Has the Church Failed Us?

The Church has been around for over 2,000 years. It is the longest running institution on the face of the earth. We know and believe that she was instituted by Christ, yet she is not infallible on all matters, just faith and morals. So, there are times, many times in the history of the Church, when it has not shown itself in the best light. Is this one of those times?

COVID-19 has touched so many people’s lives. Millions of people have died, over 500,000 have lost their lives in the United States, and many millions more have been affected.

Where was the Church with her sacraments? Where was the Church pressing ahead, knowing that she has witnessed things like this before and that the civil governments must do their job as she does hers.

But did she do her job during this pandemic or did she close in on herself and not take the necessary risk of bringing the sacraments to the sick and dying? Did she find a way to bring the Gospel to her own at the time when they most needed it?

Horrifying situations call for heroic virtue, not complacency. Yes, there are heroic priests and bishops who stuck their necks out there, realizing the necessity of the sacraments for their people. Many shepherds did not forget their flock, but I believe that many did.

I know that there are a thousand different circumstances in which one may be involved in during this pandemic and a thousand other reasons why thing must have been done. But what I saw was the Church locking itself up, closing itself in, refusing to provide the sacraments in a different way than normal.

Why couldn’t we have outdoor masses on a larger scale? Why couldn’t priests go to the homes of parishioners and hear confession through the front door? Why couldn’t the sacrament of the sick be given in full PPE?

Yes, there are some priests who showed heroic virtue yet was that the norm or simply a few? I understand that religious authorities have to follow government guidelines, yet in several states, numbers were so limited for gatherings that it was nearly impossible for people to attend Mass. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest during COVID-19, yet none of them were Catholics protesting against the fact that they could not practice their faith.

Why is it that we left it at that? Why is it that we didn’t find alternative ways to bringing the sacraments to the people? Saints could have been made during the global pandemic and the priesthood could have garnered a better reputation for itself, had they chosen to find alternative and lasting ways of bringing the sacraments to the people.

How many individuals died without the sacraments? How many opportunities were missed to anoint someone who had been away from the Church for 30 years? I understand that many hospitals had rules against letting in priests to see patients. I worked at one of these hospitals. It deeply saddened me to see these rules enacted but why didn’t our bishops stand up and make their voices heard that their flock needs the sacraments. Where was the outrage that laws and mandates were enacted which strangled the Church’s ability to bring the life-giving sacraments to its faithful? They are a matter of life and death, aren’t they?

This post might not set well with some readers and I understand that. I deeply love the Church which Christ established, and that is why I feel the need to speak out. The lack of the sacraments and the ability to practice our Catholic faith will reap its benefits in the months and years to come.

I don’t think COVID-19 brought out the best in the Church. I believe that times like these should see the Church showing herself in all her glory. There’s a very solid history of saints dying during pandemics and plagues. They did so while serving their brothers and sisters, not by closing in on themselves.

No one wants suffering and death, but where is our martyr of the Eucharist, that layman who exhausted him/herself by bringing the body and blood of Christ to the sick and suffering? Where is our martyr of healing who on his day of ordination could never have guessed he would be administering the sacrament of the sick in a hazmat suit and then catch it himself?

Where is our martyr bishop who spent himself in love, shepherding his flock through these difficult times, not thinking of himself because he knows his sheep need him?

A recent study came out saying that a large number of practicing Catholic’s don’t even believe in the Real Presence. Maybe part of the reason they don’t believe is because we’re not willing to risk our lives over it.

If the Eucharist is really and truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, why didn’t we do more to get it to the people? If we’re not willing to die for it then what does our faith really mean? Isn’t it a house of cards if we’re not willing to risk everything for it? People see this and respond accordingly.

I’m not advocating one go out and be reckless or stupid or seek martyrdom. What I am advocating is heroic virtue at a time when the world desperately needs it.

Did the Church fail us? I don’t know.

I’m hesitant to say that it did because I have no desire to defame my Mother.

Time and history will show us the full truth. I only hope that She has learned from this and will find alternative ways to provide for the faithful when another plague or pandemic hits us.

The Truth About Divine Mercy

The Incredulity of St. Thomas

In the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday we are faced with the reality of what mercy looks like.

The wounds in Christ’s side, the holes in his hands and feet, show us the cost of Divine Mercy. It is not cheap.

Hidden in a room, with the doors locked, the apostles are afraid and alone. They certainly must have felt defeated. Sin has a tendency to do that. They also must have felt guilty at denying Christ and they certainly were scared that the same wound happen to them.

Dazed and confused by the death and resurrection, would Christ come back to condemn them of their failure at believing in him and his word?

The typical response to being denied, abandoned, beaten and abused would be vengeance or a desire for justice and to get back at those who had done such things, but that is not the case with Christ.

Instead of condemning the apostles he offers peace. “Peace be with you” is offered three times, and even more authority is given to them, the authority of his wounds – the ability to forgive sins.

No condemnation, no reprimand, no fussing on Christ’s part is offered to those who could have rightly been condemned, only peace.

Thomas goes further in his disbelief by stating that unless he places his hands in his side and the holes in his hands and feet, he will not believe. Certainly Christ would condemn him for this further lack of faith, right? No.

I believe the artist Caravaggio gets it right in his painting of the “Incredulity of St. Thomas.” Look at Christ’s hand on Thomas’ wrist. It is as though he has grasped his hand to plunge it into his side like the lance. “Touch Thomas, feel the wounds, immerse yourself in the cost of my mercy that you might believe.”

This is what Divine Mercy looks like. It does not hide the wounds of love but glories in them, for they are the vehicle of our salvation.

We should not be filled with shame if there are times when we do not believe. Many of the twelve did not. We should also not sentimentalize the wounds of Christ, overlooking the cost that came with them. God died. There is no sentimental value in knowing that the author of life died because of sin. It’s quite horrifying.

But those wounds are our glory. We must allow Christ to plunge us into their very depths that we might first come to know their cost and then allow them to bring about a new life within our souls.

Divine Mercy is what this whole lot is about. It’s what we hope for, it’s what we immerse ourselves in. Without it, we’re lost, damned. Let’s not turn away from it because we are ashamed. Let us allow Jesus to grab out wrist and shove our hands into his side that we might allow the eternal blood and water to wash over us.

Jesus, I trust in You!