You have heard it said that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. Well, here in that hospital, the power just went out, and it is dark.
The emergency generators immediately kicked in, so there is still juice to the machines that keep us alive. The ones that breathe for us, the ones that keep our hearts going — they are still working away. But everything else has gone dark, and I don’t know when they will come back online, if ever.
I believe with all my heart in the sacraments, and I believe that this Catholic Church, with its apostolic succession, is the one true conduit for the graces the Holy Spirit wants to give to us for our salvation. But I am bracing myself to lose an awful lot of other things. I’m bracing myself to be ready to sort out what is truly indispensable and what is not. I’m looking hard at how much we can afford to lose without losing Christ.
I’ve long argued that to know Church history is to be comforted about our current state of affairs. If you read up on the past, I have said, you’ll know that these are far from our darkest times, and just as we’ve weathered past storms, we’ll weather this one, too. Things aren’t as bad as they seem. This is what I’ve argued.
That argument is less persuasive to me now. Now I feel we are on the brink of a schism — or that we’re about to be more honest about the schism that has already occurred. My kids may grow up in a Church where there is serious argument about who the true pope is, for instance. I am not an alarmist in general, but I do believe we are on that brink.
By the time I’m done writing this, there will be a new crop of sad or enraging or just plain bizarre headlines about who did what, who knew what, who claims he never knew, who didn’t act and why that was someone else’s fault, and why we should all just relax and trust the hierarchy to do the right thing, starting any minute now.
And of course more and more of our fellow Catholics will burrow even more deeply into their comforting narratives of blame, to shelter them. When we’re confronted with calamity, the easiest thing in the world is to cry, “This is all their fault!” — “they” being the ones whose fault it always is and always has been. This response is worse than useless, but it’s understandable. We want coherence and intelligibility, but right now, it’s so hard to see, in this dim light of calamity. What to do?
I don’t know. But I will not stop praying, and I beg of you not to stop, either. Whatever else you do, don’t stop praying. Or if you have stopped, try to start again. At least try.
If you are enraged (and you should be), don’t stop praying. If you are heartbroken (and you should be), don’t stop praying. If you are nauseated (and you should be), don’t stop praying. If you are terrified (and you should be), don’t stop praying.
If you can’t bring yourself to go to Mass, don’t stop praying. If you think this is all the fault of the gays, don’t stop praying. If you think this is all the fault of celibacy. If you think God must be sadistic to allow such things to happen. If you think that all these heinous sins show that the Church has no authority. If you are putting all your efforts into pushing for structural reform. If you think you know exactly which clerics need to go. If you feel defeated and helpless. If you have the perfect plan and only people would listen to you. If you think maybe there is no God. If any of these things, I beg of you, don’t stop praying.
I don’t mean to be glib. I’m not trying to tell you to just keep your head down and be an obedient little pious sheep chanting out your daily prayers. I’m telling you to pray — really pray, with whatever is in your heart. What do you have to lose? This is a time to find out just how much we can lose, without losing Christ.
So pray to Him. Tell Him to show you who He is and how you can still have Him. Here in the dim, as more and more comforts and supports are stripped away from us, tell Him to show you who He is, and how you can still have Him.