I Had A Dream
It occurred in that twilight time between sleeping and waking. The setting was the Vatican in the near future. Pope John Paul II had been recently laid to rest and the Conclave of Cardinals had elected the new Pontiff. In the manner of dreams it was not possible to identify his physical characteristics but whether he came from the New World or the Old seemed of no consequence. His powerful voice announcing his chosen name rang through the Sistine Chapel:
"I will be known as Gregory Leo Pius the First."
His predecessor had identified himself with two great saints. The new Pontiff chose three.
The scene changed to Fatima. There, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, at a Pontifical High Mass in the Tridentine rite, the new Pope was surrounded by all the Bishops of the Catholic Church. The congregation was composed of leaders of the world’s major religions, of all the nations and representatives of the world’s media.
As he mounted the pulpit the Pope reminded the assembled multitude that Fatima was a holy place, forever favoured by the appearance of Mary the Mother of God, and as he was speaking the ‘camera’ ranged along the bench reserved for honoured guests. There were the faces of saintly priests and nuns and laymen and women, some living, some dead, some familiar others unknown, but the frail figure of Sister Lucia, freed from her confinement, was easily identified.
The Pontiff blessed the congregation and wished them the peace of Christ. He chose to devote his homily to ‘The Sovereignty of Christ the King, and the Crisis in the Church’.
He began by declaring that the awesome responsibility thrust upon him made it imperative that the Church and the World should be left in no doubt as to what his task would be. First and foremost he had to declare, as Peter had done, that Christ is Lord and God. That the Catholic Church is the One True Church of Christ and that the Universe owes allegiance to only one Sovereign, Christ the King.
To the assembled world religions he had this to say: "Fear not these words. They are the words of salvation. The Pope has no battalions to enforce them. Only love and prayers and goodwill and Our Blessed Saviour’s injunction to ‘Go and teach all nations’."
The Pope said: "Our missionary work can never cease. The love of Christ and His salvific message is unstoppable." Glancing at the press corps, he added, with a glimmer of a smile: "We are in the Good News business." He reminded the congregation that some of the Church’s greatest saints had once embraced other beliefs and no belief at all. It was the Holy Spirit not the Sword which had impelled them to follow the Good Shepherd.
Addressing Judaism, he spoke of the fact that Jesus as Man was descended from God’s Chosen People, the Jews, and that Jesus as God was He who had chosen them. That very same God-Man Jesus of Nazareth had come into the world as the Messiah but the Jews had rejected Him then and continued to reject Him now. He reminded them of his predecessor Pius XI’s ringing endorsement uttered during the dark days leading up to the Nazi era, when he had said that Catholics were "spiritual semites," with the Jews. He called upon today’s Jewish people to embrace Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, and follow in the footsteps of great contemporary Jewish converts such as St Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) who died in Auschwitz with Christ and the Jewish people always in her heart. He called upon Jews everywhere to convert to Catholicism and help build the New Jerusalem.
To Islam , Pope Gregory Leo Pius I explained that Catholics are not idolators, and that they, like Muslims, acknowledge only one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph. But that He is a God of Three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and that this great mystery of the Trinity was not formulated by Man but revealed by God. He noted their reverence for the person of Jesus and His Blessed Mother and applauded the Islamic stand against the "greatest temporal evil of the age, the deliberate destruction of the unborn child," but stressed that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not the Koran, constitutes the only Book of Life. He called upon Muslims everywhere to turns the swords into ploughshares and to embark on a Jihad of the spirit leading to their acceptance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and conversion to the One True Church of Christ
In a general statement summarising his message to all non-Christian religions, he stressed that Christ’s Church offered peace and joy and eternal salvation to all who would embrace it. No bomb or bullet could enforce it. The wars of religion had never and could never bring about the Sovereignty of Christ the King. As the Mother of God had revealed at Fatima, at the very place where they were assembled, indeed as she had said to Sister Lucia, "who is still with us," only prayer, sacrifice, and the abandonment of sin could do that.
Addressing the Protestants, "our separated brethren," he reminded some of the older sects which had broken away from the Catholic Church in protest at former wrongs and shames "real or imaginary," that instead of staying within the fold and working to heal the rift they had forsaken the Blessed Sacrament and drunk deeply from the heady wine of independence. While deploring the Petrine succession they had established a kind of ‘papacy’ of their own.
The Pope castigated what he called the "wilder flights of fancy" indulged in by some mischievous and mendacious Catholic theologians, priests and prelates over the last forty years, who, having lost the Faith of their Fathers, had bamboozled Protestants into believing all approaches to Christ were equally acceptable, that their Protestant position was legitimate, and that the eternal and unalterable truths of Catholicism constituted a dead letter.
The Pope told Protestants that they had been listening to false prophets and that the only ecumenism worthy of the name would be their return to the One True Church of Christ "sub Petrum." Like the Prodigal Son, he said, "they would be received back home with open arms."
The Pope announced that a general "cleansing of the Vatican’s Augean stables" was underway. He had told priests, bishops and Cardinals of the Church that if they were not prepared to renounce the heretical beliefs which had become so much a part of their nature, they must step down and leave the Church. He had reminded them that by the grace of God and prayers to His Holy Mother and despite the long dark night of crisis which had obtained for over forty years, a quiet miracle had been taking place. A growing group of young priests steeped in tradition and loyal to the Magisterium was now spread around the world. Should it be necessary they would be made Bishops and Cardinals in record time to replace those who had fallen away.
All of these young priests, he reminded us, were able and very eager to celebrate Holy Mass in the Tridentine tradition. Then in an announcement which stunned the congregation, the new Pope announced that the "prolonged experiment" of the "Novus Ordo" Mass would be rapidly phased out and although, as his predecessors had pointed out, it is a valid Mass, he had no doubt that the great sacramental gifts of the Tridentine Mass, the "Mass for all times" formulated by St Pius V, would soon once again be embraced universally.
To bring this into effect he had ordered all bishops and priests everywhere to re-institute the Tridentine Mass on a daily basis in all churches and to make it available on Sundays at times when the majority of the Faithful would have easy access to the "Sacrifice of Calvary." He noted that some ageing priests and prelates might not be able to grasp the necessary skills to say the Latin Mass and that therefore these, after due examination, would be permitted to say the Novus Ordo in private, after the prayer book apportioned to that version of the Mass had been adjusted to correct the errors and omissions imposed over the decades.
He emphasised that there must be no more hiding away of the Blessed Sacrament and that the Eucharist must be restored to the very centre of the Church and churches and honoured devoutly. He said the desecration of the churches must cease and ordered the restoration of the altars and the reconstruction of altar rails and other fittings in accordance with the Tridentine tradition.
He announced that Pope John Paul II’s ban on altar girls which had been made in the 1981 papal document Inaestimable Donum and which had been consistently ignored, would be re-instated. What he described as the "politically expedient" retraction in 1994 of this solemn papal instruction, was declared null and void.
After pointing out that the Church honoured and revered women, who were epitomised in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Gregory Leo Pius I then quoted from the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II entitled Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in which Pope John Paul defended the dignity of women and their vocation who, "faithful to the Gospel, have shared in every age in the apostolic mission of the whole People of God." He said, quoting his predecessor: "They are the holy martyrs, virgins, and the mothers of families, who bravely bore witness to their faith and passed on the Church’s faith and tradition by bringing up their children in the spirit of the Gospel."
But Pope Gregory Leo Pius I re-stated the ruling of Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Letter, that priestly ordination must be reserved to men alone. He added that the presence of altar girls and female Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist had been used by some to indicate that the Church would relent and be forced to change its mind about women priests. This, the Holy Father emphasised in a raised voice, would "never" be the case and he formally declared that for this very good reason altar girls and female assistants at the altar would no longer be permitted. The officiating priest was instructed to take back the celebration of the Mass and the governance of the Altar, as in times past.
He reminded the bishops that he and they were the descendants of the Apostles and while, wherever possible, they would govern the Church together, the Successor of Peter had final control. He noted that this had been spelt out clearly in the papers of Vatican II but equally clearly, over the decades, this fact had often been ignored.
He thus ordered a major Ad Limina visit: all bishops and the heads of seminaries to come to Rome where clear instructions would be given for the total renewal of the Catholic faith as taught in seminaries and Catholic schools. Wherever found, heresies and false opinion would be expunged from the curricula. The teachings of St Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, would once again be at the centre of priestly formation
Turning to the "Crisis in the Church," he pointed out that he had not originated the term. Pope John Paul II and his long serving Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had referred to it often. He reminded the congregation of his friend and mentor, the late great Jesuit, Father John Hardon, who had written so eloquently and faithfully about the Catholic Church and the assaults waged upon it in modern times. After telling us that Fr Hardon had provided great spiritual guidance to him when, as a young priest he had felt himself succumbing to the temptations of Modernism, the new Pontiff reminded us that Fr Hardon had explained the reasons for the crisis as well as its precise nature when he pointed out that the crisis in the Church is a "Crisis of Faith" - and that this had come about because there had been "an intrusion of alien ideas." Not new and refreshing approaches to the eternal faith of millions. Oh no. Ideas which openly contradicted what Catholicism stands for;
"The denial of Christ’s Divinity, the undermining of Christian marriage, the attacks on the virtues of chastity, poverty and obedience, the redefining of every single premise of the Church’s perennial teaching, in favour of a process theology in which everything-including God - is said to be in perpetual and never-ending change."
The Pope then paused and, surveying the mesmerised crowd before him, asked: "What is to be done? What are we to do?"
Without awaiting an answer to his rhetorical outburst, the Pontiff continued to read from Father Hardon’s erudite analysis:
"What leaders of the Church need to do today is not be shaken by the storm that is raging all around them, but to hold on literally for dear life to what Christ has revealed, to what has been defended for us by the champions of orthodoxy like Athanasius, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great, lived out before us by saints and mystics like Benedict, Francis and Ignatius Loyola, like Clare, Margaret Mary and Teresa, like Elizabeth Seton and Thomas More, and experienced by us in whatever span of life we have so far lived."
Still quoting from the writings of Father Hardon, S.J., the Pontiff continued:
"There are seductive voices everywhere and some are very erudite. They may also claim numbers on their side. But no, the numbers in favour of the true Faith are legion. They are all the myriad souls since Christ ascended to His Father who are now in the Church Triumphant. They are our intercessors before the throne of God, as they are also our consolation that we are not deceived. The present crisis is really a challenge or, better, a glorious opportunity to prove our loyalty to Christ the Truth so that one day we may possess Christ our Life who told us not to fear, "I have overcome the world." So shall we, with the help of His grace, and the Church be the better and stronger for the experience of these critical times."
The Holy Father took his eyes from the paper and paused in prayer and in tribute to the saintly Jesuit. He then told the gathering that in a few moments Mass would resume and that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man would come down upon the altar at the moment of Consecration. For those who did not know and for those who had chosen to forget he reminded the congregation that Jesus Christ would be truly present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity under the appearances of bread and wine. "This miracle," he said, "was instituted by Our Blessed Lord at the Last Supper and continues today. It is for those who choose the One True Church of Christ and it will bring about the salvation of many."
The Pontiff then raised his arms and announced:
"I, Gregory Leo Pius the First, am here present at the shrine of Fatima sanctified by the appearance of Mary the Mother of God in 1917. In accordance with her wishes expressed to the three children at the Cova da Iria and confirmed by the Miracle of the Sun, I, together with all the Bishops of the Catholic Church, solemnly dedicate Russia and the whole suffering world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
The Holy Father began to sing the ancient Salve Regina which was taken up spontaneously by individuals and groups within the congregation.
Then the whole assembly was bathed in a pure and piercing light and a deep feeling of peace seemed to possess those gathered there. It was analogous to the uplifting emotion one sometimes receives after a good Confession and Communion.
Then all faded from view.
Darkness for a moment or two and the sound of rain falling outside as this weary sleeper roused himself to face another soggy wintry day in northern Europe. Had I really experienced all that during the sleeping hours? No. Not really.
But we can dream can’t we?