Praised be Jesus Christ! Periodically some of our local sedevacantists drop off interesting pieces of literature in the back of our churches. For the record, a sedevacantist is a person who believes that the present Pope is not really the Pope (for most sedevacantists, the last true Pope was Pius XII who died in 1958). The latest brochure found at Saint John’s falsely smeared Saint Padre Pio by claiming he said Martin Luther is in hell.. now it’s safe to say that the person who printed the brochure might be heading in that direction! By the way, a local sedevacantist named Lucian Pulvermacher thought he made it all the way to the top when he claimed to have been elected Pope Pius XIII. You might think I’m kidding here, but in this case truth is stranger than fiction; Pulvermacher was born just south of Marshfield and died in 2009; please pray for him and all who defect from their Catholic faith. We ought to thank God every day that He is merciful and that He promised to protect the Church from even the gates of hell. A longtime adage correctly holds that, Ubi petrus, ibi ecclesia (i.e. where Peter is, there is the Church). The reality is that Jesus Christ promised Peter and his successors that He was building His Church on the rock of their faith. And while Popes have failed (some horribly so), the Church has survived and will endure until the end of the age. An area that can be a real spiritual trap is our attitude toward the present occupant of the Chair of Saint Peter. Sometimes you hear folks say, “Now Pope John XXIII, he was a real Pope.” I understand the sentiment, but it can be a dangerous one that preys on our tendency to pick and choose. When it comes to the Church, whoever the present Pope is, he is our Holy Father and we love and pray for him every day. At the same time, he is a man who has to contend with sinful tendencies and therefore needs our prayers. All of this is a long preface to a short discourse that could accurately be titled, “In Defense of Pope Francis.” I just read The Great Reformer by Austin Ivereigh, and I learned some things about our Holy Father that are both inspiring and enlightening. For example, one passage in the book pointed out that “Bergoglio (i.e. Pope Francis) used de Lubac’s treatise to distinguish between sin and corruption. While sin could always be forgiven, corruption could not be, because in a corrupt soul there was no desire for forgiveness. Corruption grows, infects others, and then justifies itself. Corruption... generates a culture – a moralizing, self-justifying culture of good manners that looks down on others,” (The Great Reformer, pg. 245). So true, don’t you think? If we refuse to repent of our sins, they become the spiritual cancer that begins to infect not only our own soul, but many others besides. And while Pope Francis is remarkably adept in diagnosing spiritual illness, he is also quick to direct us to the cure: the mercy of God accessible to us in repentance and the sacrament of confession. Allow me to close with my favorite passage from the book: “One afternoon I went to pray the Holy Rosary that the Holy Father (Pope John Paul II))was leading. He was in front of us, on his knees. It was a very large group. With the Holy Father’s back to me, I entered into prayer. I was not alone, but praying in the middle of the People of God to which I and all those who were there belonged, led by our Pastor. In the middle of the prayer I became distracted looking at the pope... And time began to fade away. I began to imagine the young priest, the seminarian, the poet, the worker, the child from Wadowice, in exactly the posture he was now, praying Hail Mary after Hail Mary. His witness struck me. I felt that this man, chosen to guide the Church, was the summation of a path trod together with his Mother in heaven, a path that began in his childhood. And I suddenly realized the weight of the words spoken by the Mother of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego: Do not be afraid. Am I not your Mother? I grasped the presence of Mary in the pope’s life. His witness did not get lost in a memory. From that time onward I have prayed the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day”.
Viva il Papa – long live the Pope!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin