Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen ""Only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world."
Fulton Sheen delivers a prophetic sermon on the Antichrist, the signs of our times, the apocalypse, a coming chastisement, and gives three practical suggestions for Christians of this age.
The audio has been cleaned and remastered from the original radio program "Light Your Lamps" entitled "Signs of Our Times" broadcast on January 26, 1947.
VEN. FULTON J. SHEEN:
"God Love You! I want these to be my first words of greeting to you as they will be the concluding words on each broadcast. "God Love You" means God is love; God loves you; and you ought to love God in return.
Why is it that so few realize the seriousness of our present crisis? Partly because men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves to measure their times. Only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world. Well may Our Savior say to us what He said to the Saducees and Pharisees in His time: “When it is evening,you say: It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times?”.
Do we know the signs of our times? They point to two inescapable truths, the first of which is that we have come to the end of the post – Renaissance Chapter of history which made man the measure of all things. The three basic dogmas of the modern world are dissolving before our very eyes. First, we are witnessing the liquidation of the economic man, or the assumption that man who is a highly developed animal has no other function in life than to produce and acquire wealth, and then like the cattle in the pastures, be filled with years and die. Secondly, we are witnessing the liquidation of the idea of the natural goodness of man who has no need of a God to give Him rights, or a Redeemer to salvage him from guilt, because progress is automatic thanks to science, education, and evolution, which will one day make man a kind of a god. We are witnessing also the liquidation of rationalism, or the idea that the purpose of human reason is not to discover the meaning and goal of life, namely the salvation of a soul, but to devise new technical advances to make on this earth a city of man to displace the city of God. It may very well be that Historical Liberalism is only a transitional era in history between a civilization which once was Christian and one which will be definitely anti-Christian. The second great truth to which the signs of the times portend is that we are definitely at the end of a non-religious era of civilization, by that I mean one which regarded religion as an addendum to life, a pious extra, a morale-builder for the individual but of no social relevance, and God is a silent partner whose name was used by the firm to give respectability but who had nothing to say about how the business should be run. In the new era into which we are entering is what might be called the religious phase of human history. Do not misunderstand me; by religious we do not mean that men will turn to God, but rather that the indifference to the absolute which characterized the liberal phase of civilization will be succeeded by a passion for an absolute. From now on the struggle will be not for the colonies and national rights, but for the souls of men. The battle lines are being clearly drawn and the basic issues are no longer in doubt. From now on men will divide themselves into two religions understood again as surrender to an absolute. The conflict of the future is between an absolute who is the God-Man and an absolute which is the man-god; between the God Who became man and the man who makes himself god; between brothers in Christ and comrades in anti-Christ.
But, the anti-Christ will not be so called, otherwise he would have no followers. He will wear no red tights, nor vomit sulphur, nor carry a spear nor wave an arrowed tail as the Mephistopheles in Faust. Nowhere in Sacred Scripture do we find warrant for the popular myth of the devil as a buffoon who is dressed like the first “red.” Rather, is he described as a fallen angel, as “the Prince of this world” whose business it is to tell us that there is no other world. His logic is simple: if there is no heaven there is no hell; if there is no hell, there is no sin; if there is no sin, there is no judge, and if there is no judgement then evil is good and good is evil. But above all these descriptions, Our Lord tells us that he will be so much like Himself, that he would deceive even the elect – and certainly no devil we have ever seen in picture books could deceive the elect. How will he come in this new age to win followers to his religion? He will come disguised as the Great Humanitarian; he will talk peace, prosperity and plenty not as means to lead us to God, but as ends in themselves. He will write books on the new idea of God to suit the way people live; induce faith in astrology so as to make not the will but the stars responsible for our sins; he will explain guilt away psychologically as repressed sex, make men shrink in shame if their fellowmen say they are not broadminded and liberal; he will identify tolerance with indifference to right and wrong; he will foster more divorces under the disguise that another partner is “vital”; he will increase love for love and decrease love for person; he will invoke religion to destroy religion; he will even speak of Christ and say that he was the greatest man who ever lived; his mission he will say will be to liberate men from the servitude of superstition and Fascism: which he will never define. But, in the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality, he will have one great secret which he will tell to no one; he will not believe in God. Because his religion will be brotherhood without the fatherhood of God, he will deceive even the elect. He will set up a counter Church which will be the ape of the Church because, he the devil, is the ape of God. It will be the mystical body of the anti-Christ that will in all externals resemble the church as the mystical body of Christ. In desperate need for God, he will induce modern man in his loneliness and frustration to hunger more and more for membership in his community that will give man enlargement of purpose without any need of personal amendment and without the admission of personal guilt. These are days in which the devil has been given a particularly long rope. (missing audio: For we must never forget that Our Lord said to Judas and his band: “This is your hour.” God has His day, but evil has its) hour when the shepherd shall be struck and the sheep dispersed. Has the Church made the preparations for just such a dark night in the decree of the Holy Father outlining the conditions on which a Papal Election may now be held outside of the city of Rome? Men who know history have seen these dark days coming. As far back as 1842, 105 years ago, Heine the German poet wrote: "Communism, though little discussed now and loitering in hidden garrets on miserable straw pallets, is the dark hero destined for a great, if temporary, role in the modern tragedy…Wild, gloomy times are roaring toward us, and the prophet wishing to write a new apocalypse would have to invent entirely new beasts – beasts so terrible that St. John’s older animals would be like gentle doves and cupids in comparison. The gods are veiling their faces in pity on the children of men, their long-time charges. The future smells of Russian leather, blood, godlessness, and many whippings. And, I should advise our grandchildren to be born with very thick skins on their backs.” That in 1842.
Well indeed may we be warned. For the first time in history our age has witnessed the persecution of the Old Testament by the Nazis and the persecution of the New Testament by the Communists. Anyone who has anything to do with God is hated today, whether his vocation was to announce His Divine Son, Jesus Christ, as did the Jew, or to follow Him as the Christian. Because the signs of our times point to a struggle between absolutes we may expect the future to be a time of trial for two reasons:
Firstly, to stop disintegration. Godlessness would go on and on and on if there were no catastrophes. What death is to an individual, that catastrophe is to an evil civilization: the interruption life and for the civilization the interruption of its Godlessness. Why did God station an angel with a flaming sword at the Garden of Paradise after the Fall, if it was not to prevent our first parents from entering again and eating of the Tree of Life, which, if they ate they would have immortalized their guilt. And, God will not allow unrighteousness to become eternal. He permits revolution disintegration, chaos, to come as reminders that our thinking has been wrong, our dreams have been unholy. Moral truth is vindicated by the ruin that follows when it has been repudiated. The chaos of our times is the strongest negative argument that could ever be advanced for Christianity. Catastrophe reveals the evil is self-defeating and that we cannot turn from God as we have without hurting ourselves.
The second reason why a crisis must come is in order to prevent a false identification of the Church and the world. Our Lord intended that those who were His followers should be different in spirit from those who were not. But, this line of demarcation has been blotted out. Instead of black and white, there is only a blur. Mediocrity and compromise characterize the lives of many Christians. They read the same novels as modern pagans, educate their children in the same godless way, listen to the same commentators who have no other standard than judging today by yesterday, and tomorrow by today, allow pagan practices to creep into family life, such as divorce and remarriage; there are not wanting, so-called Catholic labor leaders recommending Communists for Congress, or Catholic writers who accept presidencies in Communist front organizations to instill totalitarian ideas into movies. There's no longer the conflict and opposition which ought to characterize us. We are influencing the world less than the world influences us. There is no apartness. We who were sent out to establish a center of health have caught the disease, and therefore have lost the power to heal. And, since the gold is mixed with an alloy, the entirety must be thrust into the furnace that the dross may be burned away. The value of the trial will be to set us apart. Evil catastrophe must come to reject us, to despise us, to hate us, to persecute us, and then, then we shall we define our loyalties, affirm our fidelity and state on whose side we stand. Our quantity indeed will decrease, but our quality will increase. It is not for the Church that we fear, but for the world. We tremble not that God may be dethroned but that barbarism may reign.
And three practical suggestions then for the times as Christians realize that a moment of crisis is not a time of despair, but of opportunity. We were born in crisis, in defeat – the Crucifixion. And, once we recognize that we are under Divine Wrath, we become eligible for Divine Mercy. The very disciplines of God create hope. The thief on the right came to God by a crucifixion. And secondly Catholics ought to stir up their Faith, hang a crucifix in their home, remind them that they have a cross to carry; gather your family together every night to recite the rosary; go to daily Mass; make the Holy Hour daily in the Presence of our Eucharistic Lord and particularly in parishes where pastors are conscious of the world's need and therefore conduct services of reparation. And, finally, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Americans, all of us, must realize that the world is summoning us to heroic efforts at spiritualization. It is not a unity of religion we plead for that is impossible when purchased at the cost of the unity of truth, but a unity of religious people, wherein each marches separately according to the light of his conscience, but strikes together for the moral betterment of the world. The forces of evil are united; the forces of good are divided. We may not be able to meet in the same pew – would to God we did – but we can meet on our knees. You may be sure that no sordid compromises nor carrying of waters on both shoulders will see you through. Those who have the faith had better keep in the state of grace and those who have neither had better find out what they mean, for in the coming age there will be only one way to stop your trembling knees, and that will be to get down on them and pray.
Pray to Michael, Michael the Prince of the morning, who conquered Lucifer who would make himself a god. When the world once cracked because of a sneer in heaven, he rose up and dragged down from the seven heavens the pride that would look down on the Most High.
And, pray too, pray to Our Lady, and say to her "It was to thee who was given the power to crush the head of the serpent who lied to men that they would be like unto gods. And mayest thou who didst find Christ when He was lost for three days, find Him again for our world who has lost Him. Give to the senile incontinence of our verbiage the Word. And as thou didst form the Word in thy womb, form Him in our own hearts. Lady of the Blue of Heaven, in these dark days light our lamps. Give back to us the Light of the World that a Light may Shine even in these days of darkness.”
God love you."