Wednesday, September 23, 2020


The original post is here:

Dear Seminarians,

It is not an easy time right now to be a priest or one studying to be a priest.

Praise God.

The Church is being not only humbled but humiliated by the sins of Her own ministers.

Praise God.

Countless innocent priests are looked at with suspicion if not outright hatred because of the sins of their guilty brothers.

Praise God. 

I praise God in this not to downplay the depravity of my brothers’ crimes, scandles or ignore my own weeknesses, frustration, anger, and sadness at every bit of this awful situation. 

I praise God because the truth always sets us free and the Cross always conquers.  

The fact is, I am a priest of Jesus Christ. The natural habitat of a priest of Jesus Christ is the Cross – condemned for someone else’s sins; cursed reviled, mocked, and scourged – all willingly and for the sins of others. 

I may think to myself, “I never hurt a child in my life. I would never dream of sexually abusing anyone. Why am I looked at with suspicion?” 

Why? Because I am a priest of Jesus Christ. Because the priesthood into which I was ordained means that the monsters who committed these crimes or covered up for those who did are my brothers. I benefit every day from the love people have for their priests because of truly saintly ones who have gone before me; I must also willingly suffer the distrust, suspicion, and hatred because of the sinful ones who have gone before me as well. 

At a deeper level, though, to borrow a point from Fr. Mike Schmitz: I can say, I never did anything to deserve this, but you know what, those kids didn’t do anything to deserve what happened to them either. The victims - those members of the Church hurt in unspeakable ways by those who were ordained to care for them. They didn’t deserve what happened to them, and the burden they carry and pain they experience are incomparably worse than being judged for the sins of another.

Why am I writing this to you? So that, in the midst of present chaos in the Church and the world, you may not lose hope. 

There are snakes in the priesthood you hope to enter. But there are also saints. For every Judas, there are eleven other apostles who strive to be faithful.

On the darkest day the world has ever seen, at the very beginning of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, one betrayed, one denied, and nine fled. Only one remained. 

It is now, at this moment of crisis in the Church – uncertainty regarding every level of her leadership – that we are all given the opportunity to choose what kind of man and what kind of priest we want to be. 

We’ve seen those who have betrayed, and what they’ve done should make us sick to the stomach and furious to the very depths of our souls.

We’ve all at one point or another been those who deny the Lord or run away from our faith when times get hard and we get scared. I thank God that, in His mercy, He accepts us back and replaces our cowardice with courage, just as He did with His original disciples. 

At this crucial moment in the life of the Church, though, let’s be the one who remained. 

Let’s be the ones who remain. 

What does that mean? Just don’t leave the Church? No. So much more.

To remain as the Beloved Disciple remained is to cling to Christ when He doesn’t seem all that powerful, to be associated with Him when He is not all that popular, to suffer alongside Him as His Body hangs, bleeding and battered, on the Cross. To remain with Him means to be close to His mother who weeps for the members of her Son’s Body so deeply wounded by those who were meant to represent Him.

To remain at the Cross with our Crucified Lord and our Sorrowful Mother. 

What does that look like?

For one thing, it means being still when the world around you is chaos. 

It means spending more time in the chapel than in the blogosphere. 

It means being more filled with the ancient wisdom of Scripture than the hot takes and hastily scribbled opinions of this writer or that. (Might I suggest making your way through the books of the prophets during this particularly turbulent time? Doing so has been a great help to me in these weeks). 

It means refraining from jumping to conclusions prematurely, rather choosing to reflect long and hard before coming out with confident statements regarding someone’s innocence or guilt, recognizing that almost always, more facts must come to light before a good judgment can be made. 

Accusations this public and far-reaching are far too serious matters to decide without a truly thorough investigation. Thankfully, it is neither your job nor mine to conduct the investigation.

So what is our job? Remain at the uniquely uncomfortable place that is the foot of the Cross – a place where we can say both that justice demands a thorough and transparent investigation of everyone implicated in the McCarrick scandal and that charity demands that we withhold condemnation until the full truth comes out.

So, at the foot of the Cross we remain. 

And remember, who do we find there? Our bleeding Lord and our weeping Mother. Company infinitely better than either extreme of the Catholic blogosphere; consolers incomparably more effective than the “comfort sins” we may be accustomed to turn to when life gets overwhelming; a King and a Queen we can trust in totally when our faith in our  own leaders has been shaken. 

While we don’t want to become totally distrustful of those tasked with leading us, we have to be honest about the fact that in this current climate of “his word or mine”, we don’t know who or what to believe anymore.

Believe this: The King has nails in His hands and the Queen a sword in her heart. You can trust them. You can trust them because they are hurting as much as you are. Remain with them. Suffer with them. 

The Church Needs You to Remain

You have, I’m sure, been enjoined in these days to “defend the Church”. I ask you to do the same. Defend the Church. 

But what does that mean? Defend the institution and its structures? Defend the hierarchy and its failures? Attack the media for its chronic and seemingly willful misreporting on the issue? Point out to the world that this is a sickness that reaches well beyond the confines of the Catholic Church?

No. Those discussions all have their time and place, and it is not here and now. 

How do we defend the Church here and now? Defend the victims. Never forget that before the Church is an institution, it is a believer. And thousands of believers have been wounded. 

The Church’s reputation has been wounded. So have so many of Her children. Shed your tears for the children rather than the reputation and, by the grace of God, both may be healed. 

It is now more than ever that the Church needs you. But it needs you to be the saints God invites you to become. We no longer have time for mediocrity, for settling, for compromise. 

We need men who are willing to give over every part of themselves to the work of bringing Jesus into a sick world, working within a Church that caught the world’s worst sickness. 

We need men who – imperfect though they be – are willing to remain firmly planted between the Crucified Christ and His Sorrowful Mother and thus become the new generation of priests God raises up to heal the wounded in His Church.

We need a generation of priests who will restore the faith and trust in the people of God that the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. 

We need a generation of priests as tender in their love for the Lord and His beloved people as they are uncompromising in their battle against sin – in themselves, their brothers, and the Church at large. 

We need a generation of priests to lead us to our only true hope for salvation: Jesus Christ. 

And we need you to be that generation. 

It’s not by chance but by providence that God has called you into formation at this exact time and not another. Because of this, you can trust that He will give you the grace to do what we need you to do and be who we need you to be. 

Rise up to the challenge. Work with the One who is forming you into men capable of being the priest-saints that will bring Christ into countless broken lives desperate for His love. Pray with all you’ve got. Study with all that’s in you. Learn to serve. Learn how to take care of yourself, physically and spiritually. Build friendships that support and strengthen rather than enable and cover up. Let God use the seminary to form you into the saints we need for these troubled times. 

And in the midst of it all, know that we love you, that we’re praying for you, and that the God who calls you to a great and noble vocation will carry you every step of the way in living it out, if you let Him.

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