One of the side-effects of the on-going crisis within the Church, particularly in the United States but also in various other places throughout the world, is the feeling amongst the laity that they are powerless and insignificant in the grand scheme of things – and because of this, they feel unable to effect any real change or renewal within the Church. But although we might feel this, that does not make it true.
It is certainly true that a heavy responsibility lies with the Bishops of the Church, many of whom have failed the faithful through their actions, their omissions and their silence, which continue to the present day despite all that has come into the light so far. There are already calls for these Bishops – all Bishops – to undertake acts of public penance and reparation to the Lord and to His Church; these calls are becoming louder and more insistent by the day, for the laity clearly perceive the grave need for a deep, profound and genuine repentance on the part of the Bishops. Alas, any such move on their part will have less efficacy if done purely in response to those calls or as nothing more than an exercise in public relations or damage limitation, rather than being a spontaneous and meaningful gesture because the Bishops themselves clearly recognise their need – our need – of it. But remember, too, that no matter how it might appear, there are a great many good and holy Bishops – and they, like all of us, are deeply wounded by what is happening within the Church as this crisis deepens like a festering wound.
What is not in doubt is that the Lord will make use of this present situation, deeply painful though it certainly is, to bring good to the Church; periods of crisis tend also to be moments of grace and renewal, and this has happened repeatedly throughout the last two thousand years of the history of the Catholic Church. Saint Paul reminds us that ‘where sin abounds, grace abounds even more’ and those words have always proven true.
It is also the case that every single member of the laity, no matter how insignificant we may think ourselves to be, has a crucial role to play in this crisis. The worst thing we can possibly do is to abandon the Church and the Sacraments – it is the worst thing for us as individuals, and for the Church herself. The reality of our Faith is not lessened or destroyed by current Church events, even if that Faith might be sorely tested. Rather, let us face the crisis head-on, trusting in the Lord that He remains in control and will bring goodness out of even the darkest evil.
To achieve this, all of us need to willingly offer our unceasing prayers, our daily duty, our little and not-so-little sacrifices, joyfully and with faith in the Lord, for the sake of the Church, asking the Lord to purify her, renew her and to make her truly holy. We cannot do better than to offer all of this through – and in union with – the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She is the Mother of the Church – whatever She presents before the Lord, He takes careful note of and acts accordingly.
In her Diary, Saint Faustina writes these words about being a very real part of the Church, although only one person –
“I am striving for sanctity, because in this way I shall be useful to the Church. I make constant efforts in practising virtue. I try faithfully to follow Jesus. And I deposit this whole series of daily virtues – silent, hidden, almost imperceptible, but made with great love – in the treasury of God’s Church for the common benefit of souls. I feel interiorly as if I were responsible for all souls. I know very well that I do not live for myself alone, but for the entire Church.” (Diary, para. 1505)
These words of Saint Faustina lay out a clear blueprint which all of us can follow, so that we, too, might contribute merit and grace into the treasury of the Church, of which every single one of us is a part.
We should not imagine that this terrible crisis within the Church will end any time soon – there is no reason to believe this to be so, even though various Bishops continue to downplay the effects of this crisis, or else are clearly not able to perceive what is before their eyes. And so, we need to be joyful and courageous not only today or tomorrow, but for a long time to come, no matter what else is revealed in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.
Be prepared for many to attack the Church both openly and insidiously, from without and from within; be prepared to feel true humility and sorrow, for much of what will be said is true and cannot be denied. But also, remain firm in your conviction that the Church is truly the Mystical Body of Christ, that the Holy Spirit will continue to act in her and through her, and that God’s will shall prevail. Be certain that the Mother of the Church feels the same pain for Her Son’s Church and that She will do all in Her considerable power to help, even to the extent of raising up great saints in these days.
Like Saint Faustina, let us all work toward achieving sanctity, for the good of the Church as a whole, through the practice of virtue and by leading a good and holy life, offering everything with love to the treasury of grace.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.