I have been fighting discouragement pretty hard this week. I was struck deeply by a quote by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride, because it shows you trust in your own powers.” Some of my frustration has been of my own making and some of it is with the state of the world. I have no control over the latter. All I can do is try to serve where I can and pray for the conversion of souls. God has called me to multiple roles of service; all center around the dignity and sanctity of the human person. I am a cradle Catholic, but I would say that I had a full conversion 5 years ago. That would make me a newer Catholic, even though I have read theology and philosophy since high school.
I was not prepared for how lonely of a road it can be at times, even within the Church. My vigor and passion for Our Lord and His Church have at times been met with apathy and outright hostility. I think that this is a struggle for a lot of people who come to full conversion. I know many RCIA candidates who are on fire, but become disillusioned when they see that their rigor is not shared in their parish. I should have known better. The Saints have met much pushback. I am not a Saint, yet, not even close. That is the goal, but I have some very deeply rooted sins that Our Lord is ripping out of me.
I think my discouragement has been compounded by the chaos that has been in our parish for a year now. A much beloved priest was moved out of our parish suddenly because of some shifts that were needed throughout our Diocese. This was a major shock for many of us and it has been struggle. Our replacement quickly became ill and had to retire, and then we spent months with a different priest each week. In late summer we finally were assigned a “permanent”, which really means temporary, priest who is on loan from a Diocese in Nigeria by way of Tucson. We all knew that he would leave this summer, and that is the case. We are now praying and waiting to find out who the Diocese will assign us on a permanent basis.
While we come to Mass to give God “right praise” and receive the Holy Eucharist, in our brokenness we need a shepherd. Our current priest is a holy and godly man, unfortunately people have not accepted him and there has been a lot of nastiness. His hands are tied by his posting with us. So all of this has compounded my own discouragement and many people have left our parish. I myself have thought about it, but we will stick it out.
If there is one thing about ministry, it is difficult. It is called service for a reason. You get to see the best and the worst in people. I head up what should not be, but is, the most controversial ministry in the Catholic Church in our country today: the Sanctity of Life Committee. It seems a given that Catholics would understand that we are called to bring a Culture of Life to the world, but that is not the case. We are a small Committee of 5 deeply dedicated women. We do what we can and want to do more. Our Committee’s job is not just to tackle abortion, which we do with passion and purpose by praying at Planned Parenthood and providing much needed items to moms in crisis pregnancy, we also must teach and share social teaching. That includes the hot button issues of our day: marriage (to include divorce, “gay marriage”, and contraception), the death penalty (the Church’s position is much nuanced), war, etc. We do what we can, but it is difficult to figure out how to combat both ignorance and disobedience.
About a year ago one of the women on our Committee had discovered what the real issue is in the Church. She had found a book, which most of our Committee read, by Sherry Weddell (a fellow Lay Dominican) called Forming Intentional Disciples. I had been beating my head against the wall in response to the apathy and hostility within the Church. I did not get it. This book answered my questions. The majority of Catholics are ‘sacramentalized, but not evangelized’. What does that mean? It means that most Catholics, the vast majority, have not had a conversion to Christ. They do not actually know Him and His call to follow Him as disciples. Catholics go through the hoops and receive the Sacraments, but many do not even know what they are doing or just do it because that is how they were raised or what they married into. No wonder our Protestant brothers and sisters do not understand us?! And no wonder we have such a hard time engaging people.
This is not an easy issue to tackle and it is one we cannot really look at until we have stability in our parish. It is something that our Diocese is trying to do on a macro level, but we need micro level changes. I know one thing, we all need to support and encourage one another on the path. Discouragement is the sin of pride. We need to lift each other up. We need to help each other in the battle, because we are waging a fierce spiritual battle both inside the Church and outside of it. We need to find a charitable way to engage disobedience rather than sit idly by or get into fights. We need to pray for the conversion of souls and fast. I cannot stress this enough. These are the weapons we use to fight discouragement and despair. The forces of darkness are on the move and many souls are at stake. I would suggest fasting throughout Holy Week next week. Skip a meal, stay off the Internet, or offer some other sacrifice daily. This is a great time to re-gain focus, if like me, you have wandered a bit this Lent. As we approach the Holy Day of Easter, remember that the battle is won in the end. Let’s pray that we all make it on the journey to holiness and see Our Lord waiting for us at the end. God bless.