There is a kind of interchangeability between the attributes of Our Lady and the Catholic Church. The things that are said of Our Lady, in their own way, can be said of the Catholic Church. Thus, when reciting the Litany of Our Lady or the Hail Holy Queen, we can apply all the phrases of these prayers to the Catholic Church. The exchange would be perfect. In its own way, each expression can be beautifully applied to the Catholic Church. It requires some transposition and adaption but once done, it can serve as material for meditations on the Catholic Church.
One application would be the reference to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. The Church also has a certain immaculate character born from the Redemption, and, in Her divine element, She bears nothing of the Original Sin of man.
On the part of the Church, Sacred Scriptures refers to Her as a lady who is perpetually young, without wrinkle or stain, in a state of permanent glory. The same can be said of Our Lady as a consequence of her Immaculate Conception. She is a lady without wrinkle or stain. There is no stain, old age, tiredness or exhaustion in her because she is not subject to these things by her perfect and Immaculate Conception.
However, this interchangeability between the perpetual radiance of Our Lady and that of the Catholic Church recalls another example.
Despite all the splendor of Our Lady, she once appeared as the Mother of Sorrows. She was overwhelmed by the deepest mourning in all of history when she grieved for her Divine Son. At this time, the words of the prophet Isaias apply: “O all ye who pass by the way: stop and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.”
The same comparison applies and is urgently needed in reference to the Catholic Church today. We should urgently ask Our Lady to preserve our vision of the radiant, inalienably radiant, glorious and immaculate character of the Catholic Church, despite the situation of deep mourning for the condition in which the Catholic Church finds Herself.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, so connected with devotion to her, is an appropriate day to ask Our Lady for this grace. Ask for this grace to have an imperturbable, profound and undefeatable/indomitable/invincible devotion to the Catholic Church despite the appearance of the Church in crisis.
The situation of the Church is like that of Our Lady on Good Friday. Thus, the Catholic Church can also speak to her true children with the words of the prophet Isaias. “All ye who pass by the way, all ye unknown ones, all ye indifferent ones, all ye who understand nothing of my pain, all ye who do not understand the pain of anyone, stop and see if there is in the whole world, amid so many sufferings and disorders, amid so much pain, chaos and persecution, a single pain comparable to Mine.” The Catholic Church can say these words to its true children in these times.
In the sadness of our days, we must remember that the Catholic Church’s essential nature remains perfectly radiant, young, infallible and immaculate. All the errors of Her human element and the enormous misuse of ecclesiastical power seek to give airs of the Revolution to the extrinsic aspect of the Catholic Church. There may even be formulations that make the doctrine of truth seem similar to erroneous ones. None of these things can destroy the immaculate character of the Catholic Church, which resides in Her indestructible fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus, despite the great abuses of human power, the Catholic Church intrinsically remains majestic and victorious, just as Our Lady at the foot of the Cross. This Mother of sorrows, devastated by suffering, continued to be a radiant, majestic and victorious queen, even at that moment, and perhaps, especially at that moment, which was at once, the greatest defeat and victory of Our Lady.
We must remember that it is architectonic that the present things are happening. Architectonic means that it is in accordance with the logic of things. Thus, it is in accordance with the nature of the Church and history that, given the enormous sin of the Revolution and the human element of the Church open to this sin, the present tragedy is happening.
The Church proves Her divinity by this fact. She, so to speak, dissociates Herself from these elements that fall into these errors. They enter into their own follies and craziness and turn away from Her. There is something in the Church Herself by which She remains entirely untouched and continues without these stains. She continues in a state of perfection that makes us love Her above everything on earth, save for God, Our Lord.
What is this something that allows Her to remain immaculate? First, it is that the Catholic Church will never fall into error, and Her doctrine is immaculate. Secondly, the holiness of Her sacraments never ceases to be a source of life for all the faithful. Finally, the Holy Ghost continues to breathe within the Catholic Church and produce fruits of holiness. These three elements keep the Catholic Church whole and immaculate. All the rest is secondary. We must lament and even utterly detest all the mistreatment She suffers. However, behind this appearance, the Catholic Church remains whole, infallible and the only true Church of Our Lord.
The Catholic Church is experiencing a Passion today, just as Our Lady faced in her compassion for Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is witnessing a kind of internal crucifixion.
In this situation, the Church is like Our Lady. This moment when everything seems lost is like that moment when Our Lord bowed His head and said, “Consumatum est.” That moment foreshadowed the Fatima Chastisement: the sky darkened, the veil of the Temple was rent, the earth trembled, and the righteous rose from their graves and walked through Jerusalem, bearing witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, many souls repented. Others hardened in their vices and became worse.
This is a kind of foreshadowing of the Fatima Chastisement. At this moment of the universal crisis, we have the impression that the “consumatum est” moment has come. The cup of ignominies, the chalice of abominations, is full. When all seems lost, it will signal the victory of the Church. Then the Revolution will fall, everything will disappear, and the Reign of Mary will triumph after an extraordinary chastisement.
Let us ask Our Lady on the feast of her Immaculate Conception to give us an enormous devotion to her and, as a corollary, to the Holy Catholic Church. May she give us an invincible faith in the divine character and the infallibility and indestructible holiness of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, our Mother. May our faith in and love for the Church increase the more we see Her persecuted, mistreated by the hand of the wicked, Her external enemies and above all Her internal adversaries.
The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on December 8, 1964. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.