By Sharon Wilson
Our posts for the Sunday ‘From the Vine’ are meant to be inspirational and give you time to reflect on a Sunday a little bit deeper. In general they are happy posts. I love writing these posts when I am asked and I listen to the readings of the day with my heart to find a bit of wisdom that I might be able to share.
Writing this post has been difficult. Finding peace among the struggles and scandals in the church has been a battle. I tried to ignore some of the news articles, but for me it brought back some of the most difficult times I have had in my faith life. I thought I had moved through this.
I started work in the Minneapolis and St. Paul Archdiocese at the most difficult time. It was right as the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis became very public. Everyday became an onslaught of another news story of yet another priest that had failed and committed some sort of crime. Those stories themselves were hard enough to take but the lack of proper follow through and protection of our children was/is unconscionable. Every story felt personal. In my work I was representing the Archdiocese. I felt connected to this scandal, but in fact we all are connected through the body of Christ. People I knew or recently had conversed with would sometimes be there one day and after a news story came out they were gone. I think it was the secrecy and pridefulness of some that most disturbed me. My Church, the church I love, the church that set me free was broken. Many times my faith was tested.
Today’s second reading reminds us:
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.
I found faith in the dedicated good priests and others during those times and that is what kept me tethered to the faith. I needed to learn a maturity in my faith that didn’t rely upon perfect people but in a perfect God. It was when I worked my hardest in trying to see others how God saw them – even sinners. It was a time when I had to look at the beautiful gift of forgiveness and work hard to live it.
But it was also a time of change. Through these struggles I eventually found a deeper faith.
Isn’t that the way it always happens? When we walk through the hard times (and not ignore them or walk around them) we grow deeper and stronger. Today, when I meet others who are contemplating leaving the church because of the latest round of scandal and uncertainty, I encourage them to hang on and go deeper.
I was recently reading about St. Dominic in the book The Hounds of the Lord. The time of St. Dominic is described as “By the time the boy became a mature man, Pope Innocent would call the fourth Lateran Council that would last a full two and a half years, addressing not only vital theological issues such as transubstantiation and the primacy of the papacy, but a host of problems, including the continued Muslim threat, the ongoing split with the Greek Church, the immoral behaviors of the clergy and the need for good preaching and better educated clergy.”
Sounds a lot like our problems today. God in that time raised up saints to lead us and we are now called to lead and not abandon the faith.
Three things helped me through this crisis of faith.
- I have relied on my friends. I have leaned on them and they have shared their wisdom with me. WINE and the Women of WINE have been a great support. When I am faltering in my prayer or belief, it is my friends, good priests and husband who have bolstered me. In return – when they may feel like faltering, I can bolster them.
- I have grieved. Identifying the pain and grief and calling it what it is goes beyond any secrecy. Embracing your own vulnerability is a necessary step. This powerful homily from Fr. Kevin Finnegan (August 26) walks through his own grief and is worth a listen. I share the anger reflected, “aren’t they, the Bishops meant to protect us?”
- I have prayed. I have to admit their have been times that I do not feel like praying. Times when I have been mad and want to give up. Fr. Altier, in this homily clearly points us to the Blessed mother. https://straphaelcrystal.org/homily/august-19-2018/ At one point in the homily he says,
“… 2,000 years ago Jesus cleaned out the temple, but he did it like a man. He picked up the big stuff in the middle of the room.
This time he’s sending his mom and she’s going to clean like a woman. There won’t be a cobweb left and there won’t be any dust
left in the corners. She’s going to clean house and it’s going to be beautiful! But it’s not going to be pleasant. Again, the resurrection
will happen only after the crucifixion.”
If I were to offer a fourth step it would be to take action. Resolve to pray, resolve to stay close to the sacraments, resolve to become involved. Have coffee with a friend and talk faith, go to daily Mass, get to confession, invite someone to Mass on Sunday, start a WINE book club.
We have a lot of work to do. To quote Kelly Wahlquist – “The body of Christ is broken. God is saying to us – Heal my body. “
About the author:
Sharon Wilson – Wife, Mother, Writer, Catholic Speaker, and a WINE Specialist. Sharon has a degree in education and has worked as a freelance writer, Respect Life Coordinator, a teacher, in advertising, radio, buyer and in youth advocacy – She even rode an elephant in the circus once! Sharon speaks, writes and shares about God’s healing and about the great gift of being Catholic at SharonAgnesWilson.com
Excellent article, excellent advice! I do believe Mary is cleaning the church now!
I do believe Mary is cleaning the church now! Superb article! Superb advice!
Your article gave me something to think about in this very disillusioning time in our Church. Thank you for your words. It is time to grow deeper in my faith.
Love to you, Sharon Wilson. Love walking in the Catholic Vineyard of WINE with you.
Very powerful!! Thank you!
A few years back, my friend’s brother,a priest, who is such a holy man and had no part in any scandal was walking down the street and a group of teens was yelling things like, “How does it feel to be a rapist!” at him. Just so sad and unjust! But we are all in this, our church together. Yes, our priests and church need many prayers and we cannot choose this as the time to run away… Thank you to our Lord and to Mary for all they do for us and this cause!!
Thank you, Sharon, for a great article.
Bless you Sharon . I will share this
Great article I always love reading your thoughts they get me thinking and praying.
Thank you! So well written!
We do have priests that have been unjustly accused…pray for them to be cleared and publish it…so quick to charge them, but we never hear a lot about who was cleared! Prayers for all priests! Amen.