“Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (Mark 4:38)
Dear family and friends,
I haven’t posted in a while, and don’t worry. It’s not because of cancer. I’ve been preoccupied, obsessively so, with the evil, criminal scandal of sexual abuse and cover-up among leaders within the Catholic Church. I’ve followed every revelation, accusation, counter-accusation, statement, non-statement, infuriating evasion, puzzling tone-deaf juxtaposition of remarks on unrelated or trivial topics, all of it. I even know the name of the law firm one cardinal has hired. I happen to know their partners charge $1300/hr and believe I’m right to assume that those bills will ultimately be paid from Grandma’s Sunday contributions. I’ve gone deep.
I’m fed up and angry and want to see the perpetrators tried, and have justice finally done. If you’re not up to speed on why Catholics can’t simply “throw the bums out,” or why we don’t just leave, that’s a long conversation, and it’s not my purpose in this post to get into it. Lots of authors and bloggers have done a good job of explaining why it’s not even a question whether a Catholic would leave the Church. Today I’m writing about a revelation I had this afternoon. It grew, in part, out of my following of coverage of the scandals. But it’s related to a number of other things that all intersected today as I was sitting in an empty church, listening.
Before I share that, let me once again thank you for your prayers. I had an infusion yesterday and it went fine. No changes to report. Next CT scan is 9/27. I’m staying on course and feel totally fine.
Okay, today’s revelation, in five parts:
I. Several months ago, I brought to a wise priest my concern about a completely different matter that was going on in the Church. It had more to do with Church teaching and divisions among Catholics about the papacy of Francis – and related anxieties that friends were sharing with me. I didn’t know how to guide people through the storms that they were experiencing. This priest asked me, “Does anything about this state of affairs change what you have to do every day as a Catholic husband and father, or as a worker or friend?” I replied, “No.” He let me sit with the silence that ensued. Tuck that story away for a moment.
II. Then, months later, we had the recent news coverage of crimes within the Church that for many people I know have dominated their consciousness much more than Trump, Kavanaugh, Kaepernick, the mid-terms, or anything else. I spent hours poring over news accounts and thinking through how the church could take out the trash and move forward.
III. This morning Kendra asked me if I’ve read the infuriating [such and such] homily that [somebody] gave. I had. 4 days ago. I thought to myself, “Wow. I knew about that 4 days ago. How was I better off for having found that story through social media and devoured it 4 days before Kendra knew about it?” I did not have a good answer.
IV. Later this morning I read a long piece on sexual morality by a writer I agreed with on a few points and disagreed with on many. It had nothing to do with crimes within the Church, but I think my biggest takeaway was how it made me think as a dad. Sexual morality is a tough thing to teach and communicate to children, even setting aside any awkwardness. It took Pope John Paul II 129 addresses over 5 years to communicate his “Theology of the Body”, which was his effort at an integrated vision of the human person and an analysis of sexual morality. And he was talking to adults who had made a point to come and listen to him on this topic. The writer I read today was at odds with many, many points in JPII’s teaching. I was thinking about how I would talk to this author and concluded that it would require 129 sessions and 5 years to get my point across.
V. This afternoon I stopped by a church on my way home from an errand, just to make my daily visit. A few minutes later I got up to leave. Then I remembered that I slept in sort of late before going to Mass this morning, and hadn’t spent time in prayer, which I try to do every day. Why did I need to sleep in? I had been up late poring over material about crimes within the Church. I sat back down and stayed for a while to pray. I was getting distracted by continuing thoughts of how it would take me 129 lectures to make my point with that author, and then I thought, “Why do I need to talk to that author? I’m supposed to make sure my kids know how to use their free will for good, how to treat others, how to sacrifice themselves and serve, how to follow a True moral framework for making decisions, whether they be about sexuality or anything else.” Bingo.
There in the church I referred myself to my conversation with the priest in Part I: “Does anything about this state of affairs change what you have to do every day as a Catholic husband and father, or as a worker or friend?” Then to Part II: I’ve been spending a lot of time obsessing about rotten elements in my Church. Then to Part III: Just an example of how I would have found out from someone else eventually anyway. Then to Parts IV and V: I have complex stuff to teach my kids. I actually had sexual morality talks with the 4 oldest kids in July and August, but it wasn’t 129 talks. There’s more to do. More thinking…
The news is going to get to me anyway. I’m wasting time.
Nothing in the news is something I’m going to act upon in a way that has any bearing on some bishop’s resignation or criminal trial. I’m wasting time.
I have an entire moral framework for life to continue to propose to my children. I’m wasting time.
Even though I’ve proposed parts of that framework, I have to refine it. I’m wasting time.
Regarding my scripture quote up at the top of this post (“Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”): After weak-kneed mortals blurted this at the God of the universe, he responded by rebuking the wind and the sea, calming a deadly storm with a mere word.
|The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt, 1632|
And I thought, maybe if we all (or even just I) simply petitioned God full of faith in his ability and willingness to calm this storm, that he would do just that – that for all the helpless-feeling talk about what we should do, it surely is one of those situations where the turning of people back to God is precisely what is required to bring about our salvation. And here I’ve been praying less and reading news articles more. I’m wasting time.
I have cancer. I’m wasting time.
I want to make clear that I believe some heroic actions are in the works by faithful Catholics. I cast no aspersions on those efforts, and I agree that there is a place for action in this crisis. Those actions might have their intended effect, and they might not. I might get involved in some of them, and not in others. But if nothing about the news of other people’s crimes changes what I have to do as a husband and father, then woe to me if I let anything – anything – get in the way of that. I have limited time on this earth – and maybe that will be limited by cancer and maybe it won’t – but I was put here to be a husband and a father. Clock’s ticking.
And let me tell you, I walked out of that church fired up. This is why I pray. In an earlier post I briefly alluded to relying on spiritual direction and prayer. I followed up to explain why spiritual direction is so great for me. I’ve been holding off on a post about prayer because I wanted the right story to tell. This episode today is an example of one of countless inspirations I have gotten when I make time to just be quiet and listen in prayer. It’s one inspiration among many, when “it all comes together” – a clear synthesis of many swirling thoughts and seemingly unrelated memories. And it has nothing to do with me. It’s more like I’m an obstacle to accomplishing anything in prayer, what with the racing mind and daydreaming about some author’s article I disagree with. How in the world does God use my spacing out to give me clarity in the middle of turbulent times? Or do I mean to say, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)
With fortitude and prayers for you,