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God looks down from Heaven, ready to distribute lavish gifts upon us, yet sees many dispirited priests who are too afraid to teach the Faith in its fullness; thus they are unwilling to imitate their Saviour and risk criticism from those they teach; and so they omit to mention the wrongness of adultery, contraceptive use, desertion of spouses, and neglect of children by mothers, and much more. In failing to rescue people from sin they fail in their duty, as if hiding away in a pit, hoping to be unnoticed.
The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. Just as we help the whole Church by our good deeds, thoughts and prayers, we harm the Church by our sins and failings. Even when Catholics call themselves people of 'loyal dissent', they harm the Body of Christ by their disobedience, their disbelief in Christ's teachings, given through the Church, and their lack of charity as they attack the Church and help to undermine the Faith of those who do believe. Christ looks on, as His own children hurt Him.
Some people in rich countries call people in undeveloped countries 'uncivilised'; but the Lord asks: "How 'civilized' is it, to have hospitals which should be used for healing, entirely dedicated to reaching out to living children of all sizes, to tear them from their mother's wombs?!"
It sometimes seems as though the family which is the Church is subject to so much opposition and criticism that she is alone, like a home after a snow-storm: snowed-in, apparently uncomfortable; yet the truth is that life goes on within her. In her light and warmth, which are the light and warmth of God and His Son, the members of the family are still being nurtured, fed, trained, consoled and encouraged. The Holy Spirit is at work, unceasingly.
In times when even Bishops and priests become despondent about declining Church attendance, and opposition from outside, some desperately seek strategies for renewal. Though sensible plans can be made, the best way forward is to encourage everyone to be holy and faithful, in every circumstance. Simple members of the laity often practice this whilst leaders forget that the Church has always grown in one place, and declined in another, but cannot be destroyed.
Some of those Catholics who constantly complain about Church teachings, and who demand reform and renewal, are themselves damaging the Church from within by their dissent and by their actions. Even when, in every age, there must be Spirit-guided renewal, true renewal is in accord with the Tradition.
Christ has ordained certain men to be as 'other Christs' amongst us, to guide and govern us. We are not wrong to speak with gentleness and truth about words publicly offered by a priest or Bishop which are heretical or foolish; but Christ is grieved when He sees His priests needlessly criticized for personal appearance or habits, or cruelly slandered.
It is part of being faithful to Christ: expecting ourselves sometimes to be mocked or betrayed, since even He suffered scorn and betrayal in His life-time. But our suffering is not fruitless, if we offer it up, in union with Him.
Since they are often ignorant of Christian history, some groups of puzzled reporters or politicians who regard the Church as irrelevant and a Bishop as a nuisance have no idea of the truth about his office. They do not realise that God the Son, in coming to earth, founded a Church with Divine authority, sent out chosen leaders to preach the truth in every place, about sin and salvation; and that the current Bishop is the particular ambassador or representative of almighty God in this place on earth!
There are still many people who have not yet heard the Gospel preached. It is true, as the Church teaches, that it is possible for a person not baptised to be saved. However, this is far less likely than many people suppose, for the simple reason that many non-Christians have committed grave sins - as Christians have - but have never repented. Many have refused to join the Church, or mocked her, or mocked her priests; and of the rest, how many have followed the promptings of their conscience, for a life-time, until death, to do good and to avoid what everyone should know is evil? Only God knows.
There is a tremendous need for intercessary prayer. It is possible for the non-baptised to be saved, if they have never heard the Gospel but have persevered until death in doing good and avoiding evil; but many non-Christians have refused to believe in Christ. Others have committed grave sin and refused to repent. Others have mocked the Church or mocked her priests. Others have ignored the call of conscience, and followed selfish ways, knowing these were wrong. Thousands fall into Hell, everyday, alongside unrepentant Christians.
We are sometimes humiliated, slandered or ignored, because of our Christian faith. In His Passion, Christ set us an example. He kept silent, as an example for His friends to follow, as He accepted the Will of the Father, to fulfill the Father's plan of salvation. He had confidence in the Father's love, and the Father's power to save Him.
People know that kindness is important, but many forget that chastity is essential, in a life of true friendship with Christ, and preparation for Heaven. Those who mock people leading chaste lives and avoiding immoral entertainments also mock past ages in the Church for the care taken on this matter; but it is better to be disciplined and resemble a cared-for garden than ignore the Commandments and have a soul that resembles a jungle.
Saint Paul warned us that the faithful are 'certain to be attacked'. This harm can be emotional, spiritual or intellectual instead of physical; but we can be wise and prudent as well as patient and uncharitable. It is not wrong to avoid the trouble caused by those who are simply malicious, or unpredictable and unwilling to respond to kindness or to listen to reason.
We need not be surprised if enemies of the Church shout out their opposition to her on seeing the Pope, for example, as he pays a visit to another country. Even the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, experienced opposition, mockery, and worse. But we must keep the Pope and all the Clergy - and the whole Church - in our prayers.
In every age, since the time of the Apostles, priests have faced opposition and persecution as they have gone about their work. It is important that they are faithful to preaching the truth - the Faith in its entirety - and faithful to the Mass. That is his task: to teach the faithful how to lead good lives and prepare for Heaven, and to feed the faithful with Jesus Christ's Sacred Body and Blood: to transform them.
The Church is a home like no other: a true home for sinners. Christ wants us to hold up our heads bravely despite all the criticism currently made of the entire Church because of the wicked acts of a very small number of priests. He sees the Church as a giant, amongst institutions and organisations as She sustains and promotes life through her medical work, educational projects and care of the poor - as well as her main task: the care and salvation of souls, for the glory of God and our eternal joy.
The fact that the Catholic Church is persecuted is a sign that she shares in the sufferings of her Master, as the True Church that has been criticised in every age. If the people of the world were to march past us, criticising Catholics, even the very last of the persons would have something bad to say about the Church; but the Church consists of the Saints and the Holy Souls too. We must not lose heart, but trust in the promises of our Saviour, and in His graces.
How to know Jesus Christ
Finding Christ, Finding Life: a talk by Elizabeth Wang, given at the French Church, Leicester Square, London, 2006. INTRODUCTION. You probably know that I’m an artist. The project I’m busy with, now...
The Purpose of the Priesthood, by Elizabeth Wang
‘The Purpose of the Priesthood contains encouragement and advice for Catholic priests. It reminds them about the central meaning of the Priesthood, and about the need to teach the Catholic Faith in it...
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