Can you recall a time in your life when you have been heartbroken? Not in a Rom-Com, eating pints of Ben & Jerry’s kind of way, but in a visceral, body aching, emotions swirling, norm shattering kind of way?
Prior to this summer, it had been some time since I had experienced the latter, crisis inducing kind of heartbreak. I love the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church, and have given myself over to her as a person of faith, wife, mother, and professional minister. This summer, faithful Catholics, Christians and others have been horrified, saddened and angered by the real evil, betrayal of trust, and hypocrisy of identity in Christ that has been exposed in the scandal of Cardinal McCarrick and the seemingly systemic issue that it reveals.
While I know that no institution is perfect, and that the Church is made of many sinners (myself included), I have also put my trust in the Church and its leaders to be light in the world, comfort to the weary, love to the vulnerable, home to the lost. I have seen the goodness of the Church in her ministers, sacraments, and works in the world.
And because nothing that is evil remains hidden, we are seeing what we would prefer not to imagine of the Church.
This is not going to be a long critique, angry fit of pointing fingers, or shout of rage at the Church. I have already shed tears and cried out to God in lament and anger like psalmists before me have.
Rather, I want to offer you my companionship as we move forward, Holy Spirit living within us.
If the horror of the scandal tempts you to leave the Church, I offer this to you: “Once you understand the Eucharist, you can never leave the Church. Not because the Church won’t let you but because your heart won’t let you.” Approaching my parish for Mass this summer, I could feel my heart barricade itself. Shouts from behind the armor I put up: “How dare you! I trusted you!” And even though I didn’t want to go, the truth is, I need Jesus. I need Jesus now more than ever. And it’s Jesus in the Eucharist that keeps me coming back.
If the horror of the scandal tempts you to leave the Church, let’s enter into the lives of the saints. Human institutions have been and will always be imperfect. The Church has gone through trail before, and the saints had a choice- leave, or stay and show the world who the Church is, call the Church back to who she is. Look at Saint Francis of Assisi! Saint Catherine of Siena! These saints cried out to the Church- you are not being who you are! These individuals changed the course of Church history and brought us all into closer relationship with Christ.
If you don’t think that you can be a saint, I think you are wrong. The saints are people created like you and I. When we read about the saints, we come to see how wholly human they are. How they struggled through life- struggled with physical wellness, pride and stubbornness, with their relationships, with being misunderstood and criticized. For all of their imperfection, the saints had the courage to take one step after another, striving through the tides of life, striving toward God. If we actually look at the lives of the saints, what’s shocking is not how unattainable sainthood is, but how bold, definite, and courageous it is.
A friend shared this tweet from Sister B with me earlier this week, “Reflecting on the evil tied to the McCarrick situation (which is truly awful & I am completely horrified by it), I am left with a strong conviction that the laity, more than ever, will be who sanctify & strengthen the Church. Holy men & women, this is your era.”
Out of the darkness, and into the light. The time is now, let’s go be saints.