This reflection is in response to the recent Church scandal of sexual abuse, and the divisive acts by some of its leaders over the past week.
Over 800 years ago, while praying before a crucifix in San Damiano, Assisi, Jesus spoke to a young man names Francis.
These words were spoken:
“Go repair my Church, which as you see is falling completely in ruin”
Francis misunderstood this mandate by literally rebuilding the structure of the Church in which he was praying. In time, he came to understand that this wasn’t a literal request, but a metaphorical one.
Francis soon focused on the matters of the heart, and that of survival. He healed the wounds of lepers, collected money and food for the poor, and he prayed for the courage and the grace to be Christ-like.
Soon, others joined him in a radical lifestyle of love. His approach to Christianity was that of the early Christians when it was said of them, “see how they love one another.”
I raise this now as the Catholic Church is suffering. The abuse and division caused by its leaders requires those in and not in the pews to rebuild the Church. We know of thousands of cases of sexual abuse. There are surely more.
We know of many anecdotes where people felt excluded or judged harshly. Over the past decade, pews are less full, people are less engaged, and the Church is getting smaller.
Some believe it should get smaller. I disagree. The Church created by Jesus was built on a Gospel of love for all. Anyone who believes walls should be built only wish to feel the false claim of “power” by being on the inside.
Church leaders argue on television, in print media, and in social media.
Do you know what doesn’t change?
The suffering of those who were abused. Their families and friends. The suffering of the lepers of our world who have wounds that need to be healed. The suffering of the millions who are hungry and thirsty. The suffering of those who are abused each and every day in all of its formed.
This is our San Damiano moment.
There are many good, faithful leaders and they too must lead as Francis did. We too must take the opportunity before us. We do not have to ask permission to give love. We do not have to ask permission to show mercy. We do not have to ask permission for how we pray, and how we live.
The time has come for all of us to find our voice. St. Francis found his over eight centuries ago, and it still echoes through time.
People ask, why remain a Catholic? I have no doubt Francis asked the same question. I choose to try his way as it best reflects the life of the man that I follow, certainly more than some of its leaders who misused their authority and broke the trust that we collectively gave to them.