When God Tests Us to Prepare Us for a Mission

How does God prepare us for the mission He has in mind for us? One of the ways He does this is by testing us. God allows certain things to happen in our lives to see if we will be faithful and endure what He is asking of us. He uses suffering, temptations, weaknesses, failures, and battles in order to strengthen us and to show us the path He is calling us to walk. The last year of my life has been one of those tests.

While I was in the midst of this period of testing, I didn’t understand what was going on. I experienced the most beautiful consolations coupled with intense spiritual warfare off-and-on for months. The worst of it hit when the scandals began to break last summer. There were times I thought I was going crazy or had somehow found myself in very serious spiritual danger. I had periods of immense fear, but I learned that it was by confronting this fear head on and taking a firm stand that peace and strength would flood into my soul. The more fortitude God gave to me the greater my capacity for charity towards others grew. It was during this testing that I learned tangibly “perfect love casts out all fear.”

I had experiences in Confession that were nothing short of surreal. I could hear God clearly pushing me forward time-and-time-again in Confession. No period of my life has been anything like this past year. Thankfully, God provided me with a much needed spiritual director–one of my parish priests–to help me navigate these very rough and confusing seas.

Even as I struggled to understand what was happening to me, God continued to tell me to endure and persevere. All I could hear very clearly in my prayer was that God was calling me “to love as He loves.” So I pushed on, despite periods of spiritual warfare that brought me to my knees. I focused on learning to love as He loves even though I did not know where He was leading me.

About a month ago, God clearly broke in at a Mass being celebrated in honor of Epiphany at our local Madonna House. I could see Christ very clearly in the priest celebrating the Mass. This has been a common theme of what has been going on with me spiritually, but it has been rather intense at certain times and I’ve not been able to understand what is going on. I’m not very good at pondering–a Marian trait that she is teaching me that I must learn–because I analyze everything. I’m systematic in the way I think and that is useless when faced with God breaking into my life in such profound ways.

Later in the afternoon on the same day, I was cleaning out our family van to prepare it to sell when I picked up a Rosary for Priests that had been tucked away in a pocket on the passenger’s side. I immediately saw the connection between what had happened at Mass and why this pamphlet was now in my hands. I didn’t fully understand, but God was showing me the way and I had finally opened myself up enough to Him for Him to show me what He is asking of me.

That day I began praying the Rosary for priests every single day and some days all 20 mysteries of the Rosary. A couple of weeks later I was talking to my husband about all of my friends having sons and how much I always wanted a son to give to the priesthood, but I now understand that God is not going to answer that prayer. My husband looked at me and said: “I think you are supposed to be a spiritual mother to priests. It seems like what you’ve been going through is because of that. You see priests in a completely different way than most people.” I laughed. In my own ridiculous pride I responded with: “Our priest is 11 years older than I am. How am I supposed to do that? Sisterhood is much easier for me to understand especially since I was in the military.” He shook his head in the way he does when he knows I’m being stubborn and blind.

The next day I happened to be scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when an article caught my attention written by one of my fellow Catholic Exchange contributors, Kathleen Beckman: “Spiritual Battles Beg For Spiritual Responses.” I read it and immediately understood what God is asking of me. I told my husband what I had read and he told me to I order her book right away.

Since I’m a little slow and stubborn, God made sure that I got the message loud and clear when the following day I went to Confession with my regular Confessor. During that Confession he told me that it seems as though I’ve found my secondary vocation to pray and fight for the priesthood. He even referenced St. Therese who he knows I have a devotion to. I had to laugh, as did my husband, since it took me no less than three signs in the same week to finally get what God was trying to tell me.

Why did God finally reveal this secondary vocation to me after everything I’ve been through? It’s because I was finally ready and because I battled through every single test that presented itself. Before I could be ready, I had to make it through the most difficult, especially in times like these, which is the temptation to division. God needed me to understand that I must be willing to engage in this fight for His priests no matter what happens. No matter what I must endure. No matter how much I get hurt. No matter if I get rejected, betrayed, cast off, ridiculed, gossiped about, or endure periods of intense spiritual warfare. This battle is not about me. It’s about His priests and His will.

I needed to learn that in a time when the priesthood is under immense demonic attack and when the lures of the world are a great temptation for them as much as for us, when horrors are coming out about the evils committed by some priests and bishops, when the weaknesses, apathy, and corruption of some are creating deep wounds within the Mystical Body and within the priesthood itself, God needed me to clearly understand what I was undertaking. He needed me to be willing to say: “Be it done to me according to thy word.” For me to be willing to do whatever He asks of me and to endure and persevere regardless of what gets thrown my way and regardless of what the Enemy tries to do to me.

The fight for the priesthood is a spiritual one and it is the front lines of the spiritual war today. I’ve been in the abortion fight for years and the spiritual warfare I experienced in that battle is nothing compared to what I endure fighting for priests in prayer, sacrifice, and in supporting them. The Enemy will use any and all means to prevent this mission because he hates the priesthood.

When God calls us to a mission, He tests our mettle to make sure we can handle what is asked of us. More than anything, it is a test to show us that we must rely solely on Him. In this fight, it is also essential to be thoroughly immersed in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She crushes the head of the serpent and she battles for her sons in the priesthood. She is our guide in this war and she will lead us ever more deeply into the Sacred Heart of Her Son.

Like all missions, I had a choice that I had to make. God wasn’t going to force me to make it. He simply showed me the way and then I had to make the choice. After the trials, temptations, moments of anger, frustration, confusion–even consolations can be very confusing!–suffering, and pain, it was only then that I could see that the battle is worth it. That’s often how things work. We don’t think it’s worth the pain in the moment. We want to walk away or flee. It’s much easier to write off something as too difficult, but God purifies us through suffering. It is only through willingly enduring everything God asks of us that we grow in deeper charity, faith, and hope.

When I stepped back and looked over the past year or more, I realized that I’ve already been living this vocation, but I’ve not understood it as God’s call for me. Even so, the battle has only just begun. I must rely on Christ and Our Lady to show me what is being asked of me and learn to do it in humble obedience and charity. A vocation is always a dying to self. It is where we learn to place others before ourselves. I’ve already learned this lesson once in this new vocation, but it is an essential aspect of all vocations that God gives to us. We cannot accept a mission from Him if we are not willing to learn to die to self.

This secondary vocation is directly tied to my primary vocation of wife and mother. By sacrificing and praying throughout my day for the priesthood and any specific priests God assigns to me throughout my lifetime, I also offer up my husband and my daughter. The suffering we endure because of my husband’s illness and the pain of my miscarriages and lost hopes of a son for the priesthood can now be united to the Church’s need for holy priests and the very real needs of priests themselves. These two vocations bring peace and joy since they are so intertwined. I’m thankful that God has entrusted so great a mission to me and to countless others.


Catholic Exchange: Our Ego Keeps Us from the Greatness We Were Made For

Our souls are expansive. They are able to reach depths that we cannot fully fathom. When we begin to see this part of ourselves we often experience fear and awe. We do not know what to do with this part of ourselves because we are often blind to it in our daily lives. We are blind to it  because — more often than any of us would like to admit  — we allow our ego to rule us.

The ego keeps us from seeing the great love God has for us and the gift of giving ourselves over to others in love. The ego keeps us from the greatness we are made for. It keeps us blind to the true depths within each one of us.

The ego is where all of our fear, pride, vanity, grasping, envy, and selfishness dwell. It is the part of us that tells us to cling to what we want no matter what, even to the point of discarding and hurting other people. Our egos keep us from loving the people around us as we should because we’d rather hold onto some small modicum of control than give freely to the people God puts in our path.

Center of the Universe

It is within our vocations whether lay, religious, or priestly that we learn to confront this part of ourselves.

The ego causes us to place ourselves at the center of the universe. It leads us to grasp at the smallest and pettiest of things, because when we allow our ego to be at the center of our being unchecked, we live in a place of fear and distrust; we see God and others as a threat. Bishop Robert Barron in his book And Now I See explains:

“But what exactly is the problem with the way we think and see?…perhaps a simple answer can be given in these terms: we see and know and perceive with a mind of fear rather than with a mind of trust. When we fear, we cling to who we are and what we have; when we are afraid, we see ourselves as the threatened center of a hostile universe, and thus we violently defend ourselves and lash out at potential adversaries. And fear — according to so many of the biblical authors and so many of the mystics and theologians of our tradition — is a function of living our lives at the surface level, a result of forgetting our deepest identity.”

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Turning the Other Cheek in a Digital Age

The Internet and mainstream media have been set ablaze with the latest outrage that seems to be manufactured every five minutes. Each side rushes to judgment and paints the other group as the villain. Meanwhile supporters canonize the person or persons they agree with and the vitriol reaches an intensity that should startle every person of goodwill. Round-and-round it goes, this cycle of anger in our culture and even within the Church.

This piece is not specifically about the Covington Catholic controversy. Nor will I make any judgments about what transpired. The aim of this piece is to offer an alternative tactic that goes back to Our Lord Himself, but that is applicable in an age when any one of us could become the topic of a social media frenzy should a video be taken of us that could provide an ambiguous depiction of us that can easily be taken out of context or manipulated to appease the angry masses.

Our careers could be ruined, our families and friends threatened, and we could become the target of the social media mob if we are not careful. If you think I’m overreacting, keep in mind that I happen to pray regularly at the Planned Parenthood where a teenager was assaulted during a 40 Days for Life campaign that made national news. A town of 90,000 people. That video became viral in a matter of minutes and people were ready to draw and quarter those involved depending on what political side they happened to be on. This is what it is like to live an an age of never-ending digital consumption and intentionally manufactured outrage. Someone is always watching, even when we don’t think that is the case.

There are some situations during which we can’t avoid confrontation. However, while I was at the March for Life, I witnessed and exercised an approach that will help us to avoid becoming social media fodder in the future. It’s how Our Lord responded to similar situations that arose during His ministry and Passion. It is one we seldom want to use because we all desire tangible justice.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Christ’s Call to Love & Communion in an Age of Scandal

As we begin a New Year with the Church embroiled in ever deepening scandal, we all must ask ourselves: What can I do in response? What can I do in the face of so much evil, incompetence, injustice, and lack of charity?

The solutions are difficult and will take decades — if not centuries — to take hold so that renewal can take place. The saints God will raise up in response to the rot within the Church will come forward, but in His time. What are we to do now, in this age, in response to the seemingly endless array of scandals?

The answer is given to us by Our Lord Himself when He tells us that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” This does, first and foremost, mean martyrdom or truly dying for those we love as Our Lord did. But for most of us, it means dying to self daily in our relationships with the people God puts in our path. The answer is fleshed out throughout Sacred Scripture and expounded upon by St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John.

We now live as brothers and sisters in Christ bound together in Baptism strengthened through the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The greatest of these being charity. This means that we are called to live in authentic, deep, abiding charity in communion with one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ whose love is meant to be so great in Him that we are willing to die for one another bodily or through sacrificing for one another in our daily lives.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The Answer to Division is Charity, Forgiveness, and Communion

Image taken from Wiki Commons

I’ve been spending this Advent trying to enter into stillness and waiting. I am very bad at both. I’m a person of action, so being told that I’m to sit still and wait for God’s mission for me has been difficult. It’s felt more like a wrestling match than stillness.

A lot has happened within my vocation and spiritually for me this year. In the last few months everything I thought I would be doing crumbled in front of me. My daughter is now in Catholic school, so I’m not homeschooling her any longer. She’s really happy in school, so it was the right move for her. I’m no longer serving in ministry and all projects I had in the works ceased except for one in February. Everything I thought I was supposed to be doing or would be doing collapsed and I’ve been in a period of trying to figure out what God’s will and mission is for me now. Given the intensity of my spiritual life this year, there is clearly a mission, but I’m not ready for it yet. All I know is this: “Communion is the thing.”

This period came with a lot of turmoil, confusion, and pain for a whole host of reasons. In it all I’ve found myself meditating on how Christ forgives and how He moves past the horror we inflicted upon Him on the Cross and how we move past the pain we inflict upon one another. He doesn’t forget. When He appears in the Upper Room after the Resurrection He shows His disciples the wounds He received on the Cross, but He says Shalom, twice. Peace be with you.

He does not dwell at length on what transpired. He acknowledges it to them by showing them His wounds, but He extends His peace and then He gives His Apostles the ability to extend that very same peace and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession by the power of the office of Holy Orders. There is no vengeance. He knows they’ve betrayed and abandoned Him, but He extends His peace to them. He makes the healing move necessary back towards them even though He is the injured party. He seeks to forgive before forgiveness is even sought. He is quite literally the injured party as the Son of God and He in turn shows that He is forgiveness Itself.

This isn’t easy for us in our Fallen state. We want justice. We want people to actually care that they’ve hurt us. We want understanding. We want the charity we are entitled to as human beings. In reality, a lot of times, even in marriage, we don’t get it. We can’t make people care about the things they’ve done or even care about us as people. Since we are made imago Dei, we know at the deepest level that this is not how it is supposed to be, so we wrestle and fight back against those people who hurt us. Unfortunately, we also struggle with the urge to placate our wounded pride and ego. We battle the desire for vengeance, which comes from our sinful selves not the glory within.

The only way to stop this cycle is to move outwards. St. John of the Cross– whose feast day we celebrate today–said: “Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.” The answer to how we learn to forgive and still commune with others is self-emptying love. After one person hurt me considerably a few weeks ago, God immediately presented me with an opportunity to serve this person, to sacrifice for this person, and to share a gift with this person during a difficult time for them. I had a choice. Hold onto my pain and anger or give. Thanks be to God I chose to give. I chose to love. I don’t always, but all glory to God for any goodness within me!

It wasn’t easy at first, but it was precisely in my choosing to simply act in love towards this person that peace was restored and I no longer simply saw them as a person who had inflicted pain on me. The blindness that pain causes was lifted and I could see the person in front of me, not only my pain. It was my Shalom exhaled out and given to them. It didn’t fix what happened. Everything that has been done is done, but it halted the cycle of anger and division that erupted because of it. It healed the division that destroys communion. Yes, I still get twinges of pain from it, but because I chose to serve this person in love, it is much easier to accept that hurt when it arises and move past it in acceptance. Resentment towards others harms us and it harms others through our interactions with them.

We live in a time of great division in the Church. People are rightly hurting and angry about the sex abuse scandals, but the solution is not more division. The answer is communion grounded in charity. It means forgiving one another, even the horrific events that have transpired. Not because we turn a blind eye and not because we shouldn’t seek justice and truth, we must, but because the more we allow sinful anger, resentment, and fear to take the lead the more injustices will occur. If we aren’t careful we will run the risk innocent people getting hurt. If we aren’t careful, the division that the Enemy seeks to place between the clergy and the laity, the clergy and the clergy, and the laity and the laity will widen. This is about communion. How we respond together is going to shape the path forward.

We must demand the light be let into the dark places within the Church, but then we must be ready to work towards forgiveness. That blinding light will come with deep suffering for all of us as we confront those dark places, but it is a healing light. We must look to Our Lord’s example of how we are to forgive even the most egregious of sins. We murdered God and He came back in forgiveness. There is nothing another human being can commit that can pale in comparison to the horror and evil of this fact. Reform, justice, transparency, conversion, etc. are all needed, but we must be willing to come together in deeper communion in order to get there. These horrors should not cause us to scatter from one another. They must help bind us closer together in love of God and love of one another. 

There is a great temptation to resort to an “us versus them” mentality. This happens when the laity places itself in opposition with the clergy and views them with suspicion and paints all priests with broad unjust strokes. It happens when priests treat the laity as the enemy or as clueless about the realities and demands of the ministerial priesthood. This is exactly the same thing as when the laity argues we shouldn’t listen to priests about marriage and sexuality because Latin Rite priests are celibate. This type of thinking by all parties is destructive and causes division within the Church.

The laity and the clergy are complimentary and an integral part of the Mystical Body. There are no Sacraments without the ministerial priesthood and there are no members offering sacrifice and praise with and through them without the laity. There is no bringing the world into conformation with the Holy Trinity without both the clergy and the laity working together. There is no us and them. We are one body in Christ. We are all on the path to holiness together. We need to stop making assumptions and judgments about one another and draw more closely together. We need to move outwards in charity towards one another. Authentic charity, not sentimentality, superficiality, or banality. Rugged individualism or entrenching will only make things worse. We need one another.

Christ has given us the answer in the communion we share with one another. That communion will require sacrifice, forgiveness, and true charity of all of us. It will mean setting aside our pain so that we can move towards one another. It’s not only what God requires of us, it is the very answer we are seeking. Our pain is healed by acting in self-emptying love and forgiveness. It is healed by choosing caritas over and over again. This isn’t sentimentality that makes us feel good about ourselves. This is the nitty gritty difficult path that we are actually called to. It requires everything from us. The darkness we are descending into as the Mystical Body will mean that we need to stay bound to one another guided by the healing Light of Christ. Communion is the very thing that God will use to strengthen, guide, and purify His Church during these dark days, but we must be willing to come together regardless of the costs.

Avoiding Wrath About the Sex Abuse Scandals

Many of us are still reeling from the report of widespread and decades-long sex abuse in Pennsylvania that came out last week. Compounded with the credible accusations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, reports of corruption and sexual deviancy in our seminaries, and the continuing wave of priests who are coming forward reporting what they have endured during their time as priests, it is clear that a massive festering wound is infecting the Mystical Body of Christ and the corruption can be found at some of the highest levels of the Church hierarchy. It does not appear that we have reached the apex and most of us continue to brace for the next round of rot to come out in the news.

People are angry, disgusted, saddened, heart-broken, confused, and disoriented. It seemed this issue was resolved in 2002 when everything blew wide open, but it is clear that certain issues have not been addressed, such as homosexual activity in the priesthood. Since it is an all male institution–by God–it is much more difficult to root out, especially in an age such as ours where this is seen as an acceptable form of expressing one’s sexuality. Oftentimes, what infects the culture also infects the priesthood.

That is not to say that some men with same sex attraction cannot rightly order their inclinations because their desire for holiness supersedes those inclinations, but very serious discussions about this issue need to be had within the College of Bishops and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s call for men with ‘deeply-rooted homosexual tendencies’ to be denied entry in the priesthood need to be taken seriously. There is also an issue of those who are leading active homosexual lifestyles in the priesthood. A purge is obviously needed, the same could be said of heterosexual activity in the priesthood, but as many others have pointed out, these men typically leave the priesthood if it is ongoing. The vast majority of this scandal is related to males abusing males of various ages. It’s the elephant in the room.

Anger is a completely understandable response to the onslaught we are currently taking in the Church. We expect the ministerial priesthood to mirror itself after Christ. And while most priests are not saints quite yet, and they will battle serious temptations like the rest of us, this type of abuse of power, diabolical sexual exploitation, and utter disregard for the dignity of the human person is appalling at an astonishing level. It is evil. It is, in the words of both Dr. Robert George and Bishop Morlino, “sacrilege” of the sacred office of Holy Orders. Priests are expected to fight the good fight and battle temptations so that they can love their flocks as Christ loves them. Temptations do in fact teach us lessons on rightly ordered love if we allow them to. Sacred Scripture points to the rewards of enduring and persevering to the end. We seek a Crown of Glory. Our choice is always Christ or the world.

More than anything, a priest is charged with the spiritual welfare of his flock. These actions not only harm the physical dignity of the body of each victim, they cause immense damage to the spiritual state of the victims. There is no Cartesian dualism in Catholicism. Body and soul, these evil acts attack the very heart of the human person. Actions of this kind are the inversion of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. This should be logical to even the most poorly of catechized Catholics, but it has not always been so obvious to priests and bishops alike throughout the Church where scandals have come to light. We still don’t know the extent of the cover-ups–we may never know–but it is clear that the people involved chose the world over Christ and a great many people paid the price for that choice. And if there is not justice in this life, there will be justice in eternity.

Those of us who are angry understand the great horror of the situation, but we need to make sure that we are keeping our anger in check and not falling into the deadly sin of wrath. Why? For many reasons. We cannot root sin out with sin and wrath is a deadly sin for a reason. Wrath at its core seeks vengeance, not justice. Anger is an inherently difficult passion to rule. Once it takes over–because we have not sought the spiritual discipline to keep it in check–it rules us. Wrath also causes a form of blindness. We are no longer able to differentiate between who is actually to blame and sweeping generalizations. We then fall into other sins such as calumny and gossip. Or the even deadlier sin of pride in thinking we know better than everyone else. In our desire to seek vengeance under the guise of justice, the anger within us continues to grow the more we dwell on it. It festers.

There is a lot of wrath going on in response to this scandal and wrath is not going to get us anywhere. I myself–after weeks of maintaining a leveled response to the scandals in which I was able to temper my anger–fell into wrath after the St. John’s Seminary scandal broke and the PA Grand Jury Report came out. The horror of it overwhelmed me and my anger rose at an intensity that I could no longer control. I was no longer able to see who was actually trying to shepherd us through this crisis. I started making assumptions such as saying “all bishops” are involved or they should have all known about it. That’s the same as implying that I should know all of the sins of my husband. I don’t, nor could I. I started to wonder how much our priests were keeping from us, which fosters distrust and suspicion. I ignored genuine calls to respond to this crisis at a spiritual level and every statement I read from a bishop or the Vatican rang hollow. Now, some of them are truly awful and rather than being spiritual beacons are lawyer-speak or PR marketing. I’m a former lawyer’s daughter, I can spot lawyer-speak a mile away.

When I realized what had befallen my soul, I took it immediately to the Sacrament of Confession. I walked in feeling blinded by my wrath. I had developed a sort of tunnel vision and could no longer differentiate between the good and the bad and I started blaming people who may or may not be guilty. I was getting close to judging souls. I was particularly wrathful towards our bishops, even my own. This is a very real danger for all of us during this time. I never grouped my own parish priests in with others–except occasionally wondering if they know things we don’t–because I know them personally and I know they are good shepherds and men who are dedicated to the priesthood and trying to become saints. They are both greatly pained and burdened by this crisis and are doing their best to lead my parish through the spiritual and moral chaos.

The solution to the wrath in my soul is the very thing many of my brothers and sisters in the laity are railing against right now. They are angry that we are expected to do penance and make reparations for these abominations. I understand that at a human level, but as a theologian, I know this is to greatly misunderstand what we entered into at Baptism. We are no longer on our own. There is no longer simply me. It is we. We are united to one another at the deepest levels of reality. Sin harms the entire body. Our sins–even though they may not be as egregious–harm the Mystical Body. Wounds of the magnitude we are dealing with require a communal response and reparations from the entire Mystical Body. God is mercy, but He is also justice and these sins call out for Divine Justice. Our reparations bring about mercy, healing, and justice by allowing God to work through us within the Church. They also stay His hand.

Yes, writing to the bishops and blowing wide open these scandals is essential. The darkness must be brought out into the purifying light. It will be painful for a while and this will take generations to root out in order for a renewal to happen within the Church. There is no quick fix. There will be no speedy reform. Church history is very instructive for us impatient Americans. Chances of a mass resignation of bishops is very unlikely. Rather in periods of massive moral and spiritual corruption, God raises up saints such as St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict, and St. Teresa of Avila. Most of us are not St. Catherine of Siena and we don’t have the ear of the pope or the graces God gave her to be successful in her work. The saints often work in mysterious ways and we need to keep that in mind. We should practice some humility before we start likening ourselves to her or other saints. Are we saints? I’m certainly not. We should all be actively striving to become one.

We do have to find ways to direct our anger and heartache properly. We need to be purged of wrath and seek healing from the Divine Physician in the Sacrament of Penance when that deadly sin befalls our souls. We must come to God in prayer and seek His will for our response. It may not be the one we want. Most of us aren’t going to be nailing demands to the bishop’s rectory in our diocese or even confronting the corruption in person. For the vast majority of us, the answer will be to strive for holiness and in so doing we will purify the Church and help lead the people around us to holiness. He’s going to ask us to perform penances and acts of reparation. He’s going to call us to pray and support the priests in our parishes who are shepherding as best they can in an impossible situation. He’s going to ask us to come together as never before in the communion that we are meant to be living, but in our individualistic society fail to live properly. Those of us with steadier faith will need to help to steady our wavering brothers and sisters.

Wrath keeps us from praying. It leads us to sinful judgment and I’ve seen far to many of my brothers and sisters grouping all priests together. They already bear the weight of walking around in public shamed for the collar they wear. While this is the least of the worries for the priests I know since they are most concerned about the victims and their flocks, this is still a heavy burden to carry and we should do our level best to shoulder it and make it lighter by our support. We their brothers and sisters must avoid judging the vast majority of priests who are in fact innocent. We also miss out on the very real spiritual guidance they are offering to us as our spiritual fathers in these dark days if we allow wrath to blind and deafen us. They are meant to help lead us to heaven. They can’t do that if we close ourselves off from them.

The penance I was assigned this past Saturday was exactly what the Holy Spirit knew I needed. It was the Feast of St. Helena and I was assigned offering atonement through a type of prayer to the Cross. Father suggested the Stations of the Cross. I still left Confession burdened, but I walked into the main sanctuary and began praying the Stations of the Cross. With each new Station the wrath I was carrying left my soul and by the end peace had been restored. I spent 30 minutes reading St. Matthew’s account of the Paschal Mystery while I waited for Mass to begin. I spent an hour in a mini-Lent. After receiving Holy Communion in the Mass, I finally felt strong enough and able to begin again and this time I understood what I must do.

I am not the only one in whose soul God has placed a desire to offer penance and reparations as an active response to the pain within the Church. Since Saturday, the need to enter into a Lenten period has increased in my soul and sure enough yesterday I discovered that other brothers and sisters in Christ have been called to do the same thing. It is how we can channel and rightly order our anger and pain.

Beginning tomorrow on the Feast of Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, many Catholics–many fellow writers–are encouraging the Mystical Body to begin a 40-day period of prayer and fasting. Christ Himself tells us that certain sins can only be rooted out by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). This is an opportunity for us to help begin to bring about healing and renewal in the Church. Spiritual weapons are vastly more effective at bringing about the purge needed than even the most eloquent of emails to the USCCB. That doesn’t mean we should stop voicing our concerns and desire for reform. I simply mean that we cannot hope for change if we are not entering into the very dark and real spiritual warfare embroiling the Church. We also need to be willing to play the long game. This will not be completely purged in my lifetime or even my daughter’s. You can find information about this period of prayer and fasting here.

I personally believe that God is calling me into a period of greater silence for the next 40 days, so I will be fasting from social media and television as well. I plan to write as I am able to and I will continue my regular Thursday contribution at Catholic Exchange. I pray this time is fruitful for all of us who enter into the tremendous Cross the Church is enduring in our age. Our hope is in Christ and we can enter more deeply into love and communion with Him by our prayers and sacrifices. I will be praying for all of you throughout this period. May God bless you always. Pax Christi.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.