Chapter 8 – Witnesses in a Great Cloud

Seek First

The previous chapter combined with its imagery sets the foundation for the all-important story in this next and pivotal juncture on the March of Hope. What I have to tell you here and in the following chapter drives to the central theme of the March of Hope and is the mystical reality at the apex of the mountain to where I am leading. There, on the top of that mountain, is the view to the other side that astonished me. I saw a vision of something that forever altered my life. It is so astonishing that I sold all that I have to obtain it. (Matthew 13:44-45)

Catching our breath on this great March, you might recall that this journey began in 1984 when in a single moment I came to understand the apostolic authority of the Catholic Church and another second after that to believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In addition, I found myself curiously fascinated with the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The connection between my conversion to the Church, the Eucharist, and the Virgin Mary could not be mistaken as coincidence or deriving from psychological forces inside of me. It came to me from without; it simply was; it was the I AM.  Furthermore, it was a force consistent in both content and affect as described in the Sacred Traditions of the Church through the writings of the Fathers and the saints. It was not a unique experience but one experienced as a normal course of events in the life of the Church down through the centuries. It was the great surety and certainty of dogma, and it was alive. I explained all of this in detail in Journey to Christendom – The Freedom Dance.

I further explained there that I came to understand and believe a little later that the graces of my conversion, poured into my soul by the hands of the Virgin Mary, were won for me in Christ by St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She proclaimed while on earth that she would spend her time in heaven converting souls, and I truly believe that I am one of those souls that she did convert.

I would like you to remember this general theme and sequence of events when I tell you in the next chapter the marvelous story of how Joan of Arc came to be such an important relationship in my life. Though subjugated appropriately first to Jesus Christ and then to the Virgin Mary, her role in my life is just as pivotal as, and completely complementary to, the role Thérèse plays. Why is it that she is the one leading me on my journey? As Our Lady bequeathed to me certain graces she desired to brand solidly in my heart, I have, through these graces, found the similarities between the Great Event of 1984 and the coming of Joan of Arc remarkable. However, we must go a step at a time in order to get this story right.

In the March of Hope, I convey what happened after The Freedom Dance brought me to that beautiful mystical place on a mountainside where I realized that I must leave behind the old world of the dark Revolution with its radical individualism and supposed “freedom” that nearly killed me. I now must cross over a threshold to a new and beautiful land that leads to the City of God. I described that threshold as the gateway into the mystical land of Roman Catholicism. I further pressed the imagery of both the active element of the journey, going through a gate, with the contemplative element, that of watching the mist rise over our panoramic landscape.

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I hinted that my journey beyond and through the walls of Catholicism is a story I feel compelled to tell; for, I realized that many souls may wish to travel it, and, in fact, all should travel it by the will of God who established his Church on earth historically through the form of the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ. He established neither an evangelical “invisible church,” nor an Eastern New Age spiritualism, but a visible Church with men as authoritative leaders. This is the crux of our communication problem with the rest of the world. The Catholic Church is not a man-made institution; it is an institution founded by a God-man. You obey it; you do not pick and choose what you feel might be self-affirming in your life. You obey it because it is life; it is God’s revelation.

Who could know about this great land if those who are bold enough to follow the March of Hope do not tell others? The vast majority in the modern culture are numb with twenty-four-hour media, vulgar music, and useless gossip for entertainment. The kingdom of God cannot be found there. Why spend so much time with it? If one were looking for riches, he would not spend most of his waking hours on skid row asking for venture capital. Likewise, if one were seeking God, he would not spend most of his waking hours imbued in the modern culture or its entertainment and media industry. The Evil One does not want you to pray, and he is in full command of our “progressive” culture.

Most people hear about the Catholic Church not from anyone inside her walls, but typically from those outside who know little or nothing about her. Relying on the media to inform you on the Catholic Church is like relying on the press in Tehran to teach you about the American Revolution and the development of our constitution. Worse yet are the “ex-Catholics” who leave a Church and preach against a Church that does not exist; for, how often have I been astounded to hear their errant understanding of doctrine as they attempt to condemn her with some sort of “Bible-based” speculation. Yet, others will look to them as “experts” on Catholicism who escaped the torture chambers of oppression and live to tell about it. Again, who will tell people the truth about the great land that lies through her gates if not those of us on the March of Hope?

In order to go safely forward, it is vitally important that we first keep track of the order of things, that is, the authentic order of our values in this land of Catholicism. It is in this authentic ordering of values that we find safety on the path of the Dogmatic Creed. It is in this ordering of our values that we make sure we follow the correct guideposts and do not end up again in the Dark Forest. One of the greatest gifts that Christ gives to us in his Church is an understanding of the correct ordering of values. It is this enlightenment from the Holy Spirit through the magisterial teachings of the Church that is so vital to our safety. Nothing can confuse more the hearts of people of good will as for them to pursue all the right things in all the wrong order.

With all this in mind, I ask you to finish your respite, and, having now caught our breath, we will move forward again toward the apex in my journey.

Where do we begin in describing the next steps on the March of Hope? We begin not with a mere philosophy but with a person, he who is the summation of all proper values, Jesus Christ. Any hierarchy of values that does not recognize Jesus Christ as the apex to which all other proper values are directed is not an authentic hierarchy. Von Hildebrand states it as follows:

“The heroic man is simple, and his heroic act becomes the simpler. Every heroic act is the victory of a dominant aim over a multitude of petty ties and distractions. All experiences which enlarge our hearts, which expand and embolden our souls, and which render us able to sacrifice inferior things heroically – as does, above all a great love under Jesus – contribute to our achieving true simplicity. What we must seek is a general readiness to give away lower things for the sake of higher ones, according to the divinely sanctioned legitimate order of values, and in this sense, ultimately, even to abandon any and every high good for the sake of the highest one – that is, Christ.” (Hildebrand 1948)

Yes, a hierarchy of values that subjugates even “good” objectives for the sake of the highest of all objectives, Jesus Christ, is a proper order of things. In the proper state of things, I am willing to subjugate what I consider to be a “right” in order to render obedience to Christ.

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Under Christ as our God, Savior, and moral authority, we no longer are “good” people squabbling over which “good” value should super-cede another in a divided, pluralistic society such as we see in the religious and moral relativism of the modern world; we now are united under the banner of the Cross and understand what we must sacrifice for the sake of true and authentic progress. This was the superior attitude of ancient Christendom. This is why Crusaders carried the banner of the Cross to defend their land, their families, indeed, their Church.

In sum, the next steps on the March of Hope begin with Jesus Christ. It should be clear that the first order of things to which Our Lady led me after my healing and restoration to sanity was to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Mass, the sacraments, and the primary sacrament deriving from the Mass, the Eucharist, along with obedience to the magisterial teachings of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, must be that to which we surrender or subjugate all other values, even our highest and most cherished ones. For, all of that is Jesus Christ himself as he teaches through his body, the Church, under the direction and leadership of the Pope and the Bishops in union with him. He administers his sacraments through his priests and bishops, and he remains among us truly and substantially in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the entire human race. Any order of values that does not recognize this is inauthentic and, ultimately, divisive and deadly, despite the superficial promises of universal love that some value schemes offer.

Having read all of the above, and knowing what you do of Catholicism and the mystical land inside her great gates, your curiosity might be peaked. Have I not consistently and boldly proclaimed to you my great love for and surrender to the Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary? I have, and I do. I follow the powerful Tradition of the Church from apostolic times of true devotion to Mary.

Devotion to Mary is the most significant earmark of the Church’s faith after that of Jesus himself. Devotion to Mary is not a new doctrine, nor is it a novel aberration of the faith. Devotion to Our Lady began the moment Jesus Christ gave his mother to St. John on the Cross. (John 19:25-27) Not only is Marian devotion a beautiful and consistent reality of ancient and medieval Christianity, it is quite essential to our salvation according to the teachings of the great saints. Marian devotion is a joyful path and is truly, as St. Louis de Montfort made clear, the best and most direct path to Jesus Christ who is himself our highest value.

Soon after joining the Church, I was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the formula given to us by Saint Louis de Montfort, and, later in life, through the formula of another great saint, Maximilian Kolbe. The Church highly approves both forms. Even Pope John Paul II was consecrated to Mary under the de Montfort formula. Through this consecration, we give everything we have, both material and spiritual, and including our very souls, to the Holy Mother of God as the shortest, easiest, and safest path to her Son Jesus Christ.

How can this be? Are we not falling off into one of those crevices? Have we not found ourselves back in the Dark Forest? On the contrary, we are on most sure and solid ground. The pathway to Jesus through Mary is the next step in the hierarchy of values that we must understand before we fully can make sense of the March of Hope and the great kingdom beyond the castle gates of Catholicism.

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When explaining this doctrine of True Devotion to Mary to non-Catholics, I typically get two responses from spiritually oriented people. The first will be from those who are infected with that deadly spiritual disease called New Age, which is nothing more than Eastern spirituality commercially packaged for a superficial and materialistic Western world. New Age not only is valueless; it is deadly. Their proposed value hierarchies are completely topsy-turvy and inauthentic. Yet, these well-meaning souls often will join me in a great expression of love for Mary as if she were to be considered one of their “goddesses,” “manifestations,” “spirit guides,” or whatever it is that they call these spiritual concepts. They will delight in her but for all the wrong the reasons. As soon as I describe Mary in the context of orthodox Catholicism leading ultimately to the truly resurrected Christ who established his Church on earth and who demands, dogmatically, our obedience to that faith, these New Agers head for the hills.

The second group I run across in these matters are Protestants. They simply have no idea what my frame of reference is. Their typical reaction is that we must be worshiping her (along with all those other saints) as one would worship God. They do not see that the esteem we give her, and to a lesser degree to the rest of the saints, is perfectly sound as that which is given rightfully to mere creatures. It is all proper to the authentic order of values that begins with Christ. It is completely proper to honor worthy men and women without implying that we are giving them the adoration which is due to God alone. Latin distinguishes between these two senses in a way that clarifies what we refer to in English simply as “worship.”

The Church consistently teaches that there are two kinds of worship: “latria,” which is given to God alone and “dulia” which is the honor properly given to the saints (as proper to mere created beings). “Hyperdulia” is a higher form of “dulia” that is reserved for Mary alone as being the Mother of God and the first among the angels and the saints (and therefore the most honored with that dignity proper to created beings). This is a serious point of confusion among many Protestants regarding the Catholic’s love for and devotion to Mary and the rest of the angels and saints.

If we were to worship Mary with the adoration of latria due to God alone, the Virgin Mary would be the first to protest; she would be the most saddened of all. For, she teaches us quite the opposite, that, despite her great dignity and the love which the Church pours on her with the honor of hyperdulia, we are to adore and worship with latria no one but the Holy Trinity. It is her Son who is the second person of that almighty Trinity. True devotion to Mary as properly expressed by “hyperdulia” always leads to stronger devotion to and “latria” of Jesus Christ; she is his mother and wants all souls to be reconciled with him.

If we all agree that neither Mary nor any saint is to be honored with the latria by which God is worshiped, then why even worry about all this? Is it not easier, in fact, just to forget about honoring all these saints and go “straight to Jesus” as my Protestant friends never fail to encourage me? Is all this saint business not just unnecessary complexity? No, this is not complexity, it is the richness of the Faith in the simplicity of an authentic hierarchy of values as we discussed above.

What, I usually query with them, makes you think that these saints do not lead us directly to Jesus? How is it that if I drive from Chicago through Cleveland to Boston that I have not gone straight to Boston? In fact, I could say that one “must” go through Cleveland as the shortest, easiest, and most effective way to drive to Boston from my home. One would certainly want to avoid the pitfall of driving from Chicago through Denver as a means of going to Boston. One “must not” take that route.

Here, it is quite advantageous to use that multi-dimensional imagery I offered above where the active journey is combined with the contemplative experience of watching mist rise. Certainly, Jesus is the end point and summation of all our objectives and values. In that sense, we experience him through his great light of day that clears that mist from our minds and souls. But we also are on a journey in our desire to reach Jesus. We have things to experience and knowledge to gain. In other words, we must grow toward and into that great contemplative vision we have before us. On that journey to union with Christ, we must follow the most “direct” path. Only by the most direct path will we then go “straight to Jesus.” That path straight to Jesus that is handed to us through two millennia of Sacred Tradition and confirmed in the Sacred Scriptures is the path through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Mary will lead you “straight” to Jesus. She will not send you to Denver in an attempt to reach Boston.

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To use another analogy, if I were to be your friend, and I loved your mother with all my heart, learned more and more about you from her, was taught by your mother in the same way that you were taught, and even loved her as much as I could in the same manner that you love her, what in heaven or on earth about that could make our relationship anything but better? Do you think that Jesus is indifferent to his mother, that he does not love her and even listen to and obey his mother in heaven as he did on earth? Do not those who esteem his mother make him immensely happy? St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that grace builds on nature; grace never destroys nature. Has the natural order of things changed in heaven? Does Mary not continue to love her son in heaven and desire that all people follow and know him? Why would a relationship with Mary do anything but create a positive foundation for knowing and loving Jesus Christ ever more strongly?

This is not complicated. Mary is Jesus’ mother. She loves you and wants you to be saved. She wants you to be united with Jesus, and she will do everything in her power (which is great, having been blessed by God as the Mother of God – greater than all in heaven combined other than Jesus himself) to bring you to salvation in truth. Love her and consecrate yourself to her! Give your life and soul to her! You will find the fullness of Jesus more quickly and effectively than in any other way.

I have a wonderful story to tell you on this very point. It demonstrates all that that I find delightful in telling others about the Virgin Mary. I am always happy to find new ways to strike up a conversation about Mary!

It happened in Texarkana, Texas, a fine small city where we lived for a couple of years. Texarkana sits in the extreme Eastern part of Texas and actually splits across the state line between Texas and Arkansas. It is a pretty Protestant and evangelical type of place. There are two Catholic Churches in the area, one on the Texas side of town and the other on the Arkansas side.

One day I went to the checkout counter in a local grocery store where the young lady checking my goods noticed my brown scapular that I have around my neck. It was out of my shirt and resting on my upper chest. The brown scapular is piece of cloth that represents the large scapulars worn by the nuns and male religious of the Carmelite Order, an Order especially devoted to Mary and to the contemplative life. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was a Carmelite nun. The scapular is a sign of love for and consecration to, the Virgin Mary. However, this young lady did not know that.

She asked me what it was. She had the beginnings of a terrified look on her face. I could sense that she just knew that it had to have come from hell, whatever it was. I could see the look building on her face. So, I simply stated to her that it was a “scapular” and was a sign of love for and devotion to Mary.

Her face went pale; for, my explanation confirmed her worst fears. She probably heard previously of saint worshiping Catholics, and now she was standing in the shadows of one! She then exclaimed to me, and I love this with all my heart, “You know that only Jesus can save you!”

What I loved about her and her proclamation was that it was the absolute truth! There, at the checkout counter at the local grocery store, this young lady proclaimed the truth of the gospel to me! She almost fainted in the process, but she proclaimed it beautifully! Yes! Only Jesus can save us! I then smiled at her and replied, “Yes, what you have said is true. But it never hurts to have his mother on your side!” She was pretty flustered by that yet graciously bagged my groceries and sent me on my way.

No doubt this incident made for hot gossip at the next prayer group meeting. However, that was the ecumenical movement; that was true inter-faith dialogue! Together, she and I made two of the most sublime and powerful theological constructs this side of the Vatican, enough to make the faculty chairs at most seminaries sit up with a start in their leather seats. Only Jesus can save us, and the sure way to secure and build our relationship with him is to love and honor his mother! True dialogue between faiths often is held at the checkout counter in your local grocery store.

We sense now that we have taken another large leap forward on the March of Hope. We are, you will recall, stepping into the great footprints of the mighty saints who went before us on the path of the Dogmatic Creed of Roman Catholicism. This is the path handed to us by the Apostles of Jesus and then through their heirs, the Bishops in union with the Pope, for two thousand years in the form of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The two steps described in this chapter are, respectively, the primacy in both heaven and on earth of Jesus Christ as the resurrected Son of God and Savior of the human race, followed by the wonderful, heart-warming leap into True Devotion to Mary as the surest way to an authentic love for that God-man.

We took our time here. We steadied our eye and took great care about the steps into which we jumped. We took these affairs in the authentic order of “to Jesus through Mary” as St. Louis de Montfort gave us following the Sacred Tradition of the Church. The steps become swifter now, for we are feeling joyful and free. We are on true and solid ground; we are following the path of our fathers in the Church. We are secure in the heart of Mary as she leads us to her divine son.

We may now run with joy on our journey to discuss the even larger framework of the great family of God, that is, the saints. For, with all I have told you above about the Virgin Mary, you should see now that with the mother, there also are brothers and sisters. In fact, there is a whole family in heaven, the family of God! We have the hundredfold return that Our Lord promised us! They are waiting to lead us to Jesus.

With that behind us now, it is time to tell you how, in union with the influence of my mighty sister St. Thérèse, I experienced the arrival of Joan of Arc.