The present upheaval within the Catholic Church is arguably of historic proportion. How is the average faithful Catholic supposed to navigate his or her way through this monumental ecclesial storm?
Even amidst the formidable squall taking place right now within the Body of Christ, the Church’s Founder—who, remember is divine and can do all things— wants us, through it all, to witness to one of his most heavenly virtues and one’s of the Church’s greatest graces: spiritual peace.
“Peace? I don’t want peace, I want change.” “I’m too angry to be peaceful.” “This is not the time for spiritual platitudes, but real action.” “I’ll be peaceful when this horrific mess gets all cleaned up.”
Yes, these sentiments during our present dilemma are very understandable. Nonetheless, the Resurrected Christ says to us today exactly what he said to the apostles after the great scandal of the Cross on Good Friday and the scattering of his disciples: “Peace be with you” (cf. Jn. 20:19-23).
Along with the absolute need for true and lasting purification within the deepest recesses of the Church-human, it remains quintessentially necessary for all Catholics to witness to his divine peace in all circumstances, especially during historical times exactly such as these.
Witnessing to the peace of Christ in no way diminishes the absolute imperative for authentic Church reform. On the contrary, it assures that the purification of Church will be done His way— in the manner which most pleases the Head of the Body. It is an undeniable truth that Jesus wants the true purgation of his Church and the protection of his “innocent ones” more than any of us members.
In this light, I would like to offer the following 5 suggestions can assist Catholics to maintain their peace through the present tumultuous tempest:
1. Pray more, especially before our Eucharistic Jesus
To obtain interior peace in times of external chaos, we simply must pray more. In a special way, go to the Blessed Sacrament, adore Jesus in the Eucharist, and let Him fill your soul with His peace in the Heart-to-heart transfusion that always happens when we come and rest before our Eucharistic Lord. If a Eucharistic visit is not possible for you, then spend the time in some form of interior or contemplative prayer. Silently ponder the Lord’s promise to St. Peter, the first Pope, that “the gates of Hell would not prevail” against his Church, under any circumstances. Be assured that the Son of God always keeps his promises.
One way we can protect our peace is by being selective and balanced regarding “what” and “how much” we read of the endless commentaries and sub-narratives taking place in this crisis. Being aware of the major events taking place in the Church is a responsible and healthy pursuit; being constantly immersed in angry and vitriolic commentaries concerning every individual drama is an unnecessary and unhealthy other. Continuous submersion into enraged internet battles will not help you fulfill your duty to live peace. In general, more praying and less blogging is a good maxim this time.
2. Pray a Rosary each day for our Holy Father and for the Church
Pray a daily Rosary for the Pope and for the Church. Ask Our Lady, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate for the People of God to intercede powerfully for the Vicar of Christ and for the Body of Christ in this volatile situation. Church history makes clear that when the ecclesial going gets tough, the Church turns to the Spiritual Mother of all Peoples, both for optimum protection and for optimum peace.
Let Mary, Mother of the Church, lead the charge to clean and build up her children, hierarchy, clergy, and laity alike. Do not underestimate the extraordinary power of the Rosary—Our Lady’s and the Church’s spiritual weapon.
3. Examine your own heart for a proper spirit of humility, fidelity, and witness to the Church
Self-examination is painful, but crucial for an authentic reform of the Church, from the top down and from the bottom up. The need for hierarchical and clerical cleansing is clear. The sexual abuse of minors and complicity or cover up regarding it constitutes “millstone category offenses,” the likes of which Jesus alludes to in one of his most frightful images (cf. Mt. 18:6), and for which the full weight of divine justice will be effected if not mitigated through contrite repentance.
On the laity’s part, they, too, must have the humility and courage to self-examine their intentions and methods in this process. We must ask of ourselves: Are my actions primarily motivated by a spirit of impassioned anger, similar to the mobs of French Revolution, who sought “heads to roll and blood to be spilt” for past crimes? Or are my actions motivated by Christ’s spirit of humility, fidelity, justice, and peace, which in themselves intrinsically demand for substantial change and effective accountability for the grave evils which have been continuing within the Church? Jesus wants the latter; his adversary hopes for the former. Don’t give in to the anger. This in-house cleaning must be done Jesus’ way— in justice and in peace.
4. Remain obedient to the teachings of Christ’s Vicar and respectful to the Office of Peter
The Second Vatican Council teaches that all Catholics are obliged to offer a religious submission of intellect and will to the manifest mind of the Pope, even when he is not speaking ex-cathedra (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 25). To be Catholic is obey the Holy Father when he teaches officially in the area of faith and morals.
As Jesus certainly calls all Christians to treat all human beings with respect, this must in a special way apply to the human being who holds the Chair of Peter. While popes are “infallible” (cannot err in faith in morals under the proper conditions), they are not “impeccable” (therefore, do sin and make mistakes). We must not then be surprised when popes sin or make prudential errors, and should be quick to offer the forgiveness that the Heavenly Father requires of all of us for own many sins to be forgiven.
This is in no sense to imply that all the recent accusations being circulated against Pope Francis are true. Several accusations have already been proven to be false. If our Christian responsibility calls us to give every human being the benefit of the doubt and presume innocence until proven guilty, how much more do we owe this respect to the Vicar of Christ?