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        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.


         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.


        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 Papacy.

        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 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.

V.     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 from Rome. 

        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 hours.

VI.   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.






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                                                                                         - Teresa of Avila


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