Years ago I was asked to collaborate in forming a Catholic outreach for Latin America and the immigrant communities of Latinos in North America. I was told that the Catholic organization commanding the effort wanted to help Latin American Protestants on their way to the Catholic Church. Some of you may have already caught how ludicrous was that idea. Any Catholic that is more or less informed knows very well that the Latin American Church is bleeding souls at an alarming pace since long before Pope Benedict XVI and the Latin American Bishops met at Aparecida in 2007 to deal with that problem.
By that time, according to some serious sources, Catholic priests in Latin America were outnumbered by Protestant ministers in a proportion better than 2 to 1. If you read the Catholic documents before and after Aparecida, you will notice that most of them called all religions to work for the improvement of socio-economic conditions in the continent, particularly in the area of human rights. There was nothing wrong with that call but Pope Benedict knew the Marxist undertone of those noble proposals. The Pope also knew those were calling for the preaching of the Gospel of Christ to take a second place to the calls for “social justice” — whatever that means. Not much has changed since those days. Whenever militant Catholics present Christ in a manner that attracts many to the faith, they are accused of “proselytism”, while the proselytism that takes the faithful away from the Catholic Church is seen and presented in a much more positive way.
The carving up of the Latin American Catholic Church by sectarian and Protestant missionaries under the supervision of a majority of left-leaning Catholic bishops, continues apace in a cultural continent that was once solidly Catholic from Mexico’s border with the US to Tierra del Fuego, from the shores of Ecuador on the Pacific, to the coasts of Brazil, where the Amazon River empties the Andean rains into the wide Atlantic.
A market targeted
The process of protestantization of Latin America began in the late 1950’s. Allow me to give you a comparative mini-study using two members of my own family: my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother had English, Irish and Scottish Catholics in her lineage. Her Catholicism was strong and her loyalty to the Church run deep. She used to say : “We are the progeny of saints and martyrs who had died defending Catholic churches from the Protestant mobs.” Her own father, my great-grand father was named John Henry after Cardinal John Henry Newman, the famous Oxford convert of the 19th century.
My maternal grandmother could not have been more different. Born Catholic to a family of Chilean immigrants, she strayed from the Catholic faith and passed to a series of experiences that led her to the Baptists, the Salvation Army, the Free Brotherhood, Evangelicalism, Mormonism, Spiritualism, and who knows how many other sects and esoteric beliefs. To my mind those two women represent the sad drama that was beginning to play across the continent at the time. Two sides: one faithful, the other not.
The early Protestant missionaries that arrived in Argentina and other countries when British and American companies where building railroads and factories all over the continent, could not take that many Catholics away from the Church but they patiently worked on their target and began to have some measurable success by the end of the 1950’s. Their real success began after the changes instituted in the Church by the Second Vatican Council. By the time Vatican II ended, the Catholic Giant went to sleep and laid down there defenseless while the Protestant proselytizers carved his flesh. By the 1970’s there were two generations of Catholics who knew not even the rudiments of how to defend the faith. Seminarians barely touched on the subject of apologetics, militant Catholics were disparaged as “chupacirios” (candle suckers) in some circles, as the poseurs in the political Left equated disbelief in God with intelectual prowess. Many vain young men fell for that trap. All one needed to do was own a volume of Das Kapital and repeat “God is dead” to gain cachet as a man of progressive ideas. Many souls were stolen from the Catholic ranks by mere empty vanity.
What the Church did to counter the attack can only be described as pitiful. The new gospel of “mercy” replaced the old severity. Now it was offensive to even suggest that the Catholic Church was the guardian of the only true religion. With no apologetics, no condemnation of error, no real education of the faithful, the new Church was hardly merciful because, to teach and defend the true faith are acts of mercy, and to condemn error is to extend a merciful hand to those in the path to perdition. To call the Church Mater et Magistra became sort of a cruel sarcasm in view of so much unchallenged error and so many souls lost to the heresies of this world.
The “ecumenical spirit” of Vatican II was hijacked by modernists, homosexualists, iconoclasts, and protestantizers to radically alter the Catholic landscape. Our pastors left the field and many wolves moved in. No one told those leaving the Church to become Protestants, that they were now under the anathemas of the Council of Trent. Few knew that the Council of Trent had occurred at all. That was one of the many consequences of decades of deficient education in Catholic schools. The laity was left mostly to their own devices. The contraceptive pill, the open disobedience to the Holy Pontiff, the ignorance and apathy of the clergy did the rest. When the Conference of Aparecida opened in 2007, I dare to say that many of the Bishops present sympathized with Fidel Castro more than with heir own Pontiff. Benedict XVI carried a heavy cross of rejection and incomprehension that was going to accompany him the whole length of his pontificate.
Our Lady of Aparecida
Read carefully this short account of the Miracle of Aparecida and compare it with the miraculous catch of fish found in the Gospel of John.
In 1717, the governor of the Province of Sao Paulo in Brazil was passing through a small city on the Paraiba river called Guaratinguetá. The locals wanted to have a feast in his honor, so three fishermen went to the river to fish, and they prayed to Our Lady for God to grant them a big catch of fish. But the fishermen had had a lot of bad fishing days and were worried they might not catch anything. Casting their net into the river, they pulled out a headless statue of the Virgin Mary. Then they netted the head as well. After that, their nets were full of fish, more than enough for a feast. The fishermen cleaned and assembled the statue. It happened to be a black-colored version of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. They named the statue Nossa Senhora da Aparecida Conceição, which, in English means Our Lady of the Appeared Conception. (See the whole story at catholicmiracles.com)
The Miracle of Aparecida is very suggestive, not only because of the similarities with the account of John 21:1-14 but for its evident eschatological structure. The expected visit by the governor reminds us of the expected coming of Christ at the end of times. The simple villagers that ask Our Lady for a good catch after a time when they had not caught much, are just like Peter and his men. (cf. John 21:3 — “They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”) Our Lady grants their petition but first, she gives herself as a Patroness to the villagers and in fact, to all of Brazil. What follows is the great catch of fish and the miraculous strengthening of their humble, worn nets. St Peter the fisherman and his men fishing in the Sea of Galilee are a prophetic type of the great conversion at the end of times. The miracle of Aparecida is also a prophetic type: Brazil became the largest country in Latin America and also the largest Catholic country in the world. The body of the Virgin Mary — who is the first model of the Church — was retrieved broken, separated from her head, in a manner that seems to indicate that one day the Church will suffer her own Passion, separated from her head, which is Christ (cf. Ephesians 5: 22). The fishermen of Galilee also went out to sea separated from Christ their Master but returned ashore to be reunited with Him. All of those images lead me to believe that Brazil will one day play a great role in the final unification of the Body of Christ, the Church and most specially in the reunification of Latin America under the One True Faith.
The hour of the laity – The Great Commission
The warped interpretations of Vatican II made room for an outright rejection of Christ’s Great Commission. If we stopped denouncing error in the name of mercy, if we refrain from gaining souls to avoid being criticized as “proselytizers”, and — most importantly — if we forfeit our obligation to teach the faith to the ignorant; we have denied Christ who told us to go and make disciples of all the nations until his return in glory.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ Matthew 28:16-20.
In my opinion, it is time for the Ecclesia Militans to work on this. We live in a wicked age and that may be a sign that there is not much time left to do our fishing. The Great Catch of Fish may be around the corner. What are we to do? In Latin America and also in North America, certain promising efforts have been mired in trouble. The Legionnaires of Christ, the Institute of the Incarnate Word, and others have failed to deliver what was expected of them. We may not have the time to raise a new generation of faithful priests, and we may not be able to do it because many strategic areas of the Church have been taken by the modernists, the homoheresy, etc. Abominations are legion and yet we are still bound by Christ’s last commandment: “Go .. make disciples … teaching them …” That is not directed to the Apostles only. Jesus is talking to you and me. I don’t think it’s pure coincidence that you and others are reading these words on something often called “the net”! The early Christian disciples conquered the Roman Empire using the Roman network of roads, their sandals, and their determination to fulfill the Great Commission. You are reading this article now in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Thailand, the USA, Poland, Spain, the UK, Ireland, Brazil … and who knows how many other countries. We have extraordinary fishing tools that would have made St Paul’s mouth water in anticipation of a great catch. What are we doing with what we have?
I will tell you what I am doing. I keep writing my silly musings in the hope that someone will join my mission, support it with prayers and a donation, etc. but I am also trying to make a wonderful self-catechizing tool happen. Many bigwigs, the so called “Catholic personalities” have ignored that tool but I know that out there there is someone who can make it happen, someone who will have the heart and wit to go fishing for souls; someone who wants the Master to find him busy working when he returns.
“He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathers not with me, scatters. ” — Words of Jesus in Matthew 12:30.
Those words should terrify us into action but more than that should move us to show our love for Christ and others. If we can’t do nothing else we can certainly pray with fervor.
Do’s and don’ts
When it comes to Catholic formation and information in the web we have a few good examples to imitate both in zeal and love of truth, like St Michael’s Media, Church Militant, and others. In the Spanish side of the Catholic Internet the quality is appalling although it seems that the intentions are good in most cases. The plan I am trying to implement is a multilingual effort: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Good and loyal Catholics are working in those three areas. We need fuel, we need time, we need strong arms to pull the nets. Help us with a donation, volunteer if you can, and above all: pray for this effort often. Your reward will not tarry.
Let’s go fishing!