment that seldom fails to bring a lump to the throat.
“Do not be angry with us, Lord.
Remember no longer all our past transgressions.
See, your city of Holies now has been deserted.
Sion has been abandoned.
Jerusalem has been made desolate.
The house of your kind and merciful blessing
and of your glory,
the place where abundant praise
rose from our fathers.”
In light of the present state of the Catholic Church, it is difficult to sing such a text through to the end without pausing for an involuntary swallow or two. Yes, in many ways and in many places, God has substantially deserted His Church, leaving her desolate. During the last twenty years, countless parishes and religious communities have been closed; numberless priests and religious have abandoned their vocations, and as many lay people have thrown up their arms in despair and exited the vestibule for the last time. And where parishes remain and Masses are still offered, what is the actual quality of the faith of those who attend? How many Catholics truly believe everything the Catholic Church teaches? It would be impossible to arrive at a mathematically accurate answer, but I would suggest a simple approach: merely observe the number of souls standing in the confession lines on a Saturday afternoon. Of that miniscule number, possibly a few believe everything the Church teaches. And they are the “faithful,” if the word is to have any meaning at all.
The current desolation of the Catholic Church is entirely merited. To be precise, God did not abandon her; rather, she drove Him out. And she did so with far more than sex scandals, which were the inescapable effects of a cause that preceded them: namely, infidelity.
In so many places and in so many ways, the Church resents God. She resents having been given so important a place in the divine scheme for the world. Expressed another way, the Church is in the midst of an identity crises. For she does not want to be what God has made her, does not want to have what God has given her, and does not want to do what God has asked of her. She is the one true Church of the one true religion, she has the fullness of God’s truth and grace for our salvation, and she must generously and urgently dispense this sacred treasure far and wide, even at the risk of her own safety. That is, she must make disciples of all the nations.
I have thought about this resentment almost since the day I returned to the Church in 1990. I’ve wondered over and over again why the Church seems to loath the gift of her own magnificence. It seems to me she resents it because of the courageous action it necessarily demands of her. It is seen, not as an honor accompanied by responsibility, but as a risk to her own comfort and ease. Better to be a fat sated institution of Dapper Dans than a rough band of evangelists living and eating by divine providence. This seems to be the common attitude among her clerical and lay masses, and it is the grossest infidelity to God.
This resentment is the motivation behind so much deceptive ecumenical activity, which is only the vice of religious indifference parading as the virtue of tolerance. Psychologically, it makes perfect sense. After all, if you resent your own nature and wish you were something else – something far less – then it is only natural that you would enjoy the company of others who similarly deny your exalted nature and assert it is no greater than their own. They would be affirming your own delusion, which would provide a degree of psychological relief. This, in my opinion, is the unspoken mindset behind so much Catholic ecumania. And it is part and parcel of the present desolation.
Saint Paul wrote,
“For what a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows in the flesh, from the flesh also will reap corruption. But he who sows in the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:8).
The flesh, concupiscence, the innate inclination to sin due to fallen nature has sown and reaped its harvests, first of infidelity, and then of perversity. Such has been the past achievements of a morbid host of traitors within the Church, some preternatural. The forthcoming harvest that is presently being prepared by the same pack appears to be the normalization of both – of unbelief and sexual degeneracy as salutary states.
In light of the Church’s recent history, it is impossible that she would not experience the chastisement of God. But this is reason for hope, for divine chastisement is not an idle temper-tantrum; rather, it is both disciplinary and medicinal. As both the Old and New Testaments teach,
“The discipline of the Lord, my son, disdain not; spurn not his reproof; for whom the Lord loves he reproves, and he chastises the son he favors” (Prov. 3:11).
“Now all discipline seems for the present to be a matter, not for joy, but for grief; but afterwards, it yields the most peaceful fruit of justice to those who have been exercised” (Heb. 12:11).
The present desolation of the Catholic Church is purposeful. It is not evidence that God neither loves, favors, nor perseveres within her. No, just the opposite is true. God is purifying His bride, so that she might again be faithful to Him and serve His purposes. But she has lost much, and still must lose much more – her reputation, her wealth, and her liberties. If only she will reaffirm her identity, spiritual riches, and mission, then the present desolation will give way to a restoration. And that is what every Catholic must be daily praying for and working towards – a great restoration of the Church.
“Be ye comforted,
be ye comforted, O my people,
for most quickly comes thy salvation.
Why, then, are ye all consumed with grief,
so that thy sorrowing has transformed thee?
I come to save; do not be fearful.
Do ye not know that I am thy Lord and thy God,
the most holy One, Redeemer of Israel?”
“Drop down dew from above, ye heavens,
ye clouds rain down the just one.”