I’ve written before about Fr. John Hardon, a spiritual advisor and mentor of mine during the 1990s. From 1989 to 1999, I attended 11 men’s retreats that were given by Fr. Hardon. He died in 2000 at the age of 84.
At one of Fr. Hardon’s retreats, he told about an experience he had while he was visiting a Catholic convent in Communist Russia. He was giving a retreat to the nuns at the convent and during one of the nights he was there, he and another priest were awakened by the sound of a thunderous crash. By the time they jumped out of bed, got some clothes on, and ran into the hallway of the second floor balcony, they saw a group of Russian men standing inside the large room below. The men had crashed a large truck through the main floor window and a portion of the exterior wall of the convent.
What Fr. Hardon and the other priest saw as they looked down from the balcony to the first floor, was a group of nuns on one side of the room and the men on the other side of the room. The men were drunk and obnoxious and were yelling out obscenities. It was clear from what they were saying that they had come to rape the nuns.
Fr. Hardon said that he started running down the stairs to stop the men from harming the nuns. While he was running, all he could think of was, “My time has come. My time has come.” He knew that the “time” had come for him to prove his love for God by becoming a martyr for his Church.
When he arrived at the bottom of the stairs, Fr. Hardon ran over and stood directly in front of the man who was leading the other men. At that point, Fr. Hardon and the leader were face-to-face. The room was silent as both of them stood their ground and stared at each other.
You need to understand that Fr. Hardon was not the type of man who would have been able to handle himself in a fight. He had a small frame, was thin, and was around five foot nine inches tall. Although he could beat anyone in an intellectual fight, he probably never got in a physical fight in his life. Despite his small stature, Fr. Hardon had the courage of a jungle lion and wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything.
As Fr. Hardon faced-off with the man who was in charge of the other men, the man abruptly turned around and ordered the other men to leave the building. The men then piled into the truck and the driver backed the truck out of the convent and drove away. Fr. Hardon, the priest that was with him, and the nuns stood in stunned silence as they watched the truck drive away.
Later, when the topic came up for discussion between me and some of the other men at the retreat, one of the men commented, “Hardon couldn’t hurt a flea. I’ll bet St. Michael and 10,000 other angels were standing right behind him ready to do battle. That’s what probably made the men leave.”
I thought about Hardon’s courageous act and the speculation about whether he was assisted by angels when I read about the current controversy that has arisen over comments that were made during a homily given by Bishop Jenky at a Mass a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure you’ve heard about the controversy. The homily generated a firestorm of attacks and criticism from disgruntled Catholics, anti-Catholics, supporters of President Obama, and ninety faculty members of the University of Notre Dame. Here, in part, is what Bishop Jenky said during his homily:
Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries — only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.
No Catholic ministry – and yes, Mr. President, for Catholics our schools and hospitals are ministries – can remain faithful to the Lordship of the Risen Christ and to his glorious Gospel of Life if they are forced to pay for abortions.
It was another comment in Bishop Jenky’s homily that reminded me of Fr. Hardon’s confrontation with the Russian men:
We have nothing to fear, but we have a world to win for him (Jesus Christ). We have nothing to fear, for we have an eternal destiny in heaven. We have nothing to fear, though the earth may quake, kingdoms may rise and fall, demons may rage, but St. Michael the Archangel, and all the hosts of heaven, fight on our behalf.
Fr. Hardon courageously stood up to the leader of a gang of drunken bullies who had come to rape the Catholic nuns. Bishop Jenky stood up to the leader of a gang of government thugs who are attempting to rape the Catholic Church and its members.
The word “rape” has a dual meaning: (1) the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse; or (2) an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation (e.g., the rape of the countryside). So what’s the difference between the drunken Russian bullies who wanted to rape the Catholic nuns and our president and his army of thugs who want to rape the Catholic Church?
At what point do we Catholics have the right to speak out and be heard? Should we wait until the president and his thugs compel our Catholic schools to teach our children that contraception, abortion, and homosexuality are acceptable forms of behavior? Should we wait until they mandate that we limit the size of our families because of rising government health care costs? Should we wait until they take away our guns? Should we wait until they take over control of the internet? Some would say, “Oh, that’ll never happen.” Don’t be so sure.
On May 17, 2009, when President Obama spoke at the commencement ceremonies at the University of Notre Dame, he promised that his administration would “draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.” Ten months later, after promising pro-life congressmen that his proposed health care law would not provide for or allow any funding for abortion, the 2700 page “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”) was passed by congress and signed into law, giving the government regulators the right to order Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives and abortifacients to its employees.
He lied to the faculty, students, and parents at the University of Notre Dame graduation ceremony. He lied to the congressional representatives of the citizens of the United States. He lied to our bishops and priests. He lied to you and me. I don’t blame anyone for voting for him four years ago. At that time, he had an inspirational message that was based on hope and change. Now, four years later, his message is based on fear, envy, greed, jealousy, hatred, and rage.
So now, ninety faculty members from Bishop Jenky’s alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, have demanded an apology. The organization “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” has filed an IRS complaint against our diocese charging “illegal election intervention.” Demands are being made for the “Renegade Bishop” to shut his mouth or he’ll be punished.
The bullies and thugs can say and do anything they want to Bishop Jenky. He’s standing side-by-side with the giants of our Church – St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Stephen, St. Joan of Arc – and against the diabolical forces that have always had as their objective the elimination of the Catholic Church.
The bullies and thugs don’t realize it, but the war they launched against the Catholic religion was also launched against the secular religion of America – a religion that Walt Disney espoused and promoted in his cartoons, movies, television shows, and theme parks. The war we are now engaged in involves two religions – the Catholic religion and the American religion. And we’re going to win it because all real red-blooded Americans are now on the side of the Catholic Church. I’ll explain it to you next week.