What hope do we have–we little, disoriented moles, zigging and zagging around our little patches of semi-hospitable earth? We have no hope; we have no solace and no refuge—without the loving kindness of God, the compassion and succor of our Creator. The Sacred Heart of God’s only-begotten Son offers us the love we need, the love that can sustain us. From His Heart flows all-conquering gentleness, understanding, true peace.
The Apostles who founded our Church shared that mystery of divine love with the world. And they met with cruelty and death.
The Roman emperors despised the cult of the Nazarene rabbi. They ordered the wholesale slaughter of Christians, including the two great founders of the Church in Rome, Saints Peter and Paul.
The one, holy, apostolic Roman Catholic Church began in the blood of these Apostles, and their fellow martyred Christians. They went to death in union with the divine Lamb, Who had revealed the tender love of the Creator on His cross.
To this day, the blood shed by Sts. Peter and Paul gives us the true meaning of the phrase “Roman Catholic.” A Roman Catholic lives in Christian communion with the successor of the Apostle who hung upside down on a cross on Vatican hill, condemned by Emperor Nero. A Roman Catholic inherits the holy Tradition of faith, for which St. Peter and St. Paul died in Rome.
The Catholic Church. The tender and compassionate Christ abides, in unadulterated holiness, in His Church, in the Host and Chalice, and in His holy words. We will always find Christ in the Mass.
For me, the great gift of priesthood of this mystery—being able to celebrate Mass—it began in the ugliness of Theodore McCarrick’s destructiveness. But that does not adulterate the gift. It’s still Jesus, every time. Even now, in the solitude of my private Masses as an unjustly suspended priest. Even in my confusion, distraction, and uncertainty about the future—He remains, His open Heart, on the altar.
We seek divine love, divine compassion, in the Church. We find Him, in pure holiness, in the Blessed Sacrament and in His Word. And we find Him, in varying degrees of luminosity, and of eclipse, in all the human aspects of the Church.
Feudalism. A political system in which only the privileged few get to make decisions. Only they have human rights. The rest of the society labors in miserable obscurity as beasts of burden.
The lords never think of their society as “feudal.” They think it’s normal. But the peasants suffer, and they recognize the violent injustice of it.
For many of us, the Catholic Church appears to operate in this way, at this point in history. Having power in the Church makes you “right.” Not having any power means you’re not supposed to talk. When you do–when you have something to say, no matter how reasonable it may be—that spells trouble for you. Because your “duty” is to show fealty to your feudal lord.
Now, no one ever said our Church is a democracy. No vote taken by human beings could ever have given us Jesus Christ. And He didn’t take a poll of His Apostles to determine how many sacraments He should institute. They didn’t elect St. Peter as the chief by secret ballot. God gave us everything that makes the Church the Church; none of that lies open to parliamentary discussion.
So: not a democracy. But surely the Church can’t operate as a feudal regime, either. We can’t bow down silently to let the lords put their feet on our necks willy nilly. We come to church seeking the compassion of God, not a soul-warping dysfunctional family.
In a loving family, mom and dad want to sit at the kitchen table with the children and listen to what all the kids have to say. In a loving family, everyone counts as a child of God, worthy of a patient and sympathetic hearing.
Not a democracy. But not feudalism, either.
That is why we will go to Richmond next Friday. Something terribly wrong has happened in the Catholic Church in these parts. The “lord of the manor” has grievously wounded two healthy Christian communities, for no good reason, and he continues to pour salt on the wound. He ran over the flower garden with a bulldozer, rather than confront some lamentable facts that we, as a Church, must confront.
We have to hold on to our faith in the compassionate Heart of Jesus, because we lose all hope without that faith. And we know He lives in our Church. We knew He awaits us in church.
We won’t enter the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart next Friday evening. Because the Mass is invitation-only, owing to the virus. And I’m not allowed to concelebrate, owing to the unjust suspension Bishop Knestout has imposed upon me.
But we will make our pilgrimage to the cathedral anyway, seeking the love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart there. And we know we will find that love. He lives. He lives in His Church.