A deep-rooted antidote to scandal-mania

| Liz Kelly | September 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

The stories are soul-crushing.

A little girl, excitedly anticipating her first Communion, meets with the parish priest. As he quizzes her about the meaning of the sacrament, her little mind gets tongue-tied on the word “Eucharist,” and shy thing that she is, she blushes and drops her eyes to the floor. Then Father says to her, “Come, sit in my lap …” This precious soul is forced to receive her first Communion from the very priest that abused her two days earlier. She goes through the motions, but she is numb, frozen in fear, having literally been robbed of a robust and meaningful relationship with her spiritual father, her body, her sexuality and, most devastating of all, the Blessed Sacrament.

Now repeat this story — or something equally devastating — over and over again.

It’s unspeakable.

As regards the grotesque allegations that Church officials ignored, mishandled or even covered up cases of abuse, the question must naturally charge through your mind: “What in the world were they thinking?”

It pierces the spirit. How many more stories like this must we endure? Can there be atonement sufficient to cover this sweeping level of corruption and suffering?

A violent wind

This month I’ve been thinking a lot about a story I heard from a religious sister some years ago. The campus on which she taught got a new groundskeeper, a young man with tremendous energy, if little experience. Along a walkway she took every day, he planted some new trees: beautiful, fiery-colored maples. She watched every day as he watered the young trees, and they flourished, exploding in color in their first full fall season.

But the following summer, there was a tremendous windstorm and every single one of those trees blew over and died. In over-watering the trees, they were not allowed to struggle sufficiently. Their roots were sluggish because they had never been forced to go deep in search of sustenance, so they could not withstand the storm. The young groundskeeper did not know that they needed to struggle — to search and fight through that dense, black earth, so that their roots would go deep in search of water.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem; I have stood on the very spot. Surely he weeps over his Church now — in our tears and most especially in the tears of the multitude of holy, faithful priests we know.

And, of course, our tears are not enough. By all means, if you are called to write letters, sign petitions, fast and pray, make Holy Hours in atonement, work for reform, fight for transparency, do those things. But let’s not forget that the tears of Jesus took him into the heart of Jerusalem, where he stood before his accusers in silence. His broken heart walked him through those ancient stone streets battered by an angry mob, along the Via Dolorosa and up the hill to Golgatha. His crushed spirit took him into the very depths of hell.

But because he was willing to struggle through the darkest fathoms of human experience, those tears became our redemption. There is Atonement sufficient to the wound, and he rose from the dead so that I could not just stand where he once stood, but also follow him down into Jerusalem, and into the fullness of life, passion, death and resurrection.

Let’s pray the abused are restored in their relationship to God the Father, and for the rest of us — merciful God, give us pure hearts and deep, deep roots.

Father Almighty, the storm is ferocious, overdue, necessary. Don’t let it blow me over; let my roots reach deep for your living water.

Kelly is the author of six books, including the award-winning “Jesus Approaches” (Loyola Press, 2017) which has been chosen by the U.S. Catholic Book Club as its October 2018 selection. She is a parishioner of St. Michael in Stillwater. Visit her website at lizk.org.

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Category: Your Heart His Home