Maybe because it is Lent, but I have been drawn over the last few days to especially pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
Partly because I am working on a little book called Immortal Combat – The Way of the Warrior Priest which explores the depth of human evil and the power of the cross, but also because I share with so many the worries and troubles of our church at this time.
What came home to me is something which I suppose I already knew in my head, but as usual, the rosary helped these truths make that very long journey from the head to the heart.
It was this: that the Church does in the world today what Jesus did when he was here. The Church is his body alive and active in the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we hold to this belief we like to see the fact that the church therefore does his work of teaching the truth, claiming victory over evil, healing the sick, liberating captives, forgiving sins and delivering those in bondage.
What we do not care to see is that the Church also continues to share in the passion of Christ. She does this through the suffering of individual victim souls and through the individual torments we go through, but the Church also suffers the passion of Christ through persecution and through the sinfulness of her own members.
Think for a moment of the torture Christ went through. It was not only the physical and spiritual torment, but it was also the persecution of the godless state epitomized by Pontius Pilate and Herod. Not only that. It was also the persecution from his own people. It was the crowd who on Sunday praised him and on Friday spat on him. It was his own religious leaders–the scribes and Pharisees–even the High Priest. Worst of all he suffered the betrayal, denial and abandonment of his own dearest friends. Only his mother, John and a few women stood by him.
Look now what is happening to our Catholic Church.
She is going through a time of suffering. Persecuted by the civil authorities, but also persecuted by members of the hierarchy who spit on Christ by their corruption and immorality. She is persecuted by unfaithful priests and theologians who teach rank heresy, subvert the sacraments, promote immorality and worldly values.
She is persecuted by bad priests who trample the sacraments they should hold most dear through their careless liturgies, their self centered lives, their corruption, laziness and immorality. She is persecuted by rock music in church, stupid homilies, brutal architecture, shallow virtues and venal lives.
Jesus is also abandoned by the faithful, who seeing the cruel passion of Our Lord, run for the safety of a church of their own making. They run for the coffee bars and hip hop preaching of the Protestant happy churches or they retreat into traditionalist groups and throw stones at Christ’s church from the safety of their self righteous enclaves. They believe themselves to be the only true and faithful Catholics when, in fact, they have only made a Catholic Church they like better instead of the real Catholic Church which is a sprawling, battered, beaten and humiliated wreck.
As for me and my house….I’m sticking by this suffering church. I’m not going anywhere. Do I like the modernism, the heresy, the immorality, corruption and cover ups? No. I hate it.
Do I like the bad music, the shallow teaching, the stupidity and vanity of the academics, the “Catholic” institutions that have nothing Catholic about them, the media priests who promote sexual perversion and the pink prelates who swan about in Rome? No. I hate it. I hate it all as I hate the agony in the garden, the flogging at the pillar, the crown of thorns, the way of the cross and the death of the Lord.
Can I do anything to stop this cruel passion?
Not much, but at least I am determined not to run away.
I am not going to run away because by his cross and resurrection he has redeemed the world. In a mysterious way the current mess authenticates the Catholic Church. The master said this would happen. He promised that to follow him would mean following him in the way of the Cross, and we so often think this is just a nice inspirational quote from a soft focus poster, or if it is true it might mean that we endure a little bit of suffering at some point and we must offer it up.
I’m afraid it is more than that. It means to be a member of Christ’s Church–his body on earth–is to be caught up in his passion in a far deeper way than any of us imagined.
But we want to run away. We want to abandon him.
Think why his disciples abandoned him: They were not only frightened of the impending suffering, but they were disappointed. They had wanted the triumphant Jesus who was going to usher in the kingdom and defeat the Romans and overturn the corrupt Jewish hierarchy. They wanted the garden, but not the agony in the garden. They wanted to be pillars of this great kingdom. They did not want to witness the scourging at the pillar. They wanted the crown, but not the crown of thorns. They wanted the triumphal procession, not the way of the cross. They wanted a king to reign from a throne, not a king whose throne was a cross.
So it is with the Catholics who leave. It doesn’t matter if they are leaving for the golf course or some Protestant group or for a traditionalist sect of their own devising. The point is they’re leaving.
They don’t like the mess.