Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Hurting Church Approaches the Triduum

Good "Spy Wednesday" to you all.

On my way to work this morning, I heard a report on NPR radio reported by Sylvia Poggioli in Rome. Here is the link to the story; click on the "listen to the story" on that page.

These are—to say the least—troubling days for the Church. Bishops and archbishops have been using their Chrism Mass pulpits all week to defend the pope. I can only imagine that there will be quotes from Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday homilies all over the media. This is a time of intense scrutiny.

I remember receiving a letter from an angry pastor around this time in 2003, at the height of the clergy sexual abuse crisis here in the United States. I had written an intercession in one of WLP's liturgy preparation resources, as a suggestion for Easter Sunday: "For those who have been sexually abused, especially by priests, that they will see through the veil of darkness and learn once again to glimpse the truth that Christ died and rose to set the world free from fear, we pray to the Lord." He told me that he did not have a chance to edit the intercessions because he was so busy during the Triduum, and that the parish secretary had put the intercessions together. He was appalled that we would suggest such a prayer for Easter Sunday. He told me that "it was time to get over all of this and to put it behind us." He told me that, through his preaching and teaching, he was helping his parishioners to leave the past behind. I remember thinking at the time—as I have said in the pages before—that what was being experienced in the Unites States was but the tip of the iceberg. I still think, to this day, that the intercession I wrote was more than appropriate. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal urges us to craft intercessions using the following guidelines (from #70):

"As a rule, the series of intentions is to be
a. For the needs of the Church;
b. For public authorities and for the salvation of the whole world
c. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty
d. For the local community"

Clearly, I was trying to formulate a prayer that focused on "those burdened by any kind of difficulty." If we cannot name our own sins as a Church when we gather as the Body of Christ, and pray for those who have suffered due to that sinfulness, where else can we do so?

Think about what we are about to celebrate in the next few days. Tomorrow night we will be washing feet. Some of the feet that are being washed will be those of people who have been sexually abused by members of the clergy. Some of the feet that are being washed will be the feet of clergy and bishops (current and former) who have perpetrated that abuse. On Friday, the pope, bishops, priests, and deacons will lie prostrate on the floors of countless basilicas, cathedrals and churches throughout the world in a sign of submission to the crucified Lord. We will proclaim the Passion according to Saint John. In it we will hear stories of betrayal and denial. We will baptize new Christians; we will celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in confirmation; hundreds of thousands will be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. Hundreds of thousands will also receive their first Holy Communion. The saving death and resurrection of Christ will be proclaimed, will be sung, will be chanted, will be danced. All of this will be done by a group of sinners who have been, and continue to be, redeemed by the Lord.

I, for one, am entering these days aware that this Church of ours is hurting to the very core. When I embrace the cross on Good Friday, I will ask the Lord to help us feel this pain every more sharply; to bring us through this pain; and to lead us through the cross to the glory of a new day. Being Roman Catholic these days is not easy; is it ever really easy?

Thanks for listening today. Feel free to comment. Entering the conversation is one way to help all of us move through this time of deep hurt.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Thom Curnutte, S.F.O. said...

You've got it exactly right. Thanks for this.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

A good friend emailed these comments to me:

Thank you for your brave and honest assessment of our Church right now. I agree - sadly, but wholeheartedly – that we are in the midst of deep pain and even deeper denial. Our own Chrism Mass last night was beautiful, prayerful, and disturbing. I went out with the elect and candidates (60 from across the archdiocese) for dismissal and was moved by their faith, but wondered how they can sustain it when the community they will enter at the Great Vigil has been so damaged and divided. Dark days, indeed. I am more than ready for Resurrection and hope.
May you find peace in the Triduum as we walk with the Lord through another Passion (ever the same, always more painful than before) and realize anew that it is a difficult path we are on together. We survive the hurt only because we are together in the Body of Christ. I could never bear such a burden by myself.
By the way, I haven’t heard it called “Spy Wednesday” outside my own family in years. The old names and images bring familiar comfort, even for the harshest of realities.

I’ll be praying for you during the Triduum and ask you to do likewise for me. Thank you so much for your words and your witness; you are helping us to see the Kingdom close at hand. What a blessing you are!