Published in the July/August, 2003, issue of Saint Austin Review
In early February of this year a storm of banner headlines raged in the world’s media: “Harry Potter Is Ok With The Pontiff” declared the Chicago Sun Times. “Pope Approves Potter” declared the Toronto Star. Throughout North America, England, Australia, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and points beyond, the press and e-media proclaimed “Vatican okays Harry Potter” (News24, South Africa), “Vatican gives blessing to Harry Potter” (Scotsman), “Pope Sticks Up for Potter Books” (the BBC); “Vatican: Harry Potter’s OK with Us” (CNN Asia), and so forth.
Little attention was paid to the fact that this “news” was not in any way representative of positions held on the matter by the Pope or by his congregations in the Curia. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that the Holy Father has been spending his free time reading the ongoing adventures of the world’s favorite boy sorcerer.
Michael O’Brien: No. I was overwhelmed by the realization that we in the West have a very limited understanding of the dynamics of what is happening in the former Soviet Union. That applies especially to the spiritual aspect of the emerging society in the Russian federation.
Could you elaborate?
O’Brien: I had gone there with a certain Western concept of post-Soviet society: a society in crisis, organized crime rising, political instability, starving people. These are definitely elements of the situation, but what most Western analysts discount is the element of grace, the fact that Russia is consecrated to the Mother of God. Russia belongs to Our Lady and she is an instrument of grace for the rebirth of the Church there. I realized that the rebirth of the faith of Catholics and Russian Orthodox is complex and cannot be reduced to simple theorems, to political and economic factors. It is a spiritual war zone, one which confuses our normal categories of analysis.
“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Because she was with child, she cried aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky: it was a huge dragon, flaming red, with seven heads and ten horns; on his head were seven crowns. His tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, ready to devour her child as soon as it was born.”
The early Church Fathers taught that this passage has manifold meanings. On one level it refers to Mary of Nazareth and the birth of Christ; on another it refers to the Church as she labors to bear salvation into the world. This child is, in a sense, every child, and is the offspring of the Church. She is to carry this child as the image of God, transfigured in Christ, and to bring him forth into eternal life. She groans in agony, and the primeval serpent hates her, for he knows that her offspring, protected and grown in her womb, will crush his head. On still another level, the Woman of Revelation is Our Lady the Mother of the Church, mother of all peoples and all individual souls. As such, she exercises a particularly urgent mission to preserve the young from the deceptions of the ancient enemy of mankind.