In recent weeks, my home diocese (the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia) has been reeling from the shock of a June 5, 2019, article published in TheWashington Post, which described the scandalous lifestyle of former Bishop Michael Bransfield. This article joins others that have surfaced detailing the sordid secret lives of prelates. This and other outrageous and immoral behavior has instigated further division in our Church. As Scripture says, Strike the shepherd that the sheep may be dispersed (Zech 13:7).
As I grappled for answers, I found myself asking: What is a practical and charitable response from the lay faithful? I came up with the following thoughts.
– Prayer and fasting. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, Our Lord is clear about taking action through prayer and fasting. Pray for all victims. Pray for our priests, deacons, and bishops. Pray for them by name at Mass. Pray for faithful and scandalous clergy alike. The Body of Christ has been injured, and we cannot function without each part: The eyes cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ (1 Cor 12:21).
– Practice obedience. It is important here to underline exactly what the Church is: The Bride of Christ, established by a Divine Person, who gave His authority to the apostles and their successors to shepherd the faithful into all Truth. The Lord Jesus demonstrates for us the ultimate form of love through the self-giving act of obedience. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross! (Phil 2:8). The current situation for scandalized Catholics is a difficult one. The iron is hot, and harsh reactions are (rightly) materializing out of shock and anger.
So, is obedience the act of remaining silent? To pay, pray, and obey? No. Speak out (charitably) to your acting bishop. Write a personal letter to voice your concerns. Beware of sharing viral social media posts that ‘demand’ and ‘require’ specific actions from an apostle of Christ. The Church cannot be held at ransom with “or else.” … “Or else what?”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI boldly states: “What must be done? Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed. Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way.”
– Prayerfully discern your vocation.I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God(Ephesians 4:1). If you have not discerned a personal vocation, now is the time.
The Church is in desperate need of fiery and charitable witnesses to Christ! We need priests and deacons. We need faithful and brave men, who personify the Bride of Christ. We need charitable religious sisters and brothers who are on a mission of prayer for the Kingdom. We need men and women called to Holy Matrimony – the icon of the very relationship of Christ and His Church. Find the love of your life, and joyfully anticipate raising a domestic Kingdom of God within your home through the blessing of children; to invite God to plan your family, and to trust in the Lord with all your heart (Prov 3:5). We need devout single people, who sacrifice their very lives in fidelity to the Lord by their joyful living out of the Gospel. In this way, sheep imitate the Good Shepherd, and heal and strengthen His fold.
– Run to the Sacraments. G.K. Chesterton said, “How would Christ solve modern problems if He were on earth today? For those of my faith there is only one answer. Christ is on earth today, alive on a thousand altars.” We need to meet Our Lord where he is today – in the Sacraments.
Receiving Christ through (especially) the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion may seem like nominal actions, but for historic Christians of all times and places, seeking sacramental grace has always been paramount.
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Scandal will always be present within the Church, and woe to the man through whom scandal comes (Matthew 18:7). Scandal is especially devastating when leading people away from the faith. Our Lord said it would be better to be drowned in the sea than to be the cause of this (see Matthew 18:6)).
I am convinced that an army of saints is being prepared. Our Mother Church is wounded, and holy men and women are being called to rescue her. Be like St. John and the Blessed Mother by laying your heartache at His feet. Listen for His voice calling you to the mission of rebuilding the Church, like St. Francis of Assisi. Blow the horn of Zion and await the coming of the Bridegroom like Joel and David (Joel 2:15; Psalm 19:5).
Be a saint. Through personal witness, He will reach out to all who love Him.
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