Author: Renewal Ministries Staff

A Prayer for Troubled Catholics

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The following prayer was shared with us after the release of Ralph Martin’s letter Dear Troubled Catholics

By Susan Domen

Heavenly Father, we praise you! You are goodness and love, you are holy and perfect!

We come to you, Father, with heavy hearts, looking to You in Your infinite mercy, to console us in our grief, send clarity where there is confusion, repentance where there is sin, obedience where there is obstinance, truth where there is silence, and love where there is indifference.

Help us to fast and pray in reparation for our sins and for those who have led astray and compromised the faith of so many. Have mercy on us, look upon us as harassed and lost, as like sheep without a shepherd.

Father, we beg You, send Your Holy Spirit to breathe upon us, to renew; to make holy, beautiful and most pure, the Church, the bride of your beloved Son, Jesus. Holy Spirit, fall upon the most hardened hearts, as well as those of the faithful and devout. Fill them with the fire of Your love. Grant them holy boldness to speak truth in the face of corruption and intimidation. Let them not be silent, let them stand together in unity, in confidence that truth and goodness will prevail and the gates of Hell will not stand against the pressing in of the Holy Ones, the body of the Church, Christ’s Bride, to be made pure, holy, and undefiled.

Father, we come to You in our littleness, looking for comfort, looking for justice, looking for answers. We know You are most merciful, thank You for hearing our prayer. You are able to bring goodness through even the darkest of days, all in accordance with your divine will. We pray this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, one with You, through the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Hope for the Future: Holding Clerics to a Higher Standard

We want to share with you the following reflections from a recent bulletin article by Fr. Steve Mattson, from Church of the Resurrection in Lansing, Michigan.


Reflections on the Ordination of a Bishop

Later today (Wednesday), a good priest friend of mine, Monsignor Jerry Vincke, will be ordained the 12th Bishop of Salina, Kansas. I am privileged to be here to celebrate with and to pray for him and his new diocese. Last evening, we celebrated Solemn Vespers in Sacred Heart Cathedral. It was beautiful and poignant, especially in light of the current crisis. The cathedral was filled with priests from Salina, from Lansing, and other priest friends near and far. There were bishops too, of course, from Kansas, Michigan, and other places around the country whom Bishop-elect Vincke has come to know during his years of priestly ministry. His family and some friends also made the journey and were with us last night.

Mixed Emotions

Largely because of the horrors of the past few weeks, at a dinner in Bishop-elect Vincke’s honor, I experienced a range of emotions. Sobered and angered by the actions and inactions of bishops near and far, I couldn’t help but wonder about each and every bishop whom I saw last night: what has he done or not done to protect children from priests and or other bishops? Has he been faithful as a shepherd of Christ’s flock? The same question could and should be asked of every priest, myself included. The recent weeks have caused me to be suspicious about everyone. This, despite the fact that I continue to trust the Lord for the good of His Church. Such is the state of the current crisis in the Church, when all priests and bishops are suspect. We have been here before, in terms of poor reputation, and the answer today, as always, is sanctity. Of course, the evil one loves this scandal. But God, I’m sure, is at work. I am prayerful and hopeful that the news, as devastating as it has been, will finally lead the bishops (or the Pope, if they will not act) to excise the duplicitous clerics from their ranks. We all need to be who we say we are, priests in the High Priest, committed always to doing only the Father’s Will, and leading lives guided by the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit!

Clericalism

In his recent letter to the Catholic faithful, the Holy Father pointed his finger at clericalism as one of the roots, if not the root, of the current ongoing sex-abuse crisis. There are obviously other roots, including the all-too-common “gay subcultures” in seminaries and in dioceses, but I think there is no doubt that clericalism is at the root of the crisis. Last evening, as I watched priests interacting with the bishops who were at the dinner, I couldn’t help recalling the ways seminarians would rub shoulders with bishops at seminary events, longing to impress, to be noticed. I wonder how many of the priests who are here have hopes of one day joining the rank of bishop. This seems to be a particular temptation of those men who study in Rome. I never studied in Rome, but it seems many who do so half-expect that they are “bishop material” by that very fact. It makes sense. They get to meet those who make such decisions. Those of us who never study in Rome and especially those who are in small dioceses know, whatever others might tell us, that we never will become a bishop. It’s a relief, actually, because we never feel the itch to impress or to be noticed.

Clericalism II

The other manifest way that clericalism is evident is that priests are often treated differently from the way lay men and women are treated. Priests’ (and bishops’) pastoral failures, human weaknesses, manifest sins, even their crimes(!), have been tolerated and/or covered over. They have been judged with greater leniency rather than, as scripture says, with greater strictness (James 3:1). I suspect it’s been in the name of avoiding scandal, but “prudential” decisions of this sort have made the crisis worse.  Whether a priest’s misuse of office is marked by failure to teach the truths of the Church (which is bad enough), or (much worse) the psychological or sexual abuse of staff or parishioners, or some other scandalous behavior, too many priests have been given countless “second chances.” Why? The answer is bound up with clericalism, which screams loudly that “we’re different.” Though priests and bishops are set apart, we are not above reproach, nor ought our sins be tolerated or ignored. (This is not to say that all sinners should be eliminated from the priesthood, just those who have abused their office in any way. We are, in fact, all sinners. But not sinners with the same sins. It won’t do, of course, to dismiss this call for a higher standard by saying “we’re all sinners, who am I to judge?” Bishops must judge, for the Lord will one day judge them for how they tended the flock entrusted to their care.)

How Does This Happen?

You might ask, why would any bishop tolerate this sort of behavior, even though it often demoralizes the lay faithful and other priests? I offer a few possibilities. Some bishops seem to desire to be known as “priests’ bishops.” They want to be seen as their priests’ defenders, which leads them to tolerate too much. And, in fact, bishops are canonically required to care for their priests. (It should go without saying that caring for priests cannot trump caring for the “sheep” those priests are called to feed and protect!) Others may make decisions primarily to protect the reputation of the Church, to keep the dirty secrets from getting out. It is fear-based, and clearly a failing project. Other bishops may not discipline a priest out of fear of conflict with the priest and/or with the priest’s fans. (All priests have fans.) Many others, I suspect, are just trying to keep things “running.” They have to deal with a very real shortage of priests. If they discipline a priest, the priest might leave, and others might protest his being disciplined and they might threaten to leave as well. Then what would happen? It’s, of course, a very good question, and from where I sit, it is a question that I hope we will have to answer. That’s because I am convinced that the faithful in this moment of crisis are fed up. They are coming to the point where they are demanding (again!) fidelity. It need not be said that Christ has always demanded fidelity, but the prospect of the final judgment does not seem to have elicited sufficient Fear of the Lord among some bishops and priests nor the consequent “beginning of wisdom” scripture promises will follow. As your pastor, I am convinced that the only way out of this crisis is for bishops to demand of themselves and their priests absolute fidelity to Christ, and to countenance no duplicity in their ranks. Clerics must be held to a higher, not a lower, standard. Please hold me to this standard. And pray for me.

Hope for the Future

I think if a bishop commits to fidelity and demands it of his priests, young men will respond to the call to help fill the holes in the priesthood in that diocese. The families and those men will know that the battle must be joined, and that those relatively few who remain are worth fighting alongside, because they are faithful and serve the cause of Christ and the salvation of souls. May all bishops embrace, for themselves and their priests, fidelity to Christ as the litmus test for ministry. This is a moment of grace, a “severe mercy.” May the bishops pursue God’s path forward, whatever the consequences, entrusting their flock to the Good Shepherd. Come, Holy Spirit! I am grateful to say that I am utterly confident that Bishop Vincke will be that sort of bishop. Please keep him and the Diocese of Salina in your prayers.

With prayers and fasting for the purification of the Church,

Fr. Steve Mattson

A Time of Judgment and Purification

Fr. Michael Scanlan at a FIRE Rally.

The following prophecy, given by Fr. Michael Scanlan, was shared in a New Covenant magazine article by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan in May of 1980. Its words continue to ring true today. One member of our staff responded to the prophecy with these words: “This is very sobering. It is amazing how easily we get mired in the weeds and forget or fail to see where the real battle is or who the real enemy is.” As the original New Covenant article stated, “It demands serious attention, prayerful reflection, and true repentance. It is a word that should touch and change each of our lives.”

By Fr. Michael Scanlan

The Lord God says, “Hear My Word: The time that has been marked by My blessings and gifts is being replaced now by the period to be marked by my judgment and purification. What I have not accomplished by blessings and gifts, I will accomplish by judgment and purification.

My people, My Church is desperately in need of this judgment. They have continued in an adulterous relationship with the spirit of the world. They are not only infected with sin, but they teach sin, embrace sin, dismiss sin. Their leadership has been unable to handle this. There is fragmentation, confusion, throughout the ranks. Satan goes where he will and infects whom he will. He has free access throughout my people—and I will not stand for this.

My people specially blessed in this renewal are more under the spirit of the world than they are under the Spirit of My baptism. They are more determined by fear of what others will think of them—fears of failure and rejection in the world, loss of respect of neighbors and superiors and those around them—than they are determined by fear of me and fear of infidelity to my word.

Therefore, your situation is very, very weak. Your power is so limited. You cannot be considered at this point in the center of the battle and the conflict that is going on.

So this time is now come upon all of you: a time of judgment and of purification. Sin will be called sin. Satan will be unmasked. Fidelity will be held up for what it is and should be. My faithful servants will be seen and will come together. They will not be many in number. It will be a difficult and a necessary time. There will be collapse, difficulties throughout the world.

But more to the issue, there will be purification and persecution among my people. You will have to stand for what you believe. You will have to choose between the world and me. You will have to choose what word you will follow and whom you will respect.

And in that choice, what has not been accomplished by the time of blessing and gifts will be accomplished. What has not been accomplished in the baptism and the flooding of gifts of my Spirit will be accomplished in a baptism of fire. The fire will move among you and it will burn out what is chaff. The fire will move among you individually, corporately, in groups, and around the world.

I will not tolerate the situation that is going on. I will not tolerate the mixture and the adulterous treating of gifts and graces and blessings with infidelity, sin, and prostitution. My time is now among you.

What you need to do is to come before Me in total submission to My Word, in total submission to My plan, in the total submission in this new hour. What you need to do is to drop the things that are your own, those things of the past. What you need to do is to see yourselves and those whom you have responsibility for in light of this hour of judgment and purification. You need to see them in that way and do for them what will best help them to stand strong and be among My faithful servants.

For there will be casualties. It will not be easy, but it is necessary. It is necessary that My people be, in fact, my people; that My Church be, in fact, My Church; and that My Spirit, in fact, bring forth the purity of life, the purity and fidelity to the Gospel.

An Open Letter from Young Catholics

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The following article originally appeared on First Things.

. . .

Archbishop McCarrick’s predatory career would not have been possible without the culpable silence or active complicity of men at the highest levels of the Church. Revelations of his abuse have therefore gravely damaged the credibility of the whole Catholic hierarchy. Here a group of young Catholics speaks with one voice about the need for a cleansing fire. Their statement is non-partisan, assuming nothing but the eternal validity of the Church’s teaching.

They call for an independent investigation of who knew what and when, a new intolerance of clerical abuse and sexual sin, and public acts of penance by Catholic bishops. They promise to work and suffer for the Church, and to strive for holiness in their own lives. As children of the Church, they ask for fathers who honor the Father above. They are confident that their pleas are heard by God. They hope that they will likewise be heard by the priests and bishops who fear him.

Dear Fathers in Christ,

In preparation for the upcoming Synod on Young People, the Vatican asked for reports from young Catholics around the world concerning their faith and the role the Church plays in their lives. Some of us are younger than others, but we were all children in the decades leading up to the sexual abuse crisis of 2002. In light of that experience and the recent revelations about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, we answer the Church’s invitation to speak. Our experiences have given us cause for gratitude, but also for anger.

We are grateful for the way good priests and bishops lay down their lives for us day after day. They say the Mass, absolve us from sin, celebrate our weddings, and baptize our children. Through their preaching, teaching, and writing, they remind us that Jesus Christ has conquered evil once and for all. Their daily sacrifices give us blessings of infinite worth. For all of this, we are profoundly thankful.

We are also angry. We are angry over the “credible and substantiated” report of Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse of a minor. We are angry over the numerous allegations of his abuse of seminarians and young priests. We are angry that “everybody knew” about these crimes, that so few people did anything about them, and that those who spoke out were ignored.

In addition, we have heard reports of networks of sexually active priests who promote each other and threaten those who do not join in their activities; of young priests and seminarians having their vocations endangered because they refused to have sex with their superiors or spoke out about sexual impropriety; and of drug-fueled orgies in Vatican apartments.

As Catholics, we believe that the Church’s teaching on human nature and sexuality is life-giving and leads to holiness. We believe that just as there is no room for adultery in marriages, so there is no room for adultery against the Bride of Christ. We need bishops to make clear that any act of sexual abuse or clerical unchastity degrades the priesthood and gravely harms the Church.

Continue reading here.

Sanctification in the Golden Years

The following is an abridged version of an article written by Anne Valentyne that originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ March and April 2006 newsletter. Its message is of such great value, we believe it is important to share it again now. It can also be found in our Renewal Ministries’ July, 2018 newsletter.


I once read a meditation that said,

Everything about life has been carefully attended to so you could fulfill your destiny, and God is always with you to help you. None of us is just a random occurrence. We have not been left here to evolve alone. Every one of our lives fits into a master plan, something we can learn about and embrace as we spend time in prayer and Scripture. Parts of this plan are common to all of us. For example, we know that God wants us to be holy and full of love and praise for Him (Eph 14:16). But each of us is designed to fulfill these callings in our own unique way. (The Word Among Us, Advent 2004)

The Lord is with us from birth to death, and this includes our senior years.

Our years after age seventy are frequently referred to as “The Golden Years.” Yet the ills of aging often don’t appear golden. Can they be? Yes! They are golden for those who have given their lives to Jesus. Regardless of our income, we are rich in the things of God and His Church! These years are a part of God’s will and plan. “Here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14). We are in the final years of our pilgrimage to that city of eternal bliss, of total union with the Trinity.

These years afford us our last opportunity to be purified and ready to see God. Suffering is not good in itself, but God brings good out of it. Our aging, sufferings, and death can become what Fr. Gabriel of St. Magdalene, OCD, terms a “mystical purgatory,” through which we expiate our sins, intercede for others, and at the same time grow in our love for God.

It is humbling to not be able to walk without assistance, but out of love for God, I can accept this suffering as expiation for my sins of pride. When it takes longer to dress myself because of arthritis in my hands, or I need to wait for somebody to pick me up, because I can no longer drive, I can say, “Jesus, I’ll be patient in this difficulty. I want to lovingly accept this purification of my sins of impatience.”

Sometimes, we may need to give up very spiritual things, like driving or walking to Mass every day, or our activity in our local church. There are so many things we can’t do any more, and it seems like such a loss. As we suffer these voids in our life, we can trust that God is using them to open up in us a greater capacity to receive His love and to love Him in return. Jesus took upon Himself the full weight of human suffering, so to transform it into a means of salvation and endless happiness in that blessed place where there will be no more pain. In anticipation of that blessedness, Jesus brings a deep and real joy to all suffering and tribulations.

These years also afford us opportunities to suffer in a paschal manner. When Sr. Lucia of Fatima was dying, Pope John Paul II sent her a letter that reminded her to accept her final suffering and death as “paschal suffering.” Suffering in a paschal way means uniting our sufferings with Jesus’ in His bitter passion and death—and in the victory of His resurrection. As we let the thread of His resurrection permeate our sufferings, we can experience the triumph, joy, and peace of Jesus’ resurrection, trusting that we will have an eternity of total union with the Blessed Trinity.

Shortly after writing to Sr. Lucia, John Paul II entered into his own final weeks of suffering and personally witnessed to what paschal suffering means. At the end of his life, and during the many struggles that preceded it, he lived the words of St. Paul:

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor 4:7-11)

Pope John Paul II made his sufferings an altar on which he offered himself to God.

Knowing that my senior years are an important part of my sanctification—that I can still work for the Kingdom—has helped me very much. I need to set aside time for prayer and Scripture reading every day. Days become busy, even in retirement, and time for prayer can be crowded out. When I am faithful to prayer, God continually draws me more into loving Him and letting Him love me.

Prayer allows what I endure to be redemptive. My sufferings can have eternal value for me, for the Church, and for the world. I am partnering with Jesus in His redemptive work for the Church—establishing His Kingdom here on earth!

I recently read a meditation on Luke 5:11:

We may not see 3,000 people come to Christ in one day. Still, Jesus did call us the light of the world. Let’s not hide that light under a basket! Our words and actions do matter. We really bring Christ with us into every situation we enter. Our prayers of intercession really can transform others’ circumstances and change their hearts. We really can ‘catch people’ for God’s kingdom! (The Word Among Us, September 2005)

Jesus gave us the great commandment to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Mt 22:38). He added, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” As we age, we may no longer get out to actively serve, but we can love all we relate to. We can exude the love of Jesus, because we have made our afflictions an altar on which we offer ourselves to God, and Jesus is on that altar with us. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta encouraged people to give Jesus to others by example—by being in love with Jesus, radiating His holiness, and spreading His fragrance of love everywhere.

Although I may not be able to be physically active, I am still a child of the Church through baptism, and I share in its rich life. I can do this in many ways: meditating on daily Mass readings; expressing my deep desire to receive Jesus spiritually, when I can’t receive Him in Holy Communion; and reciting the Communion prayers and the prayers after Communion to help enkindle my desire to receive Him.

I also remain interested in what is going on in the universal Church and my parish: Someone brings me the weekly bulletin, so I can pray for parish activities. I make financial contributions. And someone from the parish brings me Holy Communion.

Our senior years can be as golden as we make them. Thank You, Jesus, for the abundance of grace that You give as we draw near the end of our journey. You designed these years so they can give us the inner strength and understanding that our earthly losses require. You give us unlimited trust as we suffer voids and detachments. What seems like diminishment serves to enlarge us, to give us more wisdom. Help me believe You are hollowing out in my soul greater capacities to receive You. Help me look at each trial as a proof of Your love and desire to unite me more to Yourself. Fill the voids with Your love.


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