Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
by Rob and Kathy Hayes
For the last couple of months, it has been very challenging to be a faithful Catholic. There’s been a steady drumbeat of bad news about scandals in the Church and betrayal by priests and others in the Church’s hierarchy. We feel tremendous sorrow for the victims and are gravely disappointed by those in positions of trust who may have covered up these abuses. It can be tempting to either retreat into ourselves and shut the world out or to be angry and frustrated.
While it may seem like we are at rock bottom, we can take consolation in knowing that our Church has survived almost 2,000 years in spite of human weakness and our fallen nature. Giving into a sense of despair or anger betrays the hope that should be part of our lives as Christians. And as Peter said when others were walking away from Jesus: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Many of us have been touched in some way by these crises. The scandals and lack of trust in our church leadership affects generations of both our church family and our domestic church. For us, our initial reactions of anger and shock turned into reflection on what can we do as one person, as a family, as a parish, and as a church.
In our response, we should start with our domestic church. How are we a visible witness and a light for the world? How are we renewing our commitment to and faith in Christ? Have we considered focusing on prayer and fasting as Mark suggests (This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting, Mark 9:29)? As we look around, we are inspired by signs of a more active laity, parishes asking for and holding more holy hours and retreats, and the laity demanding accountability from its shepherds.
Within our family, we shared on our family GroupMe app the many different articles about and opportunities for prayer and fasting, such as #SackClothandAshes. We prayed intentionally for the many good priests (the overwhelming majority of them) that we have met along our faith journey. Within our parish, we had a Holy Hour for reparation, which brought out parishioners in great numbers. We have women committing to the Seven Sister ministry praying a Holy Hour each day for our pastor.
As God always does, he brings good out of the worst circumstances. Our personal prayer lives have grown during this time. While we can all become cynical and focus on the worst around us, we need to get back to that hope and joy which, through us, shines the love of God to our society. We need to appreciate the gifts around us each day – a beautiful early morning sunrise, a crisp autumn day, our children, our grandchildren, each day we can spend with each other, the gift of faith, and the Eucharist.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand accountability from our Church leaders. We should continue to do so. However, despite our disappointment in some of the clergy, we must remember that our faith and hope is in God and in His eternal promises, not in any particular priest, bishop, or even the Pope. Who is our stronghold and refuge? “But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22).
When we are tempted to despair that evil will triumph, we should remember Matthew 16:18 in which Jesus promised that the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against the Church.
As Sam from the Lord of Rings (a favorite with our kids) says: “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.“ Like Frodo, it is helpful to surround ourselves with a band of friends like Sam, Aragorn, and Legolas who are willing to persevere with us through trying times and help us on this long journey to eternal life.
Let’s fight with our prayer and fasting. Let’s keep the Faith.