Anyone who has a green thumb knows that in order to make a rose bush flourish with new, productive growth that culminates in an abundance of new blossoms, it has to be pruned. I recall my mother cutting off branch after branch of her rose bushes, being sure they would die at her seemingly indiscriminate lopping, and her telling me that in order for new branches to grow, the long, unproductive "suckers" had to be cut off. These suckers she explained, were doing exactly that: sucking the life out of the bush and accomplishing nothing but growing thorns and little else. She was right. The following year, young tender shoots would begin to grow and produce so many rose buds that the whole rose bush seemed to want to topple for the sheer number of them. The thorns were still there, but the blossoms that resulted from the pruning were exquisite.
We in this country are quickly realizing that we've become the target of an increasingly secular government with a particular anti-Christian bent that seeks to put Catholics in their place and out of the public square, and the HHS mandate is only one arrow in the government's quiver. All of the faithful Catholics that are paying attention and are reading the signs of the times knows what is coming down the pike if we do nothing and allow the anti-Christians to ride rough-shod over our faith. The Church in our country will of course survive, but there will be many casualties and we need to take a hard look at ourselves and ask if in the end of this reign of persecution, we will be standing and counted amongst the living.
We have come to another milestone in history where the Catholic Church is again being pruned by God via persecution. We may see society and the government wielding the pruning shears, but in reality it is God doing the pruning. Persecution tends to make those of strong faith stronger and those whose faith is built on sand tend to lose the faith they had. Some see this HHS mandate as a fight for religious freedom, and I will agree to to a certain point, but I see it as far more than that. It is our faith that is being tested by God through the persecution we now find ourselves in, because our faith has become lukewarm. We've allowed ourselves to be dominated in part by a godless society, while becoming apathetic and complacent about our faith. Like the rose bush above, some of us have grown into "suckers" in calling ourselves Catholic, producing thorns and no fruit, while sucking the life out of the Church.
Pruning is painful but necessary, but what we are experiencing is not a judgement on the Church, but a wake-up call to fan the flame of the Holy Spirit each of us received at our Confirmation and become stronger Catholics. A result of this pruning, the Vatican itself, in Pope Benedict, has given us an opportunity to produce new shoots of growth in giving us a new translation for the Liturgy. Though many have seen this new translation as a painful step backward, reality is, that the Eucharist is the center of our lives or should be. The more reverent and holy the Liturgy becomes, the more productive growth will result in the Church. This is how saints, our roses are made in times of need.
Pruning in the form of persecution is always painful, whether it comes through a godless society, an anti-Christian government, or the SSPX and LCWR initiatives. It makes us face the reality of the state of our souls and our faith, and to reflect on whether we are genuine Catholics. The Catholic Church on Earth is not called the church militant for nothing. We are in constant battle against the world and our own natural inclinations to commit sin. Now, not later, is the time to fall on our knees and submit to this pruning while fighting for our faith, so in the end, we can stand up and greet Him when he comes and be counted amongst the living.