Saturday, May 8, 2010

This makes me think...

This Sunday's Gospel from John, we hear these words from Jesus:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give it to you."

Lately, I've been talking with people who have suffered the pains of sexual abuse. For each one, the circumstances differed of course... whether in their own families, or within the church, or at some other place and time. But they all repeat to me a familiar refrain: as all the recent news accounts about church sex scandals continue to swirl around, it triggers "stuff" that must be dealt with in their own lives. One friend wrote, "the dark dogs are chasing me again...."  She knew I knew what she meant.

Sometimes the effects of these old wounds last a few days. Sometimes it plunges a person into depression.  Fortunately, some contact their therapists as soon as the ill wind starts to blow in their neighborhood. Or they call on trusted friends in whom they can safely confide.

Suffering from sexual abuse has not been my cross to bear, but it has been my burden to listen and to pray with those who have suffered such abuse. Some of these friends have received healing and continue to do so.  Some have moved on to survive and thrive. But many suffer setbacks when these tragic news items come to light. And for days on end, it seems there is no escaping it.

This might seem to be a curious post to put out there on a Mother's Day weekend. But regardless of the season, these friends come to my mind, for they are in need of much love, and yes, mothering, you might say. And so I pray for them... that they may experience the peace of Jesus... and the peace He promises us in the Gospel.

And I particularly want to encourage them and myself, (and maybe you?) to seek the consolation that can be found within "Mother" Church.  With all her foibles, and with all her human mistakes, the Church was founded by Christ as a source of grace for the world's sins, sufferings, and pains.  The Church is both a human and divine institution... Just as Jesus was both human and divine, the Church he is wedded to, his Bride, is both as well.  His grace is still active and calling us beyond sin and suffering to salvation.

I understand that in our daily world counseling and medication and other good sources of recovery are needed. I don't deny that. I think that's part of God's providence. But these words of Jesus concerning peace remind me that those tools of recovery are only part of the story; we need a supernatural remedy.

For Jesus offers us the kind of peace that the world cannot give.

I believe that. Not because I study scripture or teach the catechism, but because I have suffered with my own pains and my own griefs. And I have felt and experienced Christ's peace and healing for wounds I could not describe without collapsing into tears.  And because, as a mother myself, I feel the pains, to some degree, that my own children suffer when they are wounded or grieved. And like any good mother -- whether as a biological, adoptive, or spiritual mother -- I want to pray and gather them with tender care, and help them to be restored and healed.  Still, I know that these deepest hurts beckon for a a cure beyond what we can physically reach... most often, it takes a divine Physician to ultimately cure us.

And so I pray for all those who are suffering today, and I pray for all mothers who, on this day, are suffering themselves, or suffering along with their hurting children.  May we women be the mothers we need to be, especially in those difficult moments. And may the fathers among us look to protect and defend what is good and true and holy. And may we yoke those roles to the graces we have received.

Finally, I'm offering a few words below from Pope Benedict's recent letter to the people of Ireland.  Our Pope, our Chief Shepherd and Good Papa, who, since the first days of his pontificate,  has been trying to respond to the pains caused by abuse and corruption felt so deep by members of the flock. He continues to call us to Christ in the midst of all this, for Christ is our hope, and the Church still has the power to mother us.

And if I could point out one line worth committing to memory, besides the words of peace from the lips of Jesus, it would be this powerful gem from Benedict: Christ’s own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope.

To the victims of abuse and their families
You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your  relationships, including your relationship with the Church. I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ’s own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love – even in the darkest and most hopeless situations – to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning.
Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.
---Benedict XVI, Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland

No comments:

Post a Comment

Too shy to leave a comment here? Email me at

The new Roman Missal (click & learn about the coming changes):

Watch Catholic TV here! Find Women's programs: "WINGs" and "Woman at the Heart of the Church"

A Lovely Reminder for Every Day

Coffee drinkers! Support AW by drinking Mystic Monk Coffee!

Ship a Cake, and Share a Blessing