Who is Going to Save Our Church?
“Who is going to save our Church? Not bishops, priests and religious. It is up to the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, bishops like bishops and religious like religious”
– Archbishop Fulton Sheen
August 30, 2018
Dear Friends in Christ,
The Holy Spirit hasn’t left us. He walks with us as we navigate through this painful process. It is all God’s plan to shine a light on the sinfulness that the ordained have done to the vulnerable. God wants a healthier, holier Church. We pastors are not holier than the people we serve, and our institutions are not more important than the faithful. We are all called to live out our role, our vocation, our part in building up the Kingdom, the body of Christ. Sadly some of our church leaders have not responded in accordance to our faith. I am angry as I know many of you are. Let’s use that anger as an opportunity for growth, let’s find a path forward out of the pain. Shame and inaction cannot be our response. We cannot be so embarrassed that we forego our mission of bringing people to Christ. Now is the exact right time to evangelize. Christ is our healer, our beacon of hope, our all.
Women have been the backbone of the Church, the “worker bees.” Might I suggest that perhaps it is time for women to have more of a voice in a male-dominated environment. Pope John Paul II said, “It can thus be said that women, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement” (Redemptoris Mater, 46).
One of the beauties of the Catholic Church is our way of naming Mary as our own Mother. We take seriously the words of Jesus on his Cross as he is dying, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27). We have heard some commentators over the last few weeks say that “Mary is weeping” at the state of her Son’s Church. She surely shares our sorrow at the abuse and the cover up done by the ordained children of God. And those of us who are horrified and disgusted at the fact of and details of these crimes can rest our head in our spiritual Mother’s lap and be comforted by her whispers that her Son continues to guide us, continues to love us, continues to send his Spirit to enliven us – individually and communally.
Yet, I heard a commentator this week morph that “weeping” phrase into this: “Mary is sweeping.” Never forget that Scripture and Tradition tell us that Mary has a unique role in the salvation of the world and in the Church Jesus founded. John Paul II wrote that after Christ’s death, Mary’s “motherhood remains in the Church as maternal mediation: interceding for all her children, the Mother cooperates in the saving work of her Son, the Redeemer of the world” (Redemptoris Mater, 40). This mediation for Mary sometimes takes on the form of battle: “for Mary, present in the Church as the Mother of the Redeemer, takes part, as a mother, in that ‘monumental struggle; against the powers of darkness’ which continues throughout human history.” (Redemptoris Mater, 47). We are familiar as Catholics with the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that Mary will crush the serpent. With this evil intertwined in our Church, I suspect that Mary’s righteous indignation has been unleashed. She is certainly helping to sweep the serpents from the dark corners.
As Archbishop Fulton Sheen stated above it is up to the people. I cannot tell you what that means for you, each of you has to find your own path but it should begin with contemplation followed by action. To help with that Bishop Malloy has asked each parish in the Rockford Diocese to offer a Mass of Reparation “to pray for victims and to atone for the failures of episcopal leadership in the Church as well as the sins of sexual abuse by the clergy.” He will hold the Diocesan Mass at St. Peter Cathedral on September 14, 7 pm, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. At St. John Neumann, we will fulfill the Bishop’s request for a local Mass of Reparation, which we will hold on Friday, September 7, at 6:00 pm in the chapel. This is the Vigil of Mary’s birthday. In this way, we can call upon both Mary’s intercession and her indignation to clean our Church of evil.
I have preached on this topic if you would like to listen to those homilies you can find them here.
I pray for Church leaders, for myself and my brother priests, for all of you, and especially for all those who suffered abuse