Of Vanity, Vice and Vampires

Why Our Lady Appears to the ‘Little Ones’

by Edwin Faust
August 4, 2010

There are consistent themes in the Marian apparitions approved by the Church: the call for prayer and sacrifice and deeper conversion; and warnings of disasters that will afflict this world if we do not heed this call.

There is another aspect of these visitations from the Queen of Heaven: the seers are usually chosen from among the humblest of children: Bernadette of Lourdes; Melanie and Maximin of La Salette; Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco of Fatima. The seers are almost always illiterate and poor, with a simple but deep Faith.

Why should such children be selected from among all humanity as the recipients of Heaven’s most important communications to the Church and to the world?

The passage from Luke’s Gospel (10:21) comes to mind: “I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in Thy sight.”

But why has it seemed good to God to entrust His words, through Our Lady as His emissary, to “little ones,” rather than to great ones?

The world tends to look to its great ones for enlightenment and emulation and to ignore its little ones. But God’s ways are not as the world’s ways. As St. Paul tells us, the world’s wisdom is foolishness in God’s sight (1 Corinthians 3:19).

Yet, the world takes stock of its great ones. Whenever a celebrity converts to the Catholic Church, or leaves it, or says or does something significant concerning it, headlines follow. Tabloid and web sites took considerable notice of the recently announced departure from the Catholic Church of Anne Rice, world-famous author of novels about Vampires.

About 10 years ago, Rice made news by her much heralded conversion to Catholicism. That the diva of the dark side should have embraced the light of the Faith struck the paparazzi as good copy. Rice then went on to deviate from her usual literary genre to write two books about the childhood of Jesus, which were well received by Catholic conservatives such as Peter Kreeft, of Ignatius Press.

Now, Rice has announced on her Facebook web page that she is no longer a Catholic. Indeed, she says she is no longer a Christian, though she still claims to be a follower of Christ. She appears to make the hackneyed distinction between organized religion and private belief that has long provided a rationale for those who refuse to commit to a definite creed yet wish to be counted among the devout.

Rice’s reasons for withdrawing her assent to Christianity reveal how superficial her conversion must have been. She says that she cannot subscribe to a faith that is anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-Democrat. She has some personal stake in the first area of dissent: her son is homosexual. But the Church is not anti-gay in any personal sense. Moral doctrine from time immemorial, in both Old and New Testaments, condemns sodomy. This could not have come as a surprise to Rice, either 10 years ago or last week.

The aim of the Church has always been to convert and save the sinner — and we are all sinners — not to condemn him. This work of salvation is the rationale of all the Church proposes and enjoins upon us. The Church wants those with homosexual orientation to be saved. What is anti-gay about this?

As for the other categories that have caused Rice to reject the Faith, these correspond to the areas of political correctness that doubtless prevail in the celebrity circles in which she moves. It is difficult to imagine dinner guests at Rice’s California mansion agreeing with the Church’s prohibition of women priests and its condemnation of abortion. The first makes the Church, in Rice’s views, anti-feminist; the second, anti-Democrat.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Rice’s conversion either was not a well-considered and fully informed one, or that the deeply embedded prejudices of liberal culture upon which she had built her life resurfaced and ultimately triumphed.

Rice’s withdrawal from Christianity comes at a time when we are witnessing the highly publicized self-destruction of another celebrity who, for a time, became a much lauded figure in Catholic and even Protestant circles: Mel Gibson.

Noted for what has been described in media reports as his “ultra-traditional” Catholicism, Gibson aroused the enmity of the secular and, most especially, Jewish world with his production of the film, “The Passion of the Christ.” Accusations of anti-Semitism were immediate and predictable. Facts about Gibson’s personal life — his longstanding marriage, large family and loyalty to the Traditional Latin Mass — became widely known.

Some Traditional Catholics, perhaps to their present dismay, believed that at long last the Faith had a champion in Hollywood. Gibson, however, fell away even more spectacularly than did Anne Rice. He divorced his wife and had a child out of wedlock with a young model. He has recently dominated tabloids and talk shows through his alleged angry, obscene and bigoted rants recorded in telephone answering machine messages left for the woman with whom he had been living. (Since these recordings were sealed by court order in a custody battle, and legally not available to anyone in public, it is still not certain whose voice these foul language outbursts belong to.)

Wherever the truth may lie in these scandals, one thing has become clear: Catholics should be reluctant to invest too much confidence in celebrities who profess the Faith. All of us are liable to doubt, and satan is ever ready to encourage doubt at any instant we waver.

The difficulties of maintaining a Catholic character in the precincts of Hollywood or in the rarefied atmosphere of literary liberalism must be enormous. Everything about the celebrity lifestyle encourages vanity and pride and is ranged powerfully against humility.

Of course, it is not only celebrities who are prone to the deadly sins. Whatever accomplishments we have in life can become the basis of self-approbation and complacency, which is why St. Paul reminds us that there is nothing we possess that we have not received.

Those who possess much, tend to be possessed themselves by that which they think is theirs by merit. What can they receive whose hands are already filled and whose hearts are proud?

Fatima is not only the key to peace in our world, but the way to salvation. We must become like the shepherd children: pure and trusting, with a simplicity of Faith and a love rooted in humility. And let us pray and make sacrifices for the great people of this world, that they may turn to Our Lady and find what celebrity and riches cannot provide: peace.

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