The Catholic Church in America has been deeply hurt by the scandal involving the abuse of youngsters by some of the clergy. Loyal and devout Catholics have been particularly distressed by it.
If there ever was a time for Divine Mercy, it is now. Our hurting Church is "the crucified Body of Christ" -- as I point out in my new book From Scandal to Hope. Click here for online catalogue. Only Divine Mercy can bring us the healing and reconciliation we so need. And that includes the victims and their families, our priests, our bishops, priests falsely accused of abuse, the abusers themselves, and the whole body of Christ.
Our only hope lies in trusting completely in Jesus, The Divine Mercy. We must turn to Him in a spirit of prayer and reparation, and then rededicate ourselves to really living His message of mercy.
Wounds of the Body
But, before we turn to The Divine Mercy, let's develop our prayer list -- identifying members of the crucified Body of Christ. At the top of the list, I would put the victims and their families. Many of the victims have suffered untold trauma throughout their entire lives as a result of the abuse. Many have also withdrawn from the life of the Church, which they believe has failed them so badly. The family members of the abused -- many of them good Catholics -- were devastated when they learned of the betrayal of trust.
Then, there are the vast majority of our priests who now live under a cloud of suspicion and are greatly discouraged. Most people do not realize it, but, at present, the human rights of all Catholic clergy in the United States have been suspended because of the intense media attention given to the scandal. Almost any accusation, true or false, can knock a bishop or priest out of his pastoral work and even his place to live.
Meanwhile, our bishops bear the heaviest load of responsibility in dealing with this crisis. As the shepherds of the flock, they have been made the whipping boys of the situation by the media. Some have made serious mistakes. However, our bishops are dedicated men doing the best they can in trying times. Over the last two decades, many of them have agonized over this matter of clergy sex abuse of the young. They sought the advice of lawyers, psychiatrists, and psychologists who tried to help, but who often failed to realize that it takes more than therapy and money to overcome serious sin.
We also have another class of victims to bring to The Divine Mercy -- some priests I know whom I believe have been falsely accused. As with the abuse case against the late Cardinal Bernardin, some accusers have retracted false testimony. But what does an innocent priest do if he does not know the specific accusation made against him or have the opportunity to face his accuser?
Of course, we have the abusers themselves. When we think of this terrible sin, ultimately the only explanation is that some clergy have given in to diabolical temptation. A few priests have not done penance and have persisted in their sinful behavior, which is so bad that our Lord said in the Gospel it would have been better if they had never been born. Other priests have been deeply penitent after falling once. They have sought help and stayed completely away from occasions of sin.
Finally, there's all of us who have been profoundly hurt by what we have seen or heard in the media about this scandal involving the Church we love. If you're anything like me, you've probably experienced a storm of conflicting emotions in trying to sort through this mess. There's great compassion and concern for the victims and their families, as well as the vast majority of good priests and bishops. Then there's the outrage we feel toward the abusive priests and apparently negligent bishops, and distortions of the crisis by the media.
Prayer and reparation
Now that we've identified the wounds of the Body of Christ -- including our own -- let's bring them all to Jesus, The Divine Mercy. Let's bring them to Him in a spirit of prayer and reparation.
First, every time we approach our Merciful Savior in the Holy Eucharist, let's be conscious of how it is the great miracle of Divine Mercy for the Body of Christ, the Church. In every consecrated Host, Jesus is pouring Himself out as a fount of mercy for us all. Several times in her Diary,St. Faustina, the great apostle of Divine Mercy, writes of seeing the red and pale rays coming not from the image of The Divine Mercy, but from the Sacred Host. In fact, once, as the priest exposed the Blessed Sacrament, she saw the rays from the image pierce the Host and spread out from it all over the world. (See Diary of St. Faustina, 441.)
These admittedly private revelations acquire real force when we consider how often we invoke God's mercy at Mass. Consider how at the "Breaking of the Bread" during Mass, we pray, "Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us." Can we make a point of pleading God's mercy at Mass for every member of our hurting Church?
And I mean "every member." Whenever you think that anyone involved in this catastrophe is beyond the grasp of Divine Mercy, you must remember the following passage from St. Faustina's Diary,which records an event while the saint was praying at Mass:
"Jesus, I beg You, by the incomparable power of Your mercy, that all the souls who will die today escape the fire of hell, even if they have been the greatest sinners. Today is Friday, the memorial of Your bitter agony on the Cross; because Your mercy is inconceivable, the Angels will not be surprised at this." Jesus pressed me to His Heart and said, "My beloved daughter, you have come to know well the depths of My mercy. I will do what you ask, but unite yourself continually with my agonizing Heart and make reparation to My justice. Know that you have asked Me for a great thing, but I see that this was dictated by your pure love for Me; that is why I am complying with your requests" (Diary,873).
What is the overall impression of the message in this mystical vision from private revelation? It is that the infinite mercy of God can save all souls, but there must be reparation to satisfy divine justice. We who are devoted to The Divine Mercy must make it our business to offer in reparation to God our own sufferings, humiliations, and frustrations springing from this catastrophe. Let's make a point of doing just that at every Mass.
After Mass, we can continue to invoke God's mercy throughout our day whenever we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy given to St. Faustina. (If you are unfamiliar with this prayer, call 1-800-462-7426 and order a Chaplet prayercard. Or see our prayercards online. Click here for online catalogue.)
Living Divine Mercy
Our prayer life, however, must translate into really living Divine Mercy every day. That means trusting in Jesus. Let's remember "Jesus, I trust in You!" are the words that appear with every image of The Divine Mercy.
It also means letting go and forgiving from the heart those who have hurt us the most -- not only in this scandal, but in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, and parishes. Remember how Jesus forgave even His enemies from the cross.
We are called to be merciful to others as well, even when it is inconvenient and causes us pain. That means performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in the daily circumstances of our lives. Saint Faustina writes in the Diary of how she never forgot the day when she fed a beggar from her convent kitchen only to have Jesus reveal that He was the man. (See Diary,1312.)
As we pray for Divine Mercy and live mercifully, we will discover that we are no longer part of the problem, but are part of the solution by bringing hope, healing, and reconciliation to our hurting Church. We will begin to discover that The Divine Mercy has been with us through all the pain of this scandal -- healing His wounded Body, the Church.