Sometime last Fall, as I was ascending the altar for one of our Sunday Masses, carrying with me the news of the latest scandals in the Church, a word — I believe from the Lord — came to me: “This is a time of judgment”. Usually, when I go to celebrate Mass, I am reasonably recollected, but my heart had been particularly heavy with the news that day. Something about this emerging round of scandals just seemed so different and so much more ponderous than in the past. Fortunately, these things do not shake my faith. But I was carrying a burden. The word that I received set me at peace; it just made sense.
Since then, I have periodically come back to that word. We wake up each day wondering what new abuse of power or sexual scandal might await us in the news. Or, more recently, what gross financial misdeeds might be coming to light, to the shame of the malefactor and to the Church and her Lord, whom he was supposed to represent.
This is a time of judgment. Our Lord is shaking things down.
I am convinced that this ongoing shake-down, painful as it is, is aided in a particular way by the prayers and penances of so many who by now are simply fed-up. A theme that I have continually returned to over this past year is how the reform of the Church in every age always has to do with the saints. The saints are the ones who bring about true renewal; or rather, the Lord brings about that renewal through their cooperation with his grace.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, whom we celebrated yesterday, started out like all saints: he was a sinner — a rather formidable one, at that. The particular circumstance of his convalescence is what got him where the Lord finally penetrated the hardness of his heart. As he lay on his sick bed and contemplated the lives of Christ and the saints about whom he read — there were no other books available in the place — Ignatius’ heart started to open. At one point he thought to himself, “What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?“ Indeed — what if he should open his heart to Christ and allow him to transform him by his grace? So his new life began, and the sinner became a great saint.
Roughly a year on from the breaking of the latest round of scandals, I would like to renew my call to everyone to take up the arms of personal holiness and so contribute to the solution. I wrote this post, Purify Your Church, O Lord, posted on my parish web site since then, and I think it is as relevant then as now. This is a time of judgment. The Lord is purifying his Church. He invites us all to open our hearts to him. What if we should do what the saints did? What if we should become saints? The Church would be much better off for it — and we should go down in history as the ones who, as humble instruments of our Savior, overcame evil with good (Romans 12:21) and started a new chapter of holiness and glory in the annals of salvation history.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!