"We can never pass a crucifix with indifference because there we see Jesus with His head bent to kiss us, His arms outstretched to hold us, and His feet nailed fast to pardon our sins." ~Bishop Donald Hying
Here in Milwaukee the Church has been struggling through some particularly difficult times in recent weeks. Our Archdiocese is in the process of filing for bankruptcy and as part of the proceedings we had to publish the complete records of all of the cases of priests who have abused minors in the Archdiocese going back 80 years. My understanding of the purpose of revealing the details of these cases is that it would help with healing. For my part, I don't get it. I was only able to look at one record before I was so sick to my stomach and to my heart that I had to close the file and couldn't bear to look at another one. I don't understand how reading through the grim details of child sexual abuse could help anyone heal. For me, hearing about these cases in the news once again only served to increase my pain and sorrow.
During the summer season my family and I have been blessed to attend several graduation parties and other social events. Sooner or later the topic of discussion inevitably has come around to the release of these records and the outrage that many feel against the Church because of this horrific black mark that is forever laid upon our shoulders. Time and again people have told me that they have stopped going to church because of the abuse scandal and they won't return until the Church straightens up her act. No matter what the hierarchy do to apologize, pay victims financially, and work toward assuring these situations never happen again, it's never enough. Forgiveness is hard to come by. The saddest comment I heard from a formerly active Catholic was "God and I are tight. I don't need the Church-that's only people."
What makes me really sad is not just that the Church is losing out on some really great people in the pews, but that Jesus is losing out on the faithful worship that is His due. I think it's easy for some to forget that God lives within all of those people who make up the Church. God lives within all of those good and holy priests whose ministry is made so much more difficult by bearing the burden of those wayward priests whose sins against children caused so much damage. And most of all, God lives in the Eucharist inside the tabernacle. How He must long for the company of all of those who are allowing their anger to keep them away!
So this sexual abuse scandal, these tragic, heinous, appalling circumstances, have convinced me that my presence is needed more than ever within the walls of the Church. My prayers of love and worship, my acts of atonement, my silent company, and my daily living of my Catholic faith as a witness to the world helps to bring a bit of joy to Christ's sorrowful Heart. For who was hurt by the abusive priests more than Jesus Himself who lives within the souls of each and every child victim and within the abusive priests themselves as an alter Christus. How completely crushed with pain it must make Him feel to endure this situation.
I look up at the cross and I see the nail marks, the wounds in His side, the thorns pressing into His head and I am overcome with the realization that He did this for me. He did this for me and for all of His children, sinners that we are. And when we allow our anger to keep us away from Him we only intensify His suffering. If we could only unite our suffering with His in fidelity to prayer and Mass attendance, then, perhaps, we could all find the healing that we so desperately seek.
I remember His words to St. Margaret Mary, "Behold this Heart which has so loved men." I remember His plea to her to work to draw others closer to His Sacred Heart and I am convinced that I must do all I can to love Him more and to spend more and more time in prayer with Him in my own small effort to atone for all that He suffers. I ask you to join me in giving more of your life to Him. Come to Mass every Sunday and even daily if you can. Receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist with all of the love that is in your heart. Spend some time in adoration. Give loving care to those around you in His name. Confess your own sins and receive His blessed absolution. Give Him your love and attention. Help to heal His broken Heart.
Our Lord's words to St. Margaret Mary:
“It is the ingratitude of men which has hurt Me more than all the suffering I underwent during My Passion. If only they would make some return for My love, I should think but little of all I have done for them and would wish, were it possible, to suffer still more. But the sole return they make for all My eagerness to do them good is to reject Me and treat Me with coldness. Do thou at least console Me by supplying for their ingratitude as far as thou art able.”
“Behold this Heart, Which has loved men so much, that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love; and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt which they show Me in this Sacrament of Love. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me, that treat Me thus...”