Last week we talked about how the world is crying. It isn’t only the world that is crying, though. Jesus founded the Church to be the means by which the cry of the world would and could be answered. I recently read a line that said, “God absorbs the dysfunction of the world, and pulls it into his love, grace and mercy.” God’s instrument to do this is his church. The Church proclaims the extraordinary news of the gospel. She sanctifies the world through the sacramental life. She puts forth thousands of examples of lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. These saints re-creating the world through power of that same Spirit.
Here’s the problem. The Church is also crying right now.
This cry is heard in a variety of ways. One significant way is the sexual abuse crisis and the public disgrace of former Cardinal McCarrick. 37% of Catholics are considering leaving the Church because of this crisis (Gallup poll). Young people are leaving en masse. Those who remain are not sure about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. 26% of American adults now identify as “nones.” (i.e., no religious affiliation).
The cry is felt acutely for those who serve in parish ministry. The model of parish life is broken. One parishioner has said, “The current US Catholic parish model is perfectly configured to minister to a church – that no longer exists. What does this look like?
- Priests and lay staff spend their days playing the parochial equivalent of “whack-a-mole.” Rather than strategically moving forward, they go from crisis to crisis.
- The priest shortage forces many to serve in roles for which they have neither the gifting nor the desire.
- Pastors are strapped for resources. The result is that many lay faithful do not have access to the pastoral care they deserve.
- Laymen and women who serve in the Church are not being paid a just and living wage.
- Parishioners are not equipped to be sent out on mission to evangelize and sanctify.
- Brothers and sisters with complimentary gifts aren’t sharing in the work of ministry.
- Parishes don’t focus on building communities.
These factors frequently leave priests and pastors feeling exhausted, lonely, frustrated, abandoned. This inevitably leads to unhealthy lifestyles and burnout. The lay staff is often left feeling the same.
Here is the good news – in everything God works for good. Everything. Nothing is by chance. Nothing is an accident.We have been called according to His purpose to be alive now.
God could have chosen us to be alive at some other time in history. In His providence He has destined us to be alive now, in the midst of these cries. He has equipped you, me, our parish and the Church with gifts—both natural and supernatural—for this time. As St. Joan of Arc once said, “I am not afraid. God is with me. I was born for this!”
If the world is crying, Jesus founded the Church to be the means by which the world’s cry would be answered. Most people encounter the Church through the parish church. If the Church is crying, and if parish life is broken, then how does the Church get well? Nobody has all the answers to these important question.
There are some answers, though. Let’s begin to look at some of those next week.