Commentary: A Challenging Faith
Call me Catholic but under protest. This morning I went to Mass at St. Ignatius, an Eastern Orthodox Church near home. Many of the members of the parish are former Roman Catholics and Lutherans. There are several African immigrants there who appear very devout. I thought perhaps they were Coptic. The Africans remove their shoes before entering. Some are even barefooted. The altar faces God and not the people (oh, wouldn’t I like to see that in the Roman Church!) The priest actually was a cantor today. He apparently broke an ankle and a visiting priest was the celebrant. I was sweating and thought the church warm. I noticed the wounded priest also mopping his brow with a handkerchief.
The Lord’s Prayer is recited twice and is the same but clearly the Order of Mass greatly differs. The Creed is similar but some minor differences exist. Between the two priests, deacons and cantors in cassocks they took up a great deal of space in the tiny church. Some folks gave me a seat because with sciatica and an arthritic knee standing for long periods is difficult. The seating is tight and with size 15 shoes I had to take an end seat and sit sideways. A flagellant I’m not. It was physically uncomfortable and I was lost through much of the service. There are Protestant services that more resemble Roman Catholic Mass.
Maybe I wasn’t comfortable because at 4:30 this morning I prayed half-a-decade of the Rosary. Actually more but between cat and laundry interruptions I simply started fresh at one point. Call it 3 quarters.
I’m sure many of you are having feelings similar to mine. On Friday, a friend near Syracuse told me his son, who spent 8 years as an altar boy, and his daughter-in-law. ten years a cantor, have left the Church. It’s called the “Francis Effect”. I recall when I was in the 4th grade my friend, Mark Totten, and I were at recess. Mark told me of a prophecy that said a Pope would suffer a terrible wound, and that following his death his immediate successor would give way to a Pope under dark influences. Mark heard this from his mother. She was among the most respected schoolteachers in our hometown and raised 8 very successful children (he was the youngest). I’ve been reading many reviews of Francis and many of them conclude he’s trying to “challenge us”. No kidding. And he’s also dangerous. No, the real challenge is hoping the institution can outlast the man. This weekend Archbishop Chaput (the man who should be Pope!) politely outlined some concerns:
Francis is a bit like Gerry Faust, a high school coach hired in the early 1980s by Notre Dame. He was entirely out of his element. Lou Holtz came in and picked up the pieces and saved the football program.
I’m going to remain in the Roman Church and pray I outlast the current regime. I fear for the institution and I fear for the tens of millions who may be led astray, however. An e-mail received yesterday from a friend convinced me I had to stay and it convinced me I’m a member of the True Church. I don’t wish to embarrass her but I’m sharing her testimony. It follows in her own words:
my mom almost died two nights ago. She has been in the hospital because she could not breathe. For unknown reasons she was internally leaking fluid throughout her body including her lungs. They did exploratory surgery and found that she looked like she had ovarian cancer. Late that night I received a text from my brother that they had to sedate her and put a feeding tube in her. It did not look good. The fluid returned to her lungs and she could not breathe. I went to bed that night believing my mom was going to die. The next morning for the first time in my life I prayed the rosary. 15 minutes later I got a sudden text that my mom was recovering. The fluid left her lungs, they were able to take the feeding tube off of her and she was sitting up and talking and in good cheer.
I know for a fact that many of you had been praying for my mom along with my whole family.
The prayers worked.
But that is not the end of the story. I talked to the mayor of the little town of Belen the day before. He told me that he had reached out to legal organizations for help and no one was contacting him. Yesterday morning, after I had gotten the news about my mom, I started calling and emailing these organizations. About an hour later a big one, the Thomas More Law center, called me and told me they had never heard the story and that they wanted to fight for Belen. Later I got a text from the mayor that he was so happy that he indeed had been talking to the law center. That is not all, later that day another legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, also called me and let me know they saw my email and wanted to let me know that they were interested and they could not make any commitments on what they were going to do, but they appreciated me letting me know about the case that they had never heard of it.
Later that day, I had called and left a message with the attorney of Henderson County, Texas to ask if he could ally with Belen since Henderson County too had been attacked by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He called me back and said by all means, give the mayor of Belen his number and he would do whatever he could to help.
And that is not all -- another miracle -- my feelings for my family completely healed. The years of bitterness and anger I felt toward my family and the way they felt towards me disappeared. It was all over politics and as my mom was close to death all I could feel was pain of regret that I allowed politics to get between me and my mom. I sat three states away waiting for the final word knowing that I would never be able to let my mom know just how much she meant to me. I prayed that God would give me time so I could see her and take my kids to see her -- and I felt that was about to slip from my fingers and there was nothing I could do to stop it. But God stopped it.
Now I shall pray that not one word of bitterness be allowed to pass my lips as long as I live, especially against my mom, my dad, my brother, and my sister.
I am telling all of you this because I believe this is a message from God to all of us -- hang tough, He has not abandoned us, He is amassing His troops and He is about to unleash His greatness. Be watchful, be ready, and be courageous. And be close and loving to the gifts He gave you -- your families.
I can ask for nothing more -- He has given me a gift too great to express.