Scriptures has it that God spoke through the prophets; but on the last days,
He spoke through His Son. Thus, the birth of Christ signaled the beginning
of the end times. St. Paul was not negligent in warning the first Christian
communities of the end times. But, to correct those who expected it too
soon, St. Paul advised them: "For it will not be except the falling
away come first and (secondly) the man of sin be revealed."
Let us look at the first sign, the falling away or the great apostasy.
THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT APOSTASY
From her very beginnings, the Church has been experiencing great apostasies.
The Arian heresy wrought havoc on the Church, claiming lay, priests and
bishops alike away from the Church. In the year 1000, the Catholic Church
lost one-half of her members to the schism of Michael Caerularius which
included Russia. Here there was no theological issue. Just a dislike to obey
the Pope. The schismatic group formed the Orthodox Eastern Church.
But in the year 1500, the Catholic Church was further halved by the
defection of Martin Luther who formed the Protestant sect. The portion of
Europe that remained Catholic was not even Catholic.
THE REAL ROOT OF THE APOSTASY
At first glance, it is difficult to understand how Martin Luther could sway
half of Catholic Europe away from the Catholic Church when he was not a
charismatic preacher. He was given to bursts of anger that alienated even
his friends. At first sympathetic, he later turned against the Jews. He was
fickle and given to superstitions. Before he died, he saw his efforts to
reform the Church a failure, he saw it do more harm.
Even the great missionaries like St. Boniface, St. Augustine of Canterbury
and St. Francis Xavier could not equal what Martin Luther did.
Did Martin Luther really convert all of those to the Protestant sect? No.
They were already Protestants at heart even before Luther was born. To
be "Protestant at heart" is to adopt the trappings of Christianity
while rejecting the commands of Christ which are the true signs of Love of
God: "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Europe did not even
know the commands of Christ. What do you think were Francis of Assisi,
Ignatius of Loyola and Dominic doing? Trying to preach the commands of
Christ while showing in their lives how they were to be observed. And
because the Pope is the expressor of Christ's commands, being His
Vicar, the "Protestant at heart" always break away from the
Ecclesiastical maladministration, priestly misconduct, clerical ignorance,
tempting worldliness, lax religious houses and a neglected laity. . .this
was Europe ripe for the "falling away." Martin Luther simply
formalized the break.
Bishops and priests apostasized without provocation, heads of states turned
Protestant to be able to commit adultery, vicar generals and superiors of
religious orders, like Ochino of the Capuchins and Link of the hermits of
St. Augustine, followed Luther.
And how was the remaining Catholic portion? Not so good. Monasteries were
worldly, heads of states interfered with Papal elections and made agreements
with Protestant counterparts detrimental to the Church. The 1500's looked
like the "Great Apostasy" but one element was still missing to
make it the real thing.
THE SAVING GRACE
The 1500's had a saving grace. . .the numerous saints raised by God for that
age: Saints Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Peter Alcantara. Saints
Charges Borromeo, Phillip Neri, Cajetan, John of God. The first Jesuits and
Thomas More. The martyrs of Nagasaki, Ireland and England. Queens who chose
to abdicate rather than renounce their Catholic Faith; and the countless
monks and nuns who chose martyrdom rather than be forced into Protestantism.
With the Pope, these people made the Church very visible.
So it is said that the Reformation was not Luther's work. It was God's
punishment on an unfaithful Church. It was a winnowing fan that revealed
everyone's true color.
Today, Catholics are in a worse state. . .for one thing, we don't have the
numerous saints of the 1500's. And bishops and priests are still ignorant of
the way to salvation since seminaries stopped teaching this a long
time ago, making many ecclesiastics mere hirelings. No religious order today
is faithful to the gospel nor to the spirit of their founders; all of them
are practicing a spirituality devised by "I-don't-know who' which leads
to 'I-don't-know-where'. The laity are flocking to preachers that tickle
their ears. And heads of states commit adultery without having to break away
As in the 1500's, most Catholics today are Protestant at heart. But today,
we have the missing element of the real "Great Apostasy" in that
they don't leave the Church. They remain inside the Catholic Church.
"They were from us but not of us," St. John prophesies of the last
Christ, Himself, had prophesied describing His Church thus: "When the
Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" making the
"unfaithful Catholics" the biggest Protestant sect today;
these will persecute the small faithful remnant. And the fidelity,
perseverance and heroism of this remnant is what will inspire the real
Protestants to return to the true fold to become true followers of Christ.
The great apostasy is indeed here. Let us have no part in it.