When words fail

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | October 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

I don’t know what to say anymore.

For much of the last five years, I have echoed the sayings of archbishop’s executive team to keep our focus: “Victims first.” “Most for the most.” “Multiple eyes.” I have preached several times and written in this very column that we need to find the mystical body of Christ that is always greater than those who lead it and bigger than all its members.

Father Charles Lachowitzer

Father Charles Lachowitzer

Meanwhile, there have been so many other words. The Catholic Spirit has reported in every issue a further understanding of all the various steps, procedures, policies, protocols, cooperative agreements, settlements, financial transparencies and disclosures that have been a part of the archdiocese’s way forward to a just restitution, healing and the rebuilding of trust. Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Bishop Andrew Cozzens have written column after column to assist our understanding through each chapter of this most difficult time.

In just the last issue of The Catholic Spirit, a comprehensive and detailed review of the last five years was meticulously spelled out and summarized. I recognized much of my life in the timeline and the remarkable progress we have made, including the concluding chapter of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Last spring, I naively thought that the worst was behind us and that the clouds of scandal had moved on. Then the summer thunderstorms of Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Vatican City rocked my small world and overwhelmed me with a sense of helplessness. Like a January weather report in the Pacific Northwest, the future was nothing more than endless days of gray skies and rain. None of us on the archbishop’s staff could do anything to forestall any more bad news. What diocese, what country, what cardinal or bishop would be next?

I heard from many people their disappointment, anger and sense of betrayal. I heard from some people who left the Church. I heard and read a new saying about the Catholic Church: “No more words!” My brain with too many words was paralyzed. I could not think of anything more we could do except to tell people all that we have done. I had a sense that it was all futile, and I entered what in today’s world might be called “a dark night of the soul.”

One night I was “moving ribbons” — my description for saying my breviary prayers without much heart — and the words in the psalms and epistles were speaking to me. Words of encouragement. Words of trust in God. Words of the ultimate dominion of the light of Jesus Christ shining through this nighttime of the Church. My own words, thoughts and ideas did not matter. God’s Word was all that I needed to persevere in joyful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the next Mass, I longed for the Eucharist to be in communion with all those going to Communion. Even though I have received the body and blood of Christ thousands of times, I felt a greater peace than ever before.
As is God’s way beyond our ways, an elderly man came up to me after that Mass and asked to speak to me. I felt fragile and wondered if I could handle any more anger, hurt and sharp criticism. I must have looked at him with trepidation. He shook my hand, smiled and said, “I just want to tell you that I’m praying for all our priests.” I thanked him with an obvious sense of relief and said to him, “I just don’t know what to say anymore.”

He replied, “Just tell people what I’m telling you: Keep the faith!”

It does not surprise those who know me that I have used over 600 words to explain why three words will do when all else fails: Keep the faith.

Cuando las palabras fallan

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Category: Only Jesus