Coming days will see the present Church transform itself into a Remnant Church. I can imagine many readers skipping this article just because of this name. We cannot blame them because many people still believe that the Remnant Church is something like a sect or cult that gives teachings not compatible with what the Catholic Church teaches. So it needs clarification before proceeding further.
The first reference about a remnant is contained in the letter of St Paul to the Romans. ‘So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace’ (Rom 11:5). He compares this remnant with those seven thousand Israelites who exhibited steadfast loyalty to the true God, even while the lion’s share of their brethren strayed away.
While crossing the desert their number was around six hundred thousands (Num 1:46) excluding women and children. By the time of King David, their number had increased to 1.3 million with Israel accounting for 0.8 million and Judea home to the rest (2 Sam 24:9).
But after one and a half centuries Elijah lamented about a large-scale apostasy that has swept through the chosen nation. Only a miniscule portion, a meager seven thousand, remained faithful to the true God. Barring them all Israelites had bowed to Baal or kissed him (Rom 11:4). This seven thousand was the first Remnant.
If the remnant in the Roman Church reminded Paul of this earlier remnant, these two remnants should remind us of the remnant that is being prepared for the end times. Echoing the words of Paul the Apostle, another Paul asserted that it is essential for this remnant to withstand till the very end. One year before his death, in 1977, St Pope Paul VI said: “What strikes me, when I think of the Catholic world, is that within Catholicism, there seems sometimes to predominate a non- Catholic way of thinking, and it can happen that this non-Catholic thought within Catholicism, will tomorrow become the stronger. But it will never represent the thought of the Church. It is necessary that a small flock subsist, no matter how small it might be”.
To be precise, those belonging to this little flock will be the only ones whom the Lord will see living in faith when he returns. Jesus himself has given a hint towards the limited number of believers who will stay firm in faith during the end days. ‘And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ (Lk 18:8).
Certainly their numbers will be less. Though the Remnant Church cannot take pride in the number of its members, she will be the true Church of the end days. It is interesting that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had prophesied about this remnant church. Long before he became Pope, Cardinal or even a Bishop, to be precise in 1969, he said in a radio broadcast:
“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning … As the number of her adherents diminishes, she will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.
But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. … The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right.”
“It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed.”
When we say ‘ Remnant Church’ it means this ‘little flock’ gathered from all over the world, selected by grace, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. Many saints called them the ‘Apostles of the End Times’.
Let us remember the words of our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who has left us on the last day of 2022 leaving behind a legacy of unflinching loyalty to what the Lord taught us, what the apostles proclaimed, and what the Church upheld through centuries. Let us also remember that at present we are through a difficult journey with the Church that transforms her from a place of pride in wealth, social standing, and number of adherents to a meek and poor Church that has lost much. In spite of being deprived of many privileges, this small Church will, like Elijah, be ‘very zealous for the Lord’ (1 Kings 19:14) as this zeal will be her only asset in those days. As the children of this Remnant Church, we should ignore the temptations to make compromises with the world on the excuse that the majority around us has opted this easy way. It is also our duty not to bend our knees before the idols of this world.
Let it be our constant prayer that we be found worthy to be counted among the ‘Little Flock, aka Remnant Church’ that is in the making.