Shepherds That Have Failed Their Sheep

09-02-2018This Week in Vidi DominumFr. Chris Axline

I have no idea where even to begin. I am overwhelmed, heartbroken, angry, but mostly disappointed. Disappointed that innocent people, and all of you had to pay the price for the atrocities of my brother priests. For that, I am sorry and I am praying for you and am also still trying to figure out “how” and “why” this happened. It is alright to be angry, hurt, sad, and whatever other emotions you are facing, I know I have done my own share of shouting and “having it out” with the Lord. But, what we should not do, what we cannot do, is to give up on our faith, or on the Church. The words from Ezekiel ring sharp and true, “I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep so that they may no longer be food for their mouths.” God has heard the cry of His people and revealed the evil that has long been hidden, those brave men and women who came forward, have been led away from the wolves, these wicked shepherds, and they can begin to heal.

They can begin to heal and we can help them. Only by keeping our focus on Christ, the Good Shepherd and the One who never fails us can we find the healing and solutions we all want. He is the center, object, and goal of our faith and I am confident that our faith in Him can actually grow if our gaze is forever fixed upon Him. But to do this, we must pray, then act, in His name for the good of our Church. Demand holiness, from bishops, from priests, from me your pastor, and from one another. In Christ, we have all we need. For example, I am reminded of an event from the life of one of my favorite saints, Thomas Aquinas. At one point, he was locked away and bit by bit, every worldly comfort was taken away from him, but he noticed that as each thing was taken away, the Lord’s presence with him grew exponentially. The same I think can be said of us, as we watch in horror as our worldly “possession” of trust in the hierarchy of the Church has been yanked out from under us. As the world falls away, we cling more and more completely to God, and that is a thing of beauty as that is our endeavor for holiness radically lived out by each of us.

By and large too, what I am seeing, through various media outlets, in response to this scandal is a call to action. To be honest, I could not be prouder of this call to action! I am proud of those faithful Catholics, lay men and women across our nations, who love the Lord and the Church and are stepping up to remove this cancer from the Church. Indeed we should seek justice, but we first need to be able to forgive because otherwise our pursuit of justice can to easily become a quest for vengeance. However, in order to forgive, we have to keep focused on Christ who alone can give us the grace to forgive. Now, it’s important that we forgive these men, not for their sake, but for ours! Doing so keeps our heart attuned to God’s Love and allows us to still work and act for the good of both victims and perpetrators.

What good though could come from this? That’s a fair question; and a necessary one. Lately I have been praying on Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” in my own attempt to ask the Lord what the good is in all this. But all I have been met with in prayer, for the time being, is silence; a silence which still leaves my head spinning. But that is alright, as I, as we, do not have to know at this time, what God’s plan for all this, knowing that He has one is enough. He will show us His plan and the good that will come from this pruning the vine that His God’s Holy Church! In the past events similar to this in Church History have always brought renewal and reforms to the Church and it has been in those times that some of our greatest saints have come forth; Catherine of Siena, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi and many, many more. And now? Now it is our turn to step forward and be the saints that the Church needs us to be! Pray! Pray for, act toward, and demand holiness; anything less is not from God. Pray for the Church as we move forward that the Light of Christ may shine on the evils that have been hidden for too long. Pray for the Church as God does for the Church what her shepherds failed to do; shepherd her people. Then act, and know that we are not alone, we have support! Get involved, someway, somehow, and help the Church, her priests, bishops, and one another to strive for holiness. Anything less, and the devil wins. That sounds rough but as St. Paul (I find great comfort in his writings during hard times in my own life) reminds us in Ephesians Chapter 6:

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

What comfort St. Paul’s letter brings! Written during a time when he too watched the Church face persecution, these words should remind us that there is hope in the storm. Christ is the head of the Church, the Spirit the beating heart, and the Father her inspiration! Grace is the blood that flows through the veins of the Church and it is this grace that you must trust in as you work to heal these grave wounds.

Today then, as we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, we find hope and inspiration as we heal these wounds and tend the wounds of Mother Church; she needs you, me, us, now, more than ever to refocus our hearts, our prayers, and our actions on Christ in order to remind us that Christ is the center of the Church and He has a plan. That is after all, the glory that Mary reveals to us this day we celebrate her coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Late the hour might seem, but like the vineyard owner who calls workers to his vineyard at all hours, so too does God call each of us at different eras in the Church. This is our time to step forward and to heal the Church; to call her back to her fundamental identity; the Bride of Christ and the vessel by which Christ is made known to the world. He is at the center of the Church, we cannot (and will not) forget that.

Readings from August 22 can be found here.