Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Prophets Today

Father John J. Lombardi

I just got a message from an Irish priest -In all of Ireland, only four men have joined the seminary to become priests. Wow.

Fr Benedict Groeschel recently visited our Grotto and after celebrating Mass while divesting, I invited some pilgrims to meet him. One youngish man, accompanied by his devoted and devotional mother, has autism: he never speaks, sometimes motions blatantly with arms and physical sways, and other times may spontaneously groan into the air. And so some people may be intimidated by him and his special needs. But, instead, Fr Benedict saw his unique condition, and upon coming close to him, immediately took his balding head to his own shaved Franciscan head and then pressed Joseph's head to his heart, embraced him fully and said some kind words to him and mom. This was a prophetic act-Father was not deterred by "differentness" but rather inspired to embrace it, him.

What is a prophet? What is a prophetic act? Simply put: Stand up, speak out. Use words if necessary. Let Jesus use you to be His instrument to save souls and challenge dominant deterring .That's what the prophets of the Bible did-they stood up, spoke out. To be a prophet-which we should all be in some fashion-takes courage and love and faith in today's culture of malaise.

Many of us might be intimated by the sick and specially-needy, not Fr Benedict. In our culture of comfort which promotes boldness, beauty and brawn, sick persons are sometimes cast aside, neglected and rejected. A prophetic guy like Jean Vanier, decades ago, had a successful, lucrative philosophy career in France, but gave it up to minister to the physically and mentally needy persons he saw around him. Now his "L'Arche" houses (named after "The Arc") are worldwide, offering compassionate and personalistic lifestyles instead of institutionalization. One man's prophetic vision became a worldwide ministry.

We need prophets today to show us Jesus is in everyone, often "underneath the skin" of the sick and dying. The Terry Shiavo family prophetically kept vigil around her ill body to preserve her dignity in Florida a year ago-even amidst great odds and opposition. Despite the political, medical and spiritual controversies and disagreements some may have with them, they showed us that life is precious no matter how riddled and disguised by sickness.

Where are the prophets today? Jesus says in the Gospel: "No prophet is without honor except in his native place…" (Mk. 6:30-34). You may recall some prophets in our world of recent times…

Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian Catholic who coined the moniker "The medium is the message," meaning that the media and tv especially, filters objective news in it its own way to actually "morph" and change the news. We know today that there is much anti-Christianity and anti-Catholicism in the media. Mother Angelica prophetically began a tv network with Catholic programming which often helps isolated and seeking souls, and so many others to be fed the Faith, to break thru the confusion of "message" and "medium." Where are our other mystical-media prophets today?

Mother Teresa was prophetic both in her radical embrace of the poorest of the poor and also in her denunciations of Western materialism. Martin Luther King challenged racism in our country and combined Faith and freedom together in a biblical vision of liberation. Many today try to sterilize King and his message, portraying him only as a social do-gooder, but others thankfully and prophetically remind us that his freedom rides and message were essentially linked to the Bible and his Faith.

We need prophets today-to stand up and speak out. What are Three Main Virtues that prophets need today?

Courage: this virtue means that we attain a disposition so that a power (from the Latin root "vir") is enacted and "on call" for you when needed-in distressing, disingenuous and dangerous situations. Courage will help you overcome self, obstacles (inner and outer) and do what is right and just, no matter what the challenge.

Faith is the "supernatural glue" which "epoxies" us to God, to a life of righteousness and faithfulness, and to helping us to speak out and stand up. Love: charity is the virtue which enables us to rescue people from sinful, harmful situations because we want their salvation.

Now, what are some of The Main Enemies of Propheticism?

  1. Self love-our material and mental comforts and ego-esteem are prized above all and so we don't want to "go out on a limb" and risk mockery or insecurity. It's not about us but about Jesus!
  2. Peer Pressure at work, home, church and in public-- we have and cultivate people who want us to be like them, sometimes not like Jesus and Truth.
  3. Three wrongful M's may deter us from rising to prophecy: we generally may view the prophets in the Bible as mad, always angry-and so, who wants to be like that?!; we may see them as mystical soothsayers of the future (You may say: "I can't read hearts"); or as mangy-looking characters, dressing and eating wildly. Don't focus on these false characteristics but on their message-return to God and faithful righteousness.
  4. We focus on faults-Moses stuttered and didn't want to play the prophet. If we always focus on failures and limitations, we will never be God's instruments of courage, truth and love.

"The List"-Ten Areas Where We Need Prophets Today

  1. The Family is being attacked by forces all around us-by the culture of divorce, same-sex unions, materialism, and constant busyness, lack of extended families, abortion and contraception. And yet some daring and prophetic families are having many-multiple children, are staying together, embracing the Faith more and are generally resilient and resistant to cultural pressures which have destroyed other families.
  2. Sexuality-promiscuity is promoted and pummeled upon us continuously and yet chastity groups in schools, sponsored by evangelicals and Catholic Churches, are prophetic in challenging this syndrome by providing alternative ways to this sensualistic culture. Also, homosexualism is pushed via illegitimate sensual and political movements in promoting not dignity and conversion and healing but promiscuity and other harms and false hopes. The Catholic Church is against this which degrades the dignity of individuals, and divorces the person from true genuine sexuality. However prophetic persons like Fr John Harvey and Dr Joseph Nicolosi minister to persons in homosexuality helping them to heal and be chaste Catholics in the Lord.
  3. Saving babies: abortion is a tirade against the life-giving Trinity, and yet prophetically many Catholics and Christians are using the option for adoption-getting and saving babies in China, Russia and Liberia and from all over the world. These are prophetic acts as some of these babies would never live otherwise.
  4. Secularism: some people in our country want to de-spiritualize our land, schools, courtrooms and public squares. In LaJolla, California, a bold, spiritual group, the Alliance Defense Fund, is defending the display of a large old Cross in the city's park erected in 1954 . Some want it removed on "separation of church and state" grounds but the Alliance says it is a right and a duty to promote religious expression (the Cross there honors war heroes, too). The Fund successfully defended against same-sex unions in California and other states. This group is heroically heralding the Gospel and legitimate patriotism, so you too, can: Stand up, speak out even if you're dragged out-be faithful to the Truth-remember: Courage!
  5. Drug culture-so many today, even in "average families" are hooked on illegal and over the counter prescription drugs. Perhaps they are seeking a false ecstasy and, of course, will never fulfill this desire. One guy I knew was a strong drinker-"Skip"-and spent much of his time drinking, losing his faith and family. Then he re-met Jesus, especially in the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration and thru the sacrament of Reconciliation-Confession. He began attending daily Mass and other devotions and eventually gave significant monies to build a Eucharistic Adoration Chapel for souls to go in and visit with Jesus for healing, conversion and worship. He prophetically shows the way of conversion. So: make the rebound from your own attachments and addictions: be prophetic to save other souls as this guy did!
  6. Paganism: worship of the devil, witchcraft and New Age occult are overtaking many souls. St Bernardo Longo was a satanic priest who eventually got reconverted and became a Roman Catholic Priest and showered the rosary on Naples and Pompeii and converted many souls. Use your past, however "dark" and sinful like this guy, to be prophetic. You may know the darkness and its satanic enslavements, so now show people the Light and liberation.
  7. Loss of the supernatural: Xavier Tillier, a French philosopher, once wrote: "The metaphysical fiber of man is being destroyed by the culture of entertainment and we have lost the sense of the supernatural." When we are so hooked on constant gimmickry, gadgets and, even gods, we lose a sense of and desire for the supernatural (the spiritual, numinous) in our lives. Perhaps today many have become "sapped" (vortexed of spiritual energy) and "zapped" by the intrigue and infatuation of the technological and exotic. David, a friend, wisely said to me recently about a doctor-friend of ours (a neuroscientist-that means a "brain scanner"!) who is also a practicing Catholic, that she probably "believes more" because she realizes how complex the brain is from her studies and therefore how it's operations and amazing capacities cannot be explained away by mere circuitry and human design. Ditto for Einstein who expressed wonderment at the universe he could once explain and failed to fathom. We reach a point where the human intellect fails and mystical infatuation begins, or at least we should. So: cultivate this poetically and prophetically by being amazed at, for example, the way the grass grows and clouds course the sky.
  8. Tireless Treadmill: everyone seems busy-multi tasking and what one author called "Constant Partial Attention," which means never giving full attention to what is at hand. Age quod ageis means, literally, do what you are doing-focus, be at peace with the simple task at hand-or even if there is no task (you don't have to be always working, doing!; abandon to the present moment, surrender to simplicity. Ed is a maintenance guy at St Anthony's Shrine nearby Mary's Grotto and I often see him (while I'm scurrying to the Grotto in my car), sitting on a bench, underneath a tree right by the church, eating his lunch, in elegant simplicity. Nothing or no one else is around him. I wave to him and he waves back. Simple. Prophetic.
  9. Suffering-we don't like feeling pain and either sterilize it or deny it. I just visited with D'Ann who is dying from cancer. She asked me a question: "Father, is this OK, to offer up my sickness, my suffering for all the people in the world, and my children and grandchildren?" Wow. Who is the expert here? Be prophetic in your suffering like this lady with grace.
  10. Catholics in America-Fr Brian Bashista was celebrating Mass here and challenged the parents to pray for their young boys and men to consider priesthood and help them if God calls them. He said his is more prophetic than "just praying for vocations." Can you pray like this and witness prophetic the call to priesthood and religious life today to bring Christ's Challenge and compassion into this world?

Remember: Know truth, embrace it, and exemplify CIA = Courage in action…Remember the martyrs, the saints, the Lord Jesus Himself and embrace their courage, faith and love and free souls! Stand up speak out.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi