Mercy, the bottom line of our Christian faith, continues to be recovered in our post-Vatican II Church through a devotion introduced by a Polish nun. St. Faustina was 25 (1931) when she was given a vision of Christ with white and red rays of light coming from His Heart. He went on in other visions to describe a devotion called the Chaplet of Mercy which we have been praying daily since Good Friday. The prayers include a simple refrain asking for God’s mercy on sinners. Using a rosary, each decade of petitions begins with a powerful invocation reminiscent of the Mass. It goes like this:
Eternal Father, we offer you the Body and Blood,
soul and divinity, of your dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ,
in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
This petition captures the essence of the liturgical reform of Vatican II. One of the primary movements and requests of the council’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, invites the laity to offer Christ to the Father during the Mass. Article 48 reads:
‘The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.’
The prayer of the Chaplet of Mercy, with which we will conclude a Novena of Mercy today (Sunday the 11th), is a beautiful way to exercise the priesthood of all believers. It takes the essential action of the Mass as sacrifice and turns it into a prayerful meditation. Please join us on Mercy Sunday at 2:30pm for the finale of our Novena of Mercy.
I promised last week to write about the current scandal surrounding the churches of Ireland, Germany, and our Pope’s possible involvement in them, inclusive of a case from Wisconsin that has surfaced. I can only approach this subject with caution as I know little about them. Frankly, I’m too busy as a parish priest to spend much time studying other people’s problems. But the reality of the Body of Christ is that we are all connected and one person’s suffering belongs in some way to all of us, whether that is a victim of abuse, a victim of false accusation, or a victim of the scandal caused by human sinfulness. Hopefully we can find God’s mercy in the midst of this.
A few keys I believe are important that I shared with someone who was rather shaken by the possibility that the Pope was somehow involved in two cases, one I believe where an abuser was transferred, and another where an abuser was not punished more severely given his age and medical condition. The first key is that I wouldn’t depend on the press for accurate reporting. They are not the judge and arbiter of truth. There are civil and ecclesial courts in place to discern the verity of such things. I’ve heard convincing evidence that contradicts the New York Times report on this issue. Secondly, I would be wary of any movement intended to judge a person. Too often, fault-finding has nothing to do with the healing of any victims involved and more about discrediting the Church or simply despoiling her of resources.
In a recent study of abuse cases in Illinois, of the 2000+ cases reported to CPS, 1 involved a priest. The other occupations of abusers, whether they be teachers, counselors, lawyers, or anything else was not given. That does not excuse a man who is supposed to represent the holiness of Christ from his guilt. Christ however, in His mercy, forgives every sin if we are willing. That does not mean a person should be allowed to continue as a priest. As one recent punishment read, the priest is assigned for the rest of his life to ‘prayer and penance’ without the possibility of returning to ministry. This alone does not heal a victim of abuse. Healing requires the grace of God, the grace of the truth about victimhood. As one counselor recommended to a victim, “It was not your fault.” May all find Christ the Healer during this season of Easter.
Next week I plan to include some notes on scandal and the fallibility of the Pope.
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