Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Last week we marked two notable anniversaries in the church. Oct. 11 was the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Oct. 13 was the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Mary to the children at Fatima, and the “miracle of the sun,” as I pointed out earlier this year.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has been one of the signal successes of the church in the recent past. There are so many ideas of the world, rooted in erroneous philosophies, which are contrary to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet which we carry with us without awareness of them, because they are so pervasive. We simply accept them as part of our inevitable formation by the culture.
Too often, we expect the church to accept and even vindicate these ideas, in spite of their being irreconcilable with the Gospel. For example, the cultural idea of self-expression as truth, which is not evil in itself, within reason, comes into the church with the sense that we can pick and choose what parts of the Gospel we will follow. Or again, the truth of the equal dignity of men and women, which in the hands of the culture becomes the false idea that men and women are interchangeable, comes back into the church as the demand to ordain women.
Especially in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the promotion of what Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI called the “council of the media,” and the concurrent cultural revolution of the ‘60s, the Church experienced an explosion of novelties. Most of these were not rooted in Christ or the Gospel, but came from the world. Some of these worldly intrusions became so broadly accepted in the church that they even seemed necessary and true. It was a time of confusion, and few knew with certainty what the church really teaches about many things.
In such a context, the catechism has been a great gift to the church. It expresses the true teachings of the church in a systematic, useful and reasonably detailed manner. It has served very well as a foundational reference, especially for those without the time or training to study all the primary, magisterial sources which it summarizes. It has strengthened our catechesis greatly and given every member of the church a simple tool by which to know the “rule of faith.” I hope that we will all continue to find the catechism so enlightening and helpful, for many more decades to come.
The apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima are, in a certain sense, even more fundamental to the place of the church in the modern world. In the context of World War I, then raging with unprecedented destruction and no end in sight, the simplicity of our mandate to pray for peace was and is profound.
We have become so materialistic, and so inured to violence, that we usually imagine peace to be a political goal. How far we have fallen. Politics cannot achieve peace; at best, politics can mitigate and canalize violence, by means of good laws, worldly justice, and natural virtue. In itself, this is still a worthy end, since unrestrained violence is a great evil.
But true peace is not a worldly reality, but a supernatural one. It flows from grace, not from power. True peace is the presence in human hearts of the love of the Prince of Peace. Where Christ is absent, peace is absent. When the church is weak in carrying out her mission, violence of all kinds grows.
Look at the world around us! We are divided and set against each other at every level. Even within our families, even within the individual heart, violence lurks because sin tempts us. When the voice of Christ in the church is muted, what else can hold back sin and the violence that comes from it? When the church is confused about truth, how can she stand boldly as a witness to grace, mercy, and the peace that comes only from the Sacred Heart of our Savior?
I repeat the summons of Our Lady of Fatima to pray the rosary more frequently and to pray especially for peace and the conversion of sinners. The world, entrapped in so many false ideas and broken ideologies, is so desperately in need of Christ and the witness of committed Christians to his saving mercy. This starts with prayer. We must, as disciples, turn again and again to Christ in our hearts, in order to be constantly healed at the foot of the cross. Then, we can call others to the same place of healing.
Therefore, I beg you, renew your commitment to daily prayer and especially to pray more frequently the rosary and the Chaplet of Mercy. Please pray for me, that I may lead you to Christ with more love. Pray for our priests and deacons, our religious, and especially all families. Pray for the needs of our parishes and for the good fruits hoped for in our Ministry 2025 planning. Pray for young people to hear the voice of God and have faith. Pray for the salvation of souls. Know that I pray always for all of you.
May the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, and of all the saints, increase our faith, hope, and love.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City