The Catholic Church is in turmoil. Some say it’s in crisis. Some believe that schism is already underway. Almost daily, you can read about the turmoil in Catholic news and commentary.
Cardinals and groups representing thousands of priests ask the Pope for a clarification of his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Bishops of Germany and Malta offer guidance that says the exhortation allows the divorced and remarried who lack an annulment to receive communion.
Pope Francis interjects himself into the governance of the Knights of Malta. One of the questioning cardinals is maligned in the media and sent off to Guam on a mission.
One high-placed cardinal defends the Church’s traditional teachings on marriage; another takes the position of the German and Maltese bishops. Nine cardinals of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals express support for the Pope.
I check at least five sources of Catholic news and commentary daily, waiting, and watching to see where this turmoil eventually leads.
While I have been waiting and watching, a passage from Scripture keeps entering my thoughts. As Matthew tells the story in Chapter 10, Our Lord calls his disciples, gives them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. He then sends the twelve out to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
They are to take no money for cleansing and healing these lost sheep, or for raising the dead. They are to stay with the worthy in the towns and villages to which they travel. But, the Lord tells them:
If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.
I have been reflecting for some time now on Our Lord’s words about shaking off the dust from your feet. During two difficult times in my ministerial life, I have had to make a decision about whether I should stay in a place or whether I should leave. In both instances, I chose to leave after much discernment. In both, this Gospel passage was an essential part of my reflection.
In situations such as my experiences in ministry, we can choose whether to stay or leave. Leaving the Church, however, is not an option for those of us who believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church. This is doubly true for those of us who left the Church in youth and spent years wandering. So we will stay, despite the mistaken positions taken by members of the hierarchy.
We will stay, but in staying we will not follow those in the hierarchy who stray from the traditional teachings of the Church in what they teach. Instead, we will remain true to the authentic teachings of the Church and will gather around the authentic teachers.
We may need to go to the desert for awhile and model our lives as best as we can on those of the Desert Fathers. We may need, therefore, to focus more diligently on prayer and fasting.
In addition to the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist and reading Scripture, we will find our courage in praying the traditional prayer of the Church. Praying the hours* will be a great companion on our journey, because in praying the hours we hear the voice of the Lord, who protects us and gives us hope: He that dwelleth in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of the God of Heavens. He shall say unto the Lord: Thou art my helper and my refuge. He is my God, and I will hope in Him. (Psalm 90, prayed daily at the Sixth Hour)
We will pray, and the Lord will hear our prayer: I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy mountain. (Psalm 3, prayed daily at Matins)
We will trust in the Lord: Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 19, prayed daily at Matins)
The Lord will help us: I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, Who hath made heaven and the earth. (Psalm 120, prayed weekdays and Saturday at the Midnight Office)
Regardless of what others do, we will keep the Lord’s commandments: I have kept Thy commandments and Thy testimonies, for all my ways are before Thee, O Lord. (Psalm 118, prayed weekdays at the Midnight Office and Saturdays at Matins)
Our belief, our faith, our trust in Jesus Christ will help us endure these dark times in the Church, which will pass as dark times have passed throughout the Church’s history.
We will not have to shake off the dust from our feet. We instead will stay in place, knowing that the Lord will ensure that his Church remains true to his teachings and trusting that he will judge those that maketh mischief in the name of the law and shall give back to them their own iniquity, and according to their wickedness the Lord God shall make them to be seen no more. (Psalm 93, Prayed Thursdays at Matins as part of the thirteenth kathisma)
And we will stay with the knowledge that the Lord can break the stony hearts of those who stray from the Church’s traditional teaching and that they might one day take his hand as he leads them back onto and along the way: O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 117, prayed Saturday mornings at Matins)
*The hours used here is that of the Eastern churches. Psalms quoted are from the services published in the Prayer Book and Book of Hours published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, which use their The Psalter According to the Seventy, a translation of the Septuagint, for the psalms.