At Sunday Mass, we hear St. Paul pray that the Lord would direct our hearts to the endurance of Christ. And we hear a passage about the endurance of the Maccabean martyrs. Not to mention the poor widow we hear about in the gospel reading. She had to endure not just one husband, but seven. [Spanish]
Last Sunday morning, they ran the New York City marathon. It’s a hard one. Involves all five boroughs of the city. In Boston, they have Heartbreak Hill. In the New York marathon, the hardest hills are the bridges—over the Verrazano Narrows, over the East River, the Harlem River.
Sometimes people reach a phase of foggy, desperate fatigue, at the outer limits of their strength. Muscles simply refuse to continue to operate in the usual manner. “Look, buddy, you have depleted every reserve of cellular oxygen I have. I cannot carry you any further. You own this cramp, my friend.” Or normal digestion and water absorption cease. I don’t mean to get too graphic here, but they line up a lot of porta-potties at Mile 20 for a reason.
We hear the Lord Jesus speak of the patriarchs–the original fathers of the nation of Israel, with whom our covenant with God began. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob endured. They made some huge mistakes, to be sure. Chapters 12-50 of Genesis tell their story, and that part of the Bible hardly reads like a moral instruction manual.
But the patriarchs of Israel endured in faith. They never gave up on the original divine promise. Wars and famines came their way, confused them, and obscured God’s plan from their eyes. They struggled with dishonesty and treachery in their own families—and in their own souls. Jacob lost his beloved son Joseph, apparently forever. Jacob nearly despaired.
But one thing remained a given, through every ordeal. Almighty God has a plan. The patriarchs of Israel knew that God had chosen them as instruments in His mysterious plan to send a Messiah.
Now, some of us old people can remember back as far as 2002. The Boston Globe began exposing the hypocritical corruption of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in articles published almost 18 years ago. And those weren’t the first articles which an American newspaper had published on the topic. People in Louisiana had known about it for fifteen years before that.
We old people remember how, in 2002, the bishops said, “Zero tolerance!” “Child protection!” And we remember how much we wanted to believe. We wanted to believe that our bishops knew how to shepherd the flock.
We wanted to trust “the corporation,” so to speak. Our company, American Catholic Church, Inc. After all, the company had such a charming spokesman back in ’02. The avuncular New York Irishman with the twinkle in his eye. Newly minted Cardinal. Theodore McCarrick.
Then, the summer of 2018. Turns out, McCarrick himself: guilty. And they published a report in Pennsylvania. 900-some pages. The bishops’ promises turned out to have been: more of a cover-up than anything else. Another cover-up.
We endured. We’re still here. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob endured, believing in the living God. Through deserts, through wars, through famines. They found the strength somehow. Us, too. We’re still here.
Guess what? Priests and bishops in states other than just Pennsylvania did grievous wrongs. We will have a report here in Virginia, too. The Attorney General’s office has worked on it for well over a year now. Investigating the clergy files of our diocese, and the Diocese of Arlington. Interviewing survivors. Following threads of evidence. The report will come out, sometime relatively soon. I think we can reasonably assume: the greater the level of conspicuous silence about this report from our diocese, the worse the report will be. Which means: another tidal wave of painful truth will soon crash down on us. Because the diocese basically acts like it isn’t happening.
How can we continue to endure this? Where can we find the strength?
1. Daily prayer to maintain a supernatural point-of-view. Decades of catastrophic incompetence at the highest levels of authority in the Church: Yes, and soon to be proved yet again, here in our state. But it doesn’t touch the realities of faith. God is still Our Father in heaven. Jesus is still the Christ. The Mass is still the Mass; all the sacraments are still the sacraments.
2. Rejoice in the good involved. When the truth comes to light, that is good. When victims have the clarity and courage to call evil evil, Jesus triumphs in them. When a whole community faces facts and longs for justice, the Kingdom of God gets fortified.
Our Virginia Attorney General’s office is actually in the process of doing us Catholics a great service. The investigation is not our enemy. Getting the facts out, to be faced soberly: that is exactly what we need, what the Church needs.
3. One more. I for one will no longer defer to ecclesiastical authority, without an expressed reason. I promised obedience to my superior; I have given it; I will continue to do so, when there’s a clear reason. The bishop sent me to Rocky Mount-Martinsville. Twice. For good reason. I thanked him both times.
But, in my opinion, we have to change one of our American Catholic customs. The custom of assuming that bishops and their staffs are knowledgeable and competent. We have learned the hard way: that ain’t true.
Our Church will endure. The Son of God promised that. But whether or not it will endure in the United States depends on our endurance. Endurance in faith. And endurance in standing up for what is right.
17 thoughts on “Endurance”
I imagine many of the lay people feel a sense of “powerlessness”…but our power is in praying constantly– for the church, for our priests, and for ourselves that we may have the willingness and strength to endure through this difficult time. The church will endure, and will heal when the time of “cleansing” has finished. Our power is also in the study of God’s word to us so that we may not be led astray. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church in her support and vigor and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting font of spiritual life.”  May we go to Mass, not out of duty, but out of love for God, and with an eagerness in our hearts.
Oh Father – As you told me once – you can continue to smile because of God. I smile because of that!
I more than appreciate these last sentences of yours on Endurance: ‘Our Church will endure. The Son of God promised that. But whether or not it will endure in the United States depends on our endurance. Endurance in faith. And endurance in standing up for what is right.’
I am so grateful for the time you spend on educating us on this matter – Yet you continually offer something greater – Your example of Loving the Lord.
I know nothing basically – of what your obedience to your superiors may be – but I do look to you for truth and I know I receive that. You were sent to Rocky Mount because WE NEED YOU.
I’m just a lowly sinner who continues to strive – but Father – I support you and the courage it must take to speak truths as you do. Not just on this matter but so many things. Thank you.
Judy, you left out Mark’s #3: he will no longer defer to ecclesiastical authority without an expressed reason, because he can’t assume the bishops’ competence. “Endure in standing up for what is right,” he said, as well as in faith; otherwise the church in the U.S. will NOT endure.
Lay people, not just priests, must stand up for what is right. Where are the American Catholic laypeople standing up against the bishops? Jesus never said, “If you pray and go to mass you don’t have to do anything else.”
Sheila, Amen to your comments. Fr. Mark’s courage in speaking out is an inspiration to all of us. I pray for him, as I know so many others do, that God will protect him. I have learned so much from him. He is an exceptional priest.
Ann, I did not think it was appropriate for me to comment on #3, which I felt was a very personal declaration. Fr. Mark knows I support him in whatever he decides is the right thing for him to do. I admire his courage in speaking out, as I always have and always will.
I think most lay people do not believe that anything will be accomplished by writing to the “hierarchy” about our concerns. I have considered writing a personal letter to our Bishop and to the Pope expressing my concerns. I have not made a decision yet. I realize a letter to the Pope would most likely get no further than a trash can, but if I felt that was what God wanted me to do, I would obey. Logic should not out-weigh faith in God’s leading.
It was not my intent to imply that praying and going to Mass were all we need to do. These are the “blocks” upon which we build. The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” — in faith that God hears. The Catholic Mass is where I worship God and receive through His love and grace the strength to face life and its problems every day. Hopefully I witness to my faith through my daily life decisions.
The Catholic Church today is paying a terrible price for the sins of the past. It will not be resolved quickly. So I pray with faith in God, faith in priests like Fr. Mark, and ask God to show me if there is more He desires I should do.
No, Judy, not an individual letter. Get a bunch of people together and go see Bishop Knestout. Tell him, when his group of bishops goes to see the pope for their Ad Limina visit, to ask the pope for the McCarrick report, as Mark directed in his Ad Limina blog post. (You can leave out the swear words.) Other bunches of laypeople should do the same thing with the other bishops in Knestout’s group. What if all those bishops asked the pope for the McCarrick report??!!
Ann, thanks for the suggestion, and I will seriously think about it. I imagine there are others who would be willing to go with me.
Maybe im wrong but i think more good comes out of the Va report and the other states as well. Two things… one i think it will show just how many good priests there are (leadt i hope it does). Yes there will be a lot of names a lot of details im sure we all wish we could forget, but at the same tiime…. we all have to think about how many names arent on the list…. how many good priests and religious there are…. also…. and i dont mean you or even just va….but im sure there are many parents who will skim the reports for those who have worked with their kids…. God willing it will help to ease some minds.
The catechism teaches that evil occurs because God will use it for good… its hard when its in the middle of all this but Good will happen and we may well end us as better catholics….or hey in Gods mercy maybe it will shave some time off our stay in purgatory….
As for your number 3…. you will always have my support and prayers….i can certainly see why youre going in that direction…
@ Ann and All. The only sure way to get corporate’s undivided attention is by cutting of the money supply! A close second is make Management Members accountable for violating laws of Nation and State, tried in a court of law, and if found guilty, warehoused accordingly. If a local non-profit were founded, it could easily pay the bills for the local parish community/priest and diminish the Bank Draft Bishop has in YOUR Parish checking account. Who says anyone has to have a beautiful building for Holy Mass? If Priests could Pray the Holy Mass on Iwo Jima under enemy fire, any large room would be grand.
You are right, briteyyez, that’s what I ask people who talk endlessly about the current state of the Catholic Church: Do you realize how many good priests there are?
Hopefully, the rules and safeguards that have recently been put into place will strongly discourage would be molesters.
I look at the full page of seminarians in the recent Catholic Virginian and I say a prayer of Thanksgiving.
Hey lori….yea i was glad to see the same in the cleveland diocese…. i can only hope its a good sign…at leadt three of the local catholic churches here even have multiple deacons….which is weird to me still, but is nice to see…
Your vow of obedience does not preclude you from being clever as a serpent, and gentle as a dove. You’re cut from a feisty cloth (tip of the hat to Ann), but the great reformers of Mother Church knew how to be passive-aggressive in the Lord’s work.
Oh my living God, that is a righteous manifesto. Remember in the Return of the King when Théoden exhorts his despairing soldiers against all odds, “Yes, but we will meet them in battle, nonetheless”? Or when Gabriel declares to Mary “for nothing will be impossible for God”? No human understanding could predict that God will be victorious, but His will transcends our feeble ability to see it done.
Judy R.: your recipe is sublime…pray without ceasing, study Holy Scripture, attend Mass in eagerness and love. Beautiful.
What if “Take up your cross and follow Me” doesn’t always, or even necessarily, imply suffering? I realize Scripture scholars would scoff, but what if the next layer down was that Jesus meant “offer yourself and all you do, say, and have to the Father in thanksgiving for His infinite love and mercy….in imitation of my doing the same on the real Cross”? That’s the “love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength” part. Then what are we offering? Well, all the kind, compassionate, loving and merciful things we do for others. That’s the “and love your neighbor as yourself” part. So they’re conjoined in meaning and purpose. We do the latter as an offering of the former. And I’m certain our little kindnesses don’t hurt quite as much as giant nails being hammered into our flesh. (And I emphatically acknowledge those who suffer unspeakable crimes against their minds and bodies and souls and the offering they make in surreal suffering.)
Next layer down on that Cross onion: Don’t be chickens**t about bravely facing hardship and suffering when it comes along.
Random…the hardest part for me is that we live in a kingdom and I’m not the king. (I guess I’m not alone in that difficulty.)
Nice little trick of the demon assigned to me right there to lead me to fall into self-pity. I could feel the whole Host of Heaven “whispering” to me on that one. I never understood when my evangelical friends said they could hear God’s voice. But what if their “hearing” God is the same as my “feeling” God? Kind of a breakthrough.