My two baby sisters are headed to college next week for their junior and freshman years. “I don’t envy you being a Catholic at a public university right now,” I told them. I went to the same school four years ago. While I occasionally got a side eye for wearing a cross, or wearing ashes at the beginning of Lent, life as a Catholic at a public university was fairly easy in 2014. My sisters won’t have that experience. To be a Catholic at their school will be very uncomfortable this semester.
Catholics in the United States have gained a fair bit of respect, political influence, and even wealth in the last few centuries. We’ve become very comfortable proclaiming our Faith, and rarely face any serious backlash for doing so; the puritanical persecutions now being old history. Soon, when our non-believing peers think of the Church, they will no longer think of a nice philanthropic organization who just happens to have some strange religious beliefs. They will think of a multicultural conglomerate of liars possibly facing a RICO investigation. Now you and I know that’s not a fair representation at all, but still. Yeesh.
Yet, as Pope Emeritus told me and a few million other pilgrims at World Youth Day ten years ago, we weren’t made to be comfortable. If our faith is easy, we probably aren’t doing it right. We are made for greatness. We were made to be saints.
How are we supposed to be great when our shepherds have abandoned us? Where are we supposed to turn? What are we supposed to do?
Well, right now, we can start with this: “Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God and cry to the Lord.” Joel 1:14
Many members of the Church are doing this with period of penance, of “sackcloth and ashes”. As we well should be. We do need to make reparation for the sins of the Church, and to work towards the purification of the Body of Christ. Aside from that specific action, our mission hasn’t changed from what it was last year, or from 1000 years before that.
What, out of all the suggestions from our faithful leaders, is something we shouldn’t have already been doing? Praying the Rosary? Attending Mass and Confession regularly? Offering up our sufferings? Raising our children to be strong in their faith? Proclaiming the Gospel with boldness?
In my home diocese of Detroit, we’re in the middle of the “Unleash the Gospel” campaign. Supposedly, it is 220 million dollars-worth of new initiatives intended to bring the Good News to renew the metro-Detroit area. Pardon me, but I don’t think we need new initiatives. I think we could start by renewing our faith in and reverence towards the Eucharist and see a major transformation from that one simple thing alone.
One of my favorite things about our Faith is how simple it really is. At any point in the Church’s history, the mission of the faithful has always been the same. All we have to do is obey Christ. That’s it. Simply by living the Gospel and following the teachings of Christ and His Church, we will allow God to transform us. When He does, we the faithful in turn strengthen the Body of Christ. That right there is exactly what the Church needs right now. In God’s great providence, our perpetual personal mission flows seamlessly into the needs of the Church.
Our priest ended his homily on Sunday with a plea, “Please become saints.” This is the call I’ve seen around the Catholic web as well. All the suggestions for the renewal and cleansing of the Church point to the simple fact that if we want that to happen, we must first renew ourselves and allow our own souls first to be sanctified.
We do need to continue to press for investigations, for transparency, and for repentance on the part of those who have hurt the Church. We do have to continue to raise a riot until all of the corruption is exposed and cleansed. Much of that is something that the average layperson isn’t going to be very involved in, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help.
You want to do something to help fix the Church? Become a saint. And it’s times like these that make the greatest saints of all.
Keep on keepin’ on.