“Beloved, do not be startled
at the trial by fire that is taking
place among you, as something
strange were happening to you.’
I Pet 4:12
Well, what now? Where do we go from here? It is obtuse of any priest or prelate not to speak of the dark Crisis enveloping the Church. Even more obtuse to airbrush its severity, or call it a “rabbit-hole” as did one of the Church’s Princes. The Crisis metastasized a week ago with the publication of the history-making letter of the esteemed Papal Nuncio and former Governor of the Vatican State, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.
Similarly, only the most indifferent Catholic cannot be deeply concerned. Of course, there will be those ‘spiritual’ Catholics who remain above this fray, tsk-tsking at those febrile Catholics who worry endlessly of such things. Then there are those besotted Catholics soaked in the ‘spirit of Vatican II’, who find that all this talk of sexual ‘inappropriateness’ a distraction from the burning issues of the “environment and migrants” (again, a remark by one of the Church’s Princes.) Such a breathtakingly shocking statement merely confirms Chesterton’s chilling, albeit prescient, warning, “The great march of destruction will go on. Everything will be denied…Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.”
But, where do we go from here? To the only place we can go – to Christ and His Holy Church. We take refuge in her unchanging teachings, while stubbornly ignoring those teachers who lobby for changing the eternal Word for words that express better ideas. After all, a half century of that fatal tradeoff has produced the fertile ground for this Crisis to blossom, like a mushroom cloud. Isn’t it odd that some of the highest authorities in the Church have chosen to call Catholics utterly faithful to Christ’s permanent truth, ‘ideoligized.’ Crisis, indeed.
For us ordinary Catholics, five jeweled divine Catholic truths will be our manna in this desert.
1. Our Faith is in Christ, not in priests or bishops, or even popes. As faithful Catholics we depend upon those priests for the grace of the Sacraments. Without the Pope, whom St. Catherine of Sienna teaches holds the “Key of the Blood,”, we are bereft of the comforts of Christ. But our Faith does not rest on them. Our Lord guides us: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not.” (Mt 23:1-3). It is a luxury to have holy priests and bishops. Yet sometimes it pleases God to withdraw that luxury. He has, many times in the course of the Church’s history. This is one of those times.
2. We must cease staring at the crisis. Staring at it injures the soul. Not that Catholics should retreat into a childish and pietistic “see no evil’ posture. That is neither mature or Catholic. But they should avoid an obsessive curiosity about the details of this grotesque plague. Catholics should remain informed, judicious and intelligent as they pursue the facts. Then, calmly make their judgments. Unafraid. But dwelling upon this Crisis leaves a Catholic exposed to the kind of penalty suffered by Sarah, Lot’s wife. As they fled from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God commanded that they not look back. Sarah did, and she turned to salt. Beware.
3. We are obliged to come to the assistance of our Holy Church. There are clearly three ways to support her. First, prayer and penance. The second form of assistance, prayer and penance. But there is a third way: prayer and penance. Aside from this, many of us are called by God to do more. Our Lord expects some of us, maybe more than some, to act and act dramatically. That will depend upon one’s obligations to state in life. Those acts should be courageous, prudent, measured, smart and respectful. If Our Lord is indeed summoning a Catholic to such an apostolic labor, shirking it would be a betrayal.
4. We serve as the humble servants of God’s pleasure. But that Divine pleasure depends upon His timetable, not ours. There is not a single Catholic who does not want this Crisis to be settled tomorrow. Why not? The wounds to Mother Church are unbearable. But this may not be God’s pleasure. His wise Design may have it differently. So we wait upon His pleasure, though it may not be ours. This commits us to a heroic form of patience, a virtue not foreign to faithful Catholics. T.S. Eliot gives this Catholic mandate poetic beauty in Burnt Norton: “For us there is only the trying/ the rest is not our business.” However, we are not called to a dour endurance, but a joyous expectation. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit – therefore it is our birthright. It is rooted in an absolute certainty that Mother Church is headed toward a new springtime of beauty and holiness. But when? That’s not our business.
5. We must consider ourselves privileged. From all eternity God willed that you and I be present at this crushing moment in the life of His Church. Our thrice Holy God foresaw that it would only be the likes of you and me who would best serve the Church, at this time and in this circumstance. Such a thought is incomprehensible. Me? But nothing happens by accident. All is ordained by God’s Providence. In that case, we are indeed privileged. To recognize that God brought us to this time, precisely you and me, should make us eager to accomplish great things for His Church. Overlooking this privilege would not only be ingratitude, but a sin.
In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote the memorable first sentence, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” For Catholics, this is the worst of times. Few moments in two thousand years has such ugly corruption reached to the commanding heights of the Church. But, at the same time, it is the best of times. Nothing could be better than the God given opportunity to show Him heroic fidelity. To be present, as we watch Our Lord show us what He meant when he proclaimed,” Behold I make all things new.”