Hold Fast: 4 Ways to Survive the Cultural Storm

May 26, 2015

The world has gone mad. Unchecked by the free world, ISIS is spreading rapidly throughout the Middle East, and they have already made their presence known in Europe and here in the U.S. They have their sights set on the Vatican and the destruction of what remains of Christendom.

Meanwhile, Ireland, one of the most traditionally Catholic countries in the world, just voted to approve gay marriage, in what was really more of a referendum on the Church than it was anything else. And the Church was soundly rejected. Our own U.S. Supreme court is poised to decide legally the same issue of marriage very soon.

Inside the walls of the Church, things are no less calm. German bishops are promoting heresy and threatening schism. The enemies of Catholic truth are coming out of the shadows and are enjoying a new popularity and even promotion. The upcoming Synod on the Family looks to be an all out brawl between those who would accommodate the world and those who would be faithful to Christ.

I could go on. But if you aren’t unsettled by current events, there’s something wrong.

Hold Fast

So how are we to respond as Catholics who strive to remain faithful to Christ and his Church? Do we allow fear to blossom into panic? Do we allow despair to take root, surrendering to heresy, schism, or outright agnosticism?  No. We must not.

As we face the swelling waves of darkness and evil threatening to overwhelm all that is good and true, there is only one solution: We must hold fast.

Centuries ago, sailors who braved the high seas would tattoo the words “hold fast” to their knuckles. In sailor speak, for a thing to be “fast” means it is securely anchored, positively secured. Mariners believed that tattooing these words would help them “hold fast” to the rigging in the midst of violent storms.

Brothers, we must not be overwhelmed. We must not be afraid. We must hold fast to Christ. Here are four practical ways to face the storm.

1. Pray and Sacrifice

It is easy to complain. When we see things wrong in the Church or in the world, it is natural to point the finger, to get on internet forums or comment sections and voice our disapproval of this bishop or this priest or that misguided practice. But really, this accomplishes nothing.

A far better and holier solution, the solution of the saints, is to pray and sacrifice twice as much as we point out error. “Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history,” St. John Paul II once said, and he was right. If we really want to see the power of God work, we must stop grumbling and take up the two battle-tested weapons of prayer and sacrifice.

2. Stay Close to Mary

The battle we are now witnessing is the final conflict between the Queen of Heaven and the proud serpent who hates her with all his heart. If we would survive the tempest we now face, we must look to the bright Stella Maris, the Star of the Sea, who will lead us to the shores of Heaven.

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary,” advises the great saint of the Middle Ages, Bernard of Clairvaux. “With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.” What more can be said? Stay close to our Blessed Mother and you will be saved.

3. Stay Close to Jesus in the Eucharist

There is nothing greater on this earth than the Holy Eucharist, for it is nothing less than Jesus himself. In the Eucharist, we see the fulfillment of the promise, “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” If we are to have the strength to persevere in faith, we must nourish ourselves on the heavenly Bread of Angels. Frequently, devoutly, and with proper preparation.

Moreover, we would do well to spend time adoring Christ in a Holy Hour. Praying and pouring out our hearts before Christ hidden under the appearance of bread is life changing. If you do so, you will hear him speak words of comfort to you: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The Eucharist alone can nourish our flagging souls and revive them with new life.

4. Pray the Rosary

Pope after pope, saint after saint, Marian apparition after Marian apparition has exhorted us to pray the rosary. Why so much pleading for this simple prayer? Two reasons: First, it is incredibly powerful and the demonic realm hates it, for it is the whole story of the Gospel in a single prayer; Second, because despite the countless requests, hardly anyone actually prays it.

Sure, we may have a rosary hanging from the mirror in our car, or one laying on our nightstand. But rosaries are not decoration. How many of us actually sacrifice 20 minutes or so and take up this powerful and heavenly weapon on a daily basis? I admit it is something I have struggled to do consistently, but I am renewing my commitment to a daily rosary, and I hope you will too.

He who Endures…

“When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?”

A good question, one that we must answer by our choices. Will we be faithful? Will we survive the storm, or will we be blown overboard and be lost forever? Are we willing to suffer for the Faith and for Christ? Everyday we must answer those questions anew, for things will likely get worse before they get better. Are we prepared for that possibility?

Brothers, let us lash ourselves to the deck of the Barque of Peter. While many daily deny him and sell him to the highest bidder, let us be faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who loves us and gave himself for us.

Heaven isn’t for quitters. It isn’t for wimps. Hold fast, for he who perseveres to the end will be saved.

Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


  1. Kevin says

    As an Irishman living in another country I am very glad to read these words. The Ireland of my youth is long gone, and I’m only 40. Any article on social media is full of vitriolic hatred and disdain for Catholics. The Church is bigger than any country and She has been through worse before and yet She still stands triumphant. I for one will straighten my back, lift my chin and keep marching forward in Faith and confidence. Join me brothers!

    • Pat_h says

      As somebody from staunchly Irish Catholic lineage, whose ancestors actually saw some deported due to their Faith, I feel let down by the Irish surrender to “modernity” we’ve just witnessed and I can’t imagine how sad this must be for those like you who actually are Irish. God grant that Ireland my recover its Irishness, rather than just just become one more locality of secular Europe.

      And God grant that we and the Church may see our way through this trial, another like the Reformation it seems, and that things may turn aright.

    • Carl Kelly says

      Scripture Most Holy Says the gates of Hell will not prevail against Our Holy Church. Hold Fast to Our Lord Jesus Christ…Pray always for More Faith from Our Mother Mary Immaculate..May Blessing Abound in Her Loving Son… Carl

    • John Sposato says

      Excellent statement, Kevin. Fight the good fight. Keep the faith. Many of your Catholic brothers join you in the battle. We are the Church Militant, and we — in, through, and with Christ through the intercession of Mary, His mother — will triumph. Hang in there!

  2. Samuel Baker says

    Thank you for a timely reminder – and for the good work of the Catholic Gentleman website! Greetings from the UK.

  3. Mislav says

    I have just recently discovered this blog and I must say that it’s a true refreshment to see that there are still people who are willing to hold on to the Truth no matter what. Thanks Sam.

  4. Andy Rigo says

    This verse from Joshua seems fitting at this time:
    “But if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice: choose this day that which pleaseth you, whom you would rather serve, whether the gods which your fathers served in Mesopotamia, or the gods of the Amorrhites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

  5. Armi Santos-Enriquez says

    I am reminded of St. John Bosco’s dream. The pope will lead the boat through the tempest and be safe between the two pillars of the Eucharist and Mary. I would add no. 5, a challenge for those especially determined: take up the Five Saturdays devotion as urgently requested by Our Lady of Fatima.

  6. Ben Vail says

    I write to you as a confused, recent convert to the Catholic Church. I agree with your assessment of the many challenges to the faith today. It is especially concerning that threats to the faith exist in the broader culture (which is to be expected) but also within the Church. What to do when we read reports just from this week about efforts by bishops and cardinals to undermine settled Church teaching on the family at the upcoming October synod? You write that we should “lash ourselves to the deck of the Barque of Peter,” and I am committed to remain in full communion with the Holy Father — and yet I am confused by some of the Pope’s words and actions (and lack of words and actions). Do the four solutions/responses you propose amount to a kind of privatization of the faith, a retreat into personal prayer and devotion? I will remain fervent in prayer, study, and the rosary — but I feel quite a lone in doing this. It is hard to find a good parish where one is fortified in one’s faith. There are liturgical abuses even at my diocese’s cathedral. Believe me, my life would be much simplified if I stopped reading the news and learning about the crumbling of the culture and the Faith … is the solution to turn inward, to stick my head in the sand with rosary in my hand? As I said, I am confused!

    • Pat_h says

      Ben, take heart. At any one time, there is always turmoil, even often within the Church. If you are a student of history, you’ll find that there have been predictions of the downfall of the Church or the downfall of the orthodox view of the faith since basically day one. They always prove wrong, and typically the end result of any period of turmoil is a massive revival of the Faith.

      I think that this period of turmoil stretches back further than we realize, as like most things of this type, we don’t really realize the onset of them until decades later. In my view, something went wrong post World War Two, but I can’t determine what it was. It might have had to do with the increase in wealth in Europe that came on in the late 50s and 60s, combined with the onset of pharmaceuticals that allowed us to frustrate pregnancy. These combined seem to have caused an overall desire on the part of many to turn their back on God so that they could could worship their urges or comfort. I think that this was worse in Europe than in the US in part because Europe had a long history of political movements that were highly hostile to Christianity and because certain branches of Christianity were either highly associated with the state (such as the Lutheran churches in Scandinavia) or were highly associated with distinct cultures. All this contributed to a reduction in people’s identity with their Faith as they became richer, the State took over for the Church, and as their cultural identities weakened from regional to continental.

      Or so I think.

      In North America we’ve seen it come on in a different from, but it’s been long running. Faith remains strong here, but our long running cultural habit of being highly independent on everything has allowed us to be comfortable, for a long time, with picking and choosing aspects of our Faith as we will. Now we’re seeing the end results.

      In a couple of instances of this, the Church, which is of course made up of human beings, took a wrong step in my view. In the US the more liberal nature of society in the 60s expressed itself in the Church in the 1970s, and Priests that went through the seminary in that period were, in my view, often poorly formed. And the rank and file that came through religious education in that period were badly Catechized. This reflected a new liberal thinking, and it was a mistake. We see that same thinking still at work in the Church in Germany. But we don’t in the US. In the US that’s been largely corrected. We still have badly formed Priests in some diocese and a generation that was badly Catechized, but they’re like the rabbit in the snake, a phenomenon that will pass through. By my observation, the young are better formed and more knowledgeable than their parents and new priests are orthodox and knowledgeable.

      In Europe, I think we see the same things, but they’re behind us.

      On the Pope, we need to pray for the Holy Father. He’s still working into his role. We need to remember that the Church is eternal and protected against error, but Popes are not, and are only infallible when speaking Ex Cathedra, which they hardly ever do. Some Popes are great, some not so much, but the Church will endure no matter what, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, even Popes who people had reason to doubt about often came around spectacularly.

      • BV says

        Dear Pat_h, thanks for your reply. I am a student of history, and I understand your point about conflict and crisis within the Church and between the Church and the culture in every era. During the time of St. Catherine of Sienna, the Church was riven by rival claimants and parties to the papacy, and the pope had moved away from Rome. During the time of St. Athanasius, many bishops and priests had embraced the heresy of Arianism. This leads me to my concrete, personal question: what is a simple layman to do under such conditions? If you are a parishioner in the AD 300s and your bishop is an Arian heretic, should you go to Mass at his cathedral? What do you do if there is no orthodox parish nearby? How do you raise your kids in an ecclesiastical environment where priests and catechists are teaching things contrary to the faith? These questions may apply to Catholics today in Germany, the USA, and throughout the West: what if your priest or even bishop is one of those advocating “same-sex marriage” and teaches that there is no such thing as hell and Satan is not a person but just a symbol for the general evil in the world? I agree with Sam’s article that we should pray the Rosary and make a Holy Hour — but as Christians should we just do these personal, private devotions? What about communal life and liturgy in this era of apostasy and confusion?

        • Pat_h says

          “This leads me to my concrete, personal question: what is a simple layman to do under such conditions?”

          I started to type out one reply, but didn’t feel it carefully enough thought out or phrased, and I kind of hoped that others might comment before me.

          Here’s my thoughts.

          1. Pray always, and draw yourself closer to the Church. The closer you are to the Church, the easier the storms are to weather.

          2. Remember that we already know the Church will persevere. And by that, we know that the Catholic Church will, with that Church having the Bishop of Rome at its head. That doesn’t mean that every Pope is great, but it does mean that the Church itself will be preserved free from error, and that no Pope will change doctrine or make an erroneous statement Ex Cathedra.

          Because of this, we need to remember to avoid being drawn into schisms, near schisms, or groups that seek to separate themselves in some fashion, or away from things that are grounded in the Magisterium or that seek to set themselves apart from the Church and the Pontiff. This is true whether or not such movements seem grounded in doctrine or not, and whether they are from the “right” or the “left”. In other words, a person shouldn’t be drawn to groups like the SSPX or to a group such as found in Denver, which holds Roman Catholic like Masses in a Lutheran Church for those Catholics who approve of same gender attraction.

          If we have a Priest who is preaching outside of the Magisterium, from any direction, remember that the Church is eternal but Priestly assignments are not. But also remember that Holy Orders are valid in spite of the person who holds them. So a person can receive valid sacraments from a Priest who doesn’t even believe in them, as long as the form is correct. If a concern is significant enough, approach the Priest or if that doesn’t work, approach his superior. You have then done what you need to do.

          One thing I think for all of us is to act Catholic, and by that I mean to act small “o” orthodox Catholic. One of the great problems we’ve seen develop since the 1960s was that a concept developed that 1) our role as evangelists amounted solely to silently giving example, and 2) we could be Catholics in our private lives but Americans in our public lives. We have to be Catholics all the time. That makes us an other, but that other is more attractive than we realize, even if we suffer for it.

          Indeed, one thing I’d note is that the Church is often spectacularly successful when repressed or in opposition. Poland was hugely Catholic when it was a Communist country, as it was the virtuous “other”. Ireland stood out as a Catholic island in a sea of Protestantism up until it sought to become a “modern” European country, when it sought to exchange its “other” for wealth. American Catholics were very obviously a set successful demographic when the were Catholics first, and Americans second, but once we exchanged that position to be part of the club, starting with JFK’s campaign for President, we began to exchange our beliefs for belonging.

          My thoughts,anyhow.

    • Follower of Christ (w/struggles and faults aplenty) says

      Not speaking for Sam, but I am also a recent convert. All I can say is follow the Magisterium and do not be distracted by the heretics within (numerous European Cardinals) the Church. Read the Prayer to St. Michael (long version) and it starts to clear. Sam is right on track!

    • Larry says

      Jesus promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church. Secular media does not understand our Church and frames our discussions at the level of synods and councils as a political fight between “conservatives” and “progressives.” The Holy Spirit leads, guides and protects our Church! Be not afraid!

  7. Clare says

    Reminds me of the dream of St John Bosco, the one about the ship being steered between the two pillars of Mary and the Eucharist

    • Pat_h says

      I actually hadn’t read that until you mentioned it. Hopeful reading, really.

      His path to Hell one was very interesting also.

  8. Nori says

    Thank you for your article. It means a lot knowing that there are more Catholics who feel as I do. I am confused, frustrated, disappointed and at times downright angry. However, I also believe in my heart that what the Church is going through is necessary.

    Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict reminded us of the beauty, splendor and wisdom of the Church and its traditions. I believe that they were sent to remind our generation of the True teachings of the Church.Those who even in a small way gave ear to their words or allowed themselves the time to be enlightened by what our beloved Popes wrote were, in fact ,strengthened and prepared for this day.

    As Sam wrote, we have to holdfast and weather this storm because the Lord has already triumphed…. The Church may become small in a few years time, but it will remain standing. I can’t help but be inspired by our fellow Christians who suffer even unto death for the sake of their faith….

  9. Evil Prospers in Silence says

    “A far better and holier solution, the solution of the saints, is to pray and sacrifice twice as much as we point out error.” What saints are you taking about? Many of the saints took action against heresy or other attacks. Some were cloistered, but others had to speak up and defend the Church from attacks within and without.

    What do you make of the saying that “the only thing evil needs is for good men to stay silent?”

    And what if Jesus, St. John the Baptist, St. Paul, et. al. would have simply “prayed and sacrificed” instead of identifying error? Indeed, preaching the Gospel is reducible to prayer and sacrifice. Yes, they are part of the solution, but action is often needed. That is like saying, we will pray and sacrifice that a Church be built in our neighborhood. But when the time comes to build it, we will just continue praying and sacrificing. The Church would never get built.

    • Sam Guzman says

      I actually agree with you that many saints spoke out against evil. But all of their efforts were bathed in prayer and intense striving for holiness. My concern is that many Catholics see the problems in the Church, and instead of praying or sacrificing for the Holy Father, or redoubling their efforts to become saints, they stop short at leaving angry or despairing comments on blogs. How do I know this is the tendency? Because I have done it myself. It is much easier to complain that to conquer yourself and become a saint.

      I was recently reading about St. Dominic, who confronted the spread of the dangerous Albigensian heresy. Ultimately, his preaching and and evangelical actions helped save thousands of souls. But all who knew him knew that the power in his efforts was not accidental. Dominic was effective because he first and foremost sought to conquer himself and become a saint, and accordingly God poured out an abundance of grace on him. It was said that his penances, fasts, and prayers were so intense that some wondered that he didn’t die. I assure you that if all Catholics took personal sanctity as seriously as St. Dominic, the Church would look very different right now.

      Look, I agree that we must act and speak to fight heresy. But our efforts will only be so much empty noise and wasted energy if we are not praying intensely, sacrificing intensely, and striving to become saints. My comment was intended to counteract the human tendency to passively complain. The proper order is: First fight for holiness as if your soul depended on it (because it does). Pray and sacrifice like you are utterly helpless without God (because you are). And then, only then, speak out.

  10. Follower of Christ (w/struggles and faults aplenty) says

    Been off all blogs/internet for past 9 days for major surgery. What was supossed to be 3-4 days has turned into 9+ days and has given me lots of time to reflect. At rock bottom, as they were getting ready for another procedure I started praying the Rosary and immediately Mother Mary was with me.

    This was first blog I went to and wow Sam you hit the nail on the head. Great insight. Thanks!

  11. Amfortas says

    We seem to all so easily forget that Christ did not come down to ‘save the world’. He came to lead individuals to Heaven. He is the Way, the Truth and the Light. He made no promises about saving everyone or even most people. That is up to individuals. We have free will and must choose for ourselves. Most will choose not to go to Heaven. The ‘world’ will fall. That has been shown to us in Revelations. The Church will prevail against the attacks of Hell but the cost will be enormous. It will be an ‘enormity’ that shakes even Heaven.

    Revelations tells us that Christ Himself will unseal all the troubles that fall upon us and eventually return ‘In Glory’ to put paid to all the wickedness. The ‘world’ as we know it will be destroyed. Christ Himself will rebuild it.

    Pray for your soul and those of all you know that they and you will be found righteous and true. Pray to Mary for her intercession and protection. Pray to Jesus for his Mercy for our own sins and failings. He knows them and He knows those who turn to Him and say ‘Yes, Lord’. Your soul will be saved as all around you disintegrates. Your physical being may well go down with the rest of the world, beheaded, crucified, burned, jailed, ostracised, sued, villified. But HANG FAST to Faith and Love and Truth. Follow the Way. Live the Truth. Keep your eye firmly on the Light.

    Many are the occasions when the Church has seen darkness and destruction all around it. Many are the times when Satan has attcked right inside the Church. But they were not the End of the World. The next time, perhaps even this time, it may well be.

    Hell will fill. So will Purgatory. Pray that His Mercy is given to you. His Will be done.

  12. Stephen says

    Pope St. John Paul II counseled us to reject fear when he said,“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Now, we do not know what we will catch. The net may offer us the problems of our world and our response is to help lead the world into the light with our calm, strong and sincere guidance. Where do we get the strength? “Pray always,” is some of the best advice I have heard. Prayer sustains us and nourishes us to battle on. I have recently come back to the Rosary and strive to pray it daily. My morning runs used to be a time to dwell on the past or anticipate the coming day. Now I pray a Rosary as I run and feel more prepared for the challenges the day offers.

  13. aahill says

    There is a temptation to retreat. I’m a liturgical music director, and it would easy to keep my view narrowly focused on just my personal prayer life and the liturgy of my home parish. But we are not called to hide, but to stand forward and proclaim the faith of Christ’s Church. The early martyrs found a kind of giddy joy in their persecution and martyrdom. Let’s go beyond JP II’s exhortation to “be not afraid!” Let’s have some fun HOLDING FAST in the public square, come what may. It will be comforting to do so with strong Catholic brothers and sisters around me.

  14. Rosie says

    I try to say a rosary every day, I usually do it while walking or driving. I am going to try to combine prayer and sacrifice and kneel to say my rosary and not try to combine it with something I would do anyway.

  15. Fred Gonzalez says

    This is an excellent piece of work done by a man who is very close to the Lord Jesus Christ. I do thank you for what you have written here. Although, my thoughts are a lot more liberal and much less fundamental then what you have laid down. I see the Old Testament as being very much a fundamentalist piece of art for us to read in black and white. I see the New Testament as a beautiful compilation of metaphors testifying to the coming of Christ. This is where we differ dramatically in your writing. I believe that my Lord Jesus Christ comes in a blink of God’s eye every moment of our life. It is not this event that we are waiting for and try to find somewhere in the Book of Revelations or in a writing or at the pulpit or from the Pope himself. It is in our heads, hearts and even more closely in our souls as research and feel the Holy Spirit daily. Peace out my sisters and brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  16. Lorenzo says

    It’s always the Germans who has a corrupt way of thinking: friedrich nietzsche, hitler, German philosophers and now the German bishops….yet I don’t think it is coincidence that the German bishops are promoting heresy while we have a good German pope like Benedict XVI who is a very good defender of the faith.


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