When the Church Scandalises
Because of Scandals people flee the Church. My goal here is to show the way of growth, not despite the scandals, but through them.
A friend of mine asked me this question: When we see scandals in the Church and have been let down by those who are in high office in the Church – how can the Church still be holy? How do we not lose our faith?
Revelations in the public domain of many different scandals, specially the most shocking ones of pedophilia, are of course a cause of great scandal. And the Lord himself warned us of the great danger of being a cause of scandal to others, especially to the little ones: “If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”(Mt 18:6)A sin is a sin! A big sin is a big sin! How, then, can we survive the shock of the discovery of so many scandals? If we are small, weak, the struggle is significantly bigger than our capacity to assimilate these thought processes. We can’t digest the scandal, and of course we fall, we are scandalized! Let us remember, furthermore, what the word “scandal” means: it is a stone in the way that makes us fall! So “falling” is sadly the fate of the weak.
Note 1: St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians is the “theorist” of the difference between the weak or “little” ones and the strong ones. The distinction emerges in the famous discussion of whether or not to eat meat that was offered to the gods i.e. to idols. Saint Paul says that he, as a person strong and discerning in his faith, has no problem in eating this meat and in fact doesn’t fear any bad effects. But the weak and the little in faith and conscience, can’t do this because he or she can’t discern and see that this is a piece of meat, regardless of any magic rite performed over it. If you will, the discerning person is not superstitious because of the strength of his or her perception, understanding and discernment of the reality of the situation.
Note 2: As a second note and consequence of the previous one I would almost say that the reality of the world in which we live where information in general is widespread, where there are no secrets, where the desire to know every secret and communication wins against prudence, we are all forced to become strong in our faith in order to face, in addition, the huge amount of a new type of information, namely, things that were previously supposed to remain known only in certain circles. A simple example to clarify this is the publication of letters of the Pope to the Bishops. Normally, these letters should remain in the province of a select few. Another example is the publication of the letters of Mother Teresa to her spiritual director, where we discover that she seemed not to have any perception of the presence of the Lord in her prayer life.
Our conscience is bombarded on a daily basis by a great amount of information like it never occurred before in history. These two simple examples give ample testimony to the daily bombardment of our conscience by a great amount of information hitherto unknown in history. This affects us inevitably. There are scandals everywhere, and especially scandals coming from persons who have authority and should be persons of integrity. Incredible as it may seem, we live this on a daily basis! We are not aware that in the course of a day we are swallowing an amount of crude information that our great grandparents would have taken in over 30 years.
Furthermore we are tempted to lose faith in any authority whatsoever as well. Not only in the Church – which is a grave enough issue – but also in people who Govern us, as well as the structures under which we are governed, for example, justice, to name but one.… This state of affairs is no less grave even if it is different. The Human order in civil life comes from God as well. This is why St Paul asked us to pray for people who govern us. Morally, as Christians we are called to respect civil order, the laws, the customs and political life.
A final point that is often forgotten must also be mentioned: before the first public scandal of pedophilia in Belgium, with Mr. Dutroux, nobody had the courage to come out or speak about such an abominable act. Pedophilia has probably been common from the dawn of humanity, but it has always remained hidden. Fathers, uncles, teachers, we can assume, did abuse their children in the past. However, it was a subject of such a gigantic taboo that nobody had the courage to speak, to put it plainly the family itself would ostracize the child. The situation has changed drastically in the world of today, but not in all parts of the world where the old system is still very much ongoing!
Now, let us return to the very case of scandals in the Church. Scandals in the Church are not new! They are as old as the Church itself! Sadly, but in reality, since the Church is composed of human beings, all called to follow Jesus, each going at his pace, sins are committed. We expect from the Priests and the Bishops a high degree of holiness, higher than the average faithful, but the fact remains that human beings do sin.
Despite that, despite the fact that Jesus knew what we are capable of doing, He chose to entrust us human beings with the responsibility of continuing His Mission. Knowing how weak we are, knowing that we are capable of the most evil acts, He still decided to entrust to us the very heavy responsibility of continuing his work of Salvation. Let us remember that one of the deepest definitions of the Church is “Sacrament of Salvation”, which means that the application of Salvation to the world depends on us, goes through us, and that our efforts, intervention and holiness are a condition of its success
Even the doctrine of the Priesthood developed and went deeper in Vatican II compared to Trent. Before the Church used to say: even if the Priest is a sinner (even, God forbid, committing mortal sin) the Sacrament is valid. The grace of God works, the Sacrament works “ex opere operato”, out of its own divine nature. But today with Vatican II, followed by a number of decades of deepening awareness and renewal, the Church has added something important saying that the holier the Priest is, the greater are the fruits of his apostolate. This is a great deepening awareness of the priest’s role in fulfilling Christ’s mission! We should continue to deepen this aspect, i.e. the relationship between the holiness of the living instrument (the Priest for instance) and the fruitfulness of his service! An amazing horizon is opening up here as illustrated by Blessed Father Marie-Eugene who started an incredibly fecund trail by offering a short treatise, at the end of his second volume “I am the Daughter of the Church”, when he studied the relationship between spiritual growth (following the different Mansions of St Teresa of Avila’s Castle) and apostolate.
As I was saying, the Lord’s decision to entrust the future of His Work to very weak hands and hearts, seemed a totally insane decision if we look exclusively at human weakness! In a group of twelve Apostles, one betrayed him, another one said three times: “I don’t know him” (and he is the head of the Apostles), nine left him leaving only one who remained faithful to Him at the foot of the Cross. We have here a clear demonstration of what the human being can do, if he leans only on his own strength and pride. Quite disastrous!
But the beauty is that the Peter before the Passion is very different from the Peter after the Passion.
St Paul himself acknowledges his weakness, even if he has a strong faith and received quite a number of visions and revelations. He says that God allows his weakness, manifested in various ways, so as to remind him that the treasures of Grace are carried in perishable clay vessels, so we all, including him, can focus on the Grace of God that does work and realizes in us what we in our frailty cannot.
A paradox, but a truth also to take into consideration.
So, God knows very well that we can be the cause of scandal, weak and that we give bad example. But despite this He believes in us, and believed that his grace is capable of transforming us, if we were to allow Him to do so.
In the Creed, when we say: “I believe in the Church” we say something that is very important. And we make it clear: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. St Thomas Aquinas says that in the Creed we actually mention the Church right after having mentioned the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is the heart and soul of the Church. If the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic it is because the Holy Spirit animates her, gives her life, cohesion, holiness, unity and the capacity to spread and grow.
The main subject of the meditation of Council Vatican II is the Church. Two noteworthy factors emerge for the first time in history:
- a Council gathers not to condemn but to be positive, propose, offer, suggest. The main goal of the Council is pastoral, to renew our Pastoral effort in the World.
- a Council gathers and talks about the Church. Before, Councils used to gather to condemn heresies and they all had subjects like the Son, the Holy Spirit….
In Council Vatican II, we find a very interesting description of the Church: she is “sancta simul et semper purificanda”as the Council puts it: “the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal”(Lumen Gentium,8).
Here we see that the mystery of the Church, offers a distinction: she is at one and the same time “Jesus’ Mystical Body” and is “composed of members who are sinners”. This distinction does not denote a separation. These are two aspects of one entity. Moreover,In order not to fall into the temptation of splitting the mystery of the Church into two, the Council says the following: “Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the societystructured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Bodyof Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visibleassembly and the spiritualcommunity, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex realitywhich coalesces from a divine and a humanelement.”(Lumen Gentium 8)
When we say: “I believe” in “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church” we acknowledge that the Church is a “complex reality”, that has God the Holy Spirit acting in it and is the Mystical Body of Jesus himself! St John Chrysostom says that the knot that ties the Head of the total Christ and his body cannot be undone! It is the strongest bond that can exist in all of creation.
“I believe” means: I have a deep, wide, high, long reality in front of me and my eyes and my mind cannot embrace everything. I need my heart to be moved by the Holy Spirit in order to be introduced into this “wider than me” reality. Seeing the Church, reducing the Church to what we can see of it, therefore, can be cause of scandal! St John of the Cross in one of his pieces of advice says that we humans are so inclined to finding defects in what we see that we are capable of finding defects even in angels! And he assures us by saying that it is better to focus on Jesus only, because in Jesus only defects cannot be found, and similarly neither can they be found in Our Lady.
It is very good practice, then, that guides our act of faith in the Church. If we search for trouble in the Church, we will find trouble, and many undesirable and unpleasant practices. The deeper we enter into the mystery and union with the Church, the more we might find filth. The more, thereby, Jesus invites us to have a share in His Cross! This is why St Teresa of Avila says to the Lord: no wonder you have so few friends, seeing how you treat your friends.
We are all called to enter in the mystery of the Church because the Church visible and invisible, one reality, is Jesus’ Body. We can’t seek union with Christ and forget about his body! It is like guillotining Him – chopping off his head! Blessed Fr Marie Eugene’s great synthesis of Spiritual Theology, “I want to see God”, endorses this in a unique way: in the second volume -“I am the daughter of the Church” – he shows us how reaching Union with Christ implies a deeper entry into the mystery of the Church. This aspect, however, is rarely underlined but is really one of great depth and insight.
In sum, “believing in the Church” depends on our belief in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit (see Catechism 748-749). “To believe that the Church is “holy” and “catholic,” and that she is “one” and “apostolic” (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
But, it is important not to fuse Jesus and the Holy Spirit on one hand and the Church on the other. “In the Apostles’ Creed we profess “one Holy Church” (Credo . . . Ecclesiam), and not to believe in the Church, so as not to confuse God with his works and to attribute clearly to God’s goodness all the gifts he has bestowed on his Church.” (Catechism 750) This quote from CCC seems to contradict the statement that goes before it. In fact it has just been added to ensure the meaning is more precise. The act of faith is theological, i.e. it connects us directly to God. The Church is not God. Therefore, if we want to be very accurate, we can’t say: “I believe in the Church”, but rather “I believe the Church”, i.e. “I believe what the Church says about God”. To reiterate, I must emphasise that the object of the Act of Faith can only be God himself, because it connects us directly to God.
This way, our Act of Faith has its foundation laid down. But let us see how the Act of Faith works.
St John of the Cross, knowing our weakness very well invites us to believe in the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church, taking one example among many: spiritual direction. It is not a sacrament, but it is quite close to one and is even more challenging than a sacrament. It is a beautiful manifestation of the need for the Act of Faith. St John of the Cross thus says in Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, Chapter 22 that God loves to see us have recourse (in faith) to Him through another person: the person of the spiritual director.
Of course the spiritual director has his limitations. Not all of them are overcome, but here in another example given by St Teresa of Avila we see that she, like St Francis, did not only go to confession to an adulterous Priest, but also when she consulted a priest in spiritual direction about something the Lord had said to her in a vision, she received the opposite advice and had to go back to the Lord and ask Him what to do: the Lord invited her to obey, for His sake, the Priest and that He, the Lord, would make the priest change his point of view.
We can see here the unity between the two dimensions of the Church: the more spiritual and holy one and the more human, limited, and even sinning one. We see how St Teresa’s Avila, like St Francis, was capable with her faith, to cross the first hurdle (the opposition coming from the Church), and believe, reaching to the deepest part of the Church, the divine part. Hence the use of the expression: “I believe in the Church”, and not for example, “I see the Church”.
The same Holy Spirit, then, who acts in me, acts in the Church. I can stop at outward appearances, and even be (legitimately) scandalised by them. True! St Paul himself, in fact, talks about the precious grace of God given to him being kept in vases of clay. It is his way of saying: don’t look at my human limitations but try to see the work of God in me, his presence and action through me! Don’t stop at what you see, you might block yourself, because you will always inevitably find a defect!
In truth then, the act of faith doesn’t dismiss the physical reality of the Church, but goes through it, pierces it and reaches a deeper layer.
Another reason why the Lord chose human beings to lead other human beings into green pastures is because the ones to be saved are weak, and need to acknowledge their human nature, their limitations. Aren’t we all sinners? Why do we judge our brother? Of course a sin is a sin and a grave sin is a grave sin! But the sinner who judges is a sinner as well! And aren’t we sinners? As we expect God to have mercy on us, we need to exercise mercy on others and mercy goes both ways: from the priest to the faithful and from the faithful to the priest.
In no way can we excuse such horrendous and scandalising sins! This is true. But I am tempted to say that we are invited to understand that the Passion of the Lord constitutes a very tough moment in the life of each one of us, in the life of Peter, in the life of Judas, in the life of all the others. If on one hand we can’t explain certain sins, if on one hand our knowledge of the weakness of the human being is still limited, it is important to keep the distinction between sinner and sin, even the worst sin; it is important to learn from God how to Hope, not with our strength, and for our reasons, but for God’s reasons: He is the only one who exercises Mercy, out of his own generosity and choice!
Day after day we learn about the weakness of the human being, our weakness, the weakness of our brothers the Priests. We discover that we haven’t prayed for them, that we expect them to be holy automatically, forgetting that they have been called, and not born priests, and that they need our prayers. Day after day we learn how God continues to act in his Church despite our weaknesses (this is not a excuse for sin of course); day after day we learn in our act of faith not to lean on the holiness of the priest, even if as we said above the holier the priest the more fruitful; we learn to make an act of faith in the Church, an act that comes from God and goes back to God. We learn not to lean on anything human for our act of faith! It is also a journey of purification and deepening of our faith. Why do I believe in the Church? How do I believe in the Church? These are questions that remain with us all our life, guide us, that are deepened constantly! The more we grow spiritually, the more we are introduced into deeper layers of the Church. The more Jesus extends the offer to us to help Him to carry his Cross a little, like Simeon.
Finally, the more we grow, the more we grow in humility. The more we accept our weakness and the weakness of our brothers! The more we feel we need to pray and offer sacrifice for them, for their sanctification! The more we grow, the more we discover that the Mercy of God is our only recourse!
Let us consider the strong personality of St Paul! God kept him attached to Him, in weakness in humility. He allowed an angel of Satan to chastise him and keep him humble! He allowed him to persecute the Church ferociously: he did agree (according to the book of the Acts of the Apostles) to the murder of Christians! He felt himself to be the least of all the apostles, not even worth being called an Apostle! He suffered enormously (see Romans 9 and 10) as well for his brothers and sisters who continued to reject Christ and accepted even to be rejected (be considered anathema) for the sake of gaining some of them for Christ.
This is the man that Christ chose to be an apostle! Not the most brilliant one! A man full of zeal, yes, but not the correct zeal, by agreeing to kill Christians. This is the man that Jesus chose! What a mystery it is to choose such a man to be His apostle, the one who maybe worked more than many others! Or at least who suffered more than many others! Maybe.
What a mystery.
After this long answer, thinking of it, of all its different aspects – and many of them deserve meditation and prayer, pondering seriously on them – do I find that my answer is helps and is convincing?
On the one hand it is impossible to convince somebody of something absurd: a sin is a sin! I can’t ask myself, God or my brother to say that a sin is not a sin! Neither can I bring anybody to think that the weak will not be scandalised and fall because of the sins of the people who have authority. This will not work either! Here we are face to face with the mystery of iniquity! The mystery of evil, amongst Jesus’ Disciples! The mystery of people of a similar category to Judas, and more often similar to Peter who said three times: “I don’t know Him!” To repeat: it is impossible to change this part of the truth.
Here is what Cardinal Ratzinger said in the Via Crucishe composed for the 2005 Holy Week:
“What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts!
How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words!
How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).
Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.”
Further evidence can also be found in One can read as well the fifteen “diseases, malfunctioning, and infirmity”that Pope Francis finds amongst Priests and Bishops:
“1. The disease of thinking we are “immortal”, “immune” or downright “indispensable”, neglecting the need for regular check-ups.
- Another disease is the “Martha complex”, excessive busy-ness.
- Then too there is the disease of mental and spiritual “petrification”.
- The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism.
- The disease of poor coordination.
- There is also a “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease”.
- The disease of rivalry and vainglory.
- The disease of existential schizophrenia.
- The disease of gossiping, grumbling and back-biting.
- The disease of idolizing superiors.
- The disease of indifference to others.
- The disease of a lugubrious face.
- The disease of hoarding.
- The disease of closed circles, where belonging to a clique becomes more powerful than belonging to the Body and, in some circumstances, to Christ himself.
- Lastly: the disease of worldly profit, of forms of self-exhibition.”
(See, “Presentation of the Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia”, “Address of His Holiness Pope Francis”, Clementine Hall, Monday, 22 December 2014)
On the other hand, independently from this or that scandal, we are all called to deepen our faith, to allow the Holy Spirit to purify it. And one of the aspects of the purification of the act of faith which is “I believe in the Church,” is to find that God doesn’t want us to lean on anything human or on any human means in order to go to Him. One can’t easily find tougher advice given by God in the Bible than: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5)
We always reply: but we are humans, we like a bit of cuddling and a bit of affection from our superiors in the Church. But God replies: “cursed” you are if you do that! This is the great paradox of the purity of the act of faith in the Church! It is made on the Church, in the Church, but its means are totally Divine and the Goal, deep in the Church: it is God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who lead the Church and are well present here on earth! However can we see them in the Church?
Scandals are sometimes an opportunity to re-question ourselves and our faith and an opportunity to deepen it. In what do I believe? How to I believe? What do I do with these scandals? What do I want from the Church? Who gives me the Church (Jesus gives me the Church)? Who animates the Church? What is the Church?
Can we emerge from the flood of these questions with a deeper and renewed faith? Do we want this?
St Joan of Arc when she was submitted to the fierce interrogation by a Commission (of priests, theologians) led by a Bishop, she said to the Bishop: “Bishop, I die because of you, by you!” Members of the Church, representatives of the Church, accused her falsely and murdered her! She asked to have recourse to the Pope and that was refused to her! Paradoxically when she talked about the Church, she said that Jesus or the Church “are all but one” reality (“C’est tout un”)! Here is one of the biggest mysteries of iniquity in the Church – when a saint is burnt by members of the Church, eminent ones! Then too the majority of the Heresies were led by Bishops! Remember, Bishops are the successors of the Apostles! Luther is a Monk, Priest and Theologian!
Our Lady Burning Heart of the Church
Have we just been abandoned, left alone to deal with the Church, and with the darker aspect of the members of the Church? It would be deeply wrong, here, to forget the most important aspect of the Church: Our Lady herself.
During the Mass we say: “look not on our sins but on the Faith of the Church”. It is very important to understand from where the Church’s Faith comes. It is Mary’s Faith that becomes the Faith of the Church as Pope John Paul II says in his Encyclical letter on Our Lady, Redemptoris Mater(see Part II). Mary, because she is Immaculate, is the only one who was able to believe the Angel’s Words and receive the Word of God in Her, and is the only one who was able to believe in Him, and in His Resurrection. Mary is the perfect Disciple of Jesus. It is in her that we find the perfection of our Faith. Mary is Virgin and Mother, and if the Church is Virgin and Mother, it is because of two factors:
1- She is made in the image of Mary
- She is made in the image of the Virginity of the Faith of Mary, and of her maternity. In this sense, if we consider that the Holy Spirit is burning in the heart of the Church, Mary is this very heart. This is why Council Vatican II, in its great document, Lumen Gentium,which talks about the Church, puts Mary in its last chapter, Chapter 8, to show us Mary as the real object of our hope, in the sense that the Church’s hope is to become like Mary, or better said: the Church contemplates in Mary what she want to be:
“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Churchin the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ. For in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother. By her belief and obedience, not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the new Eve she brought forth on earth the very Son of the Father, showing an undefiled faith, not in the word of the ancient serpent, but in that of God’s messenger. The Son whom she brought forth is He whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, namely the faithful, in whose birth and education she cooperates with a maternal love.”(Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 64)
“In the interim just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Churchas it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, as a sign of sure hopeand solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth.”(Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 68)
In sum when we face sin and darkness, God gives us a sign of hope higher and stronger and victorious: Mary, her example and her maternal care. God gives us her eyes, and gives us her heart in order to help us see His Light and experience His Love.
It is therefore of utmost importance to go deeper into the Mystery of the Church and meet the most eminent member of the Church who happens as well to be her Mother: Our Lady. Her faith is the safe haven where we are called to dwell. God gives us her faith!
Pope: the Mystery of Peter
The Popes, as they embody the deep mystery of the Unity of the Church, in their teaching are a secure Beam of Light given to us by God.
And last but not least, on the contrary, we have the Mass, the Eucharist that holds all the treasures we need, together with the Sacrament of Confession.
It is by replying with an Act of Faith in the Presence of God in the Church that we can overcome the temptations of doubt. There are many distracting voices today, especially with the gossip which the media and social media circulate, with distorted information, false accusations, calumnies, slandering. This is true. This is why it is important to check the information we read thoroughly, to check if it is true. The Mass Media obscure the news coming out from the Pope, the living Peter. They do it to the point that his voice is not only not heard but distorted. Again and again, it is what Peter, the Pope, says and not any extra comment or tone added to it that we should pay attention to. There are plenty of “tendencies” and currents in the Church that “read” what the Pope, any Pope, says and distort it the way they want. Today, more than at any other time in history, it is important to go to the source of the information, and not to current opinion. The texts are available.
The Example of the Saints
Another source of Light and help are the Saints. Their lives show us that struggle and difficulties are always to be expected and by their example, they show us how to react. Many times they react with even greater faith and resilience, often being led by the Promises of the Lord. Then it is said in the Acts of the Apostles that they were “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith saying: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”.”(Acts 14:22).
These Saints are our friends here on earth. Let us remember what St Therese said: she will spend her heaven doing good here on earth. Here we are face to face with a Saint who is really experienced not only as an intercessor but as well as a sister walking beside us.
Many saints are also Doctors of the Church, offering us a rich teaching. The saints, therefore, are not only examples to follow, but their teaching in addition strengthens us. These are props that God gives us to overcome the trials. When we see saints who lived in times of struggle and darkness our faith is strengthened by their example. Reading a good book on the History of the Church, we discover, then, that the Church had different dark moments in its life and seeing how the saints lived and reacted strengthen our faith.
Suffering and Resisting with Faith
St Peter considers that it is a blessing to have difficulties and trials: “Who will harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their intimidation; do not be shaken.” (1 Peter 3:13-14) We know that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28) Therefore it is important to take the opportunity and the means to allow any difficulty to become a blessing for us. God doesn’t want us to get disheartened or to lose faith. He gives us at the same time all the necessary graces in order to overcome the difficulties, the doubts, the shocks. Everything, accordingly, will be changed into Grace and benefit for our Faith.
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). And the deepest aspects of “Jesus coming in the flesh” is the Church itself, who is part of Jesus’ Mystery. We can’t fail Jesus, we can’t go against His will and desire. Acknowledging “Jesus coming in the flesh” is to take the plunge with faith when we face the Church, receive the Grace to believe even more deeply, and find Jesus at an even greater depth. Where the Church is, there is Jesus and the Holy Spirit. With Mary’s Faith and Mary’s Heart we can reach a deeper level in the Church, our faith can become stronger and we can tap into deeper and more abundant graces. This, in fact, sums up the experience of the Saints.
Here is how St Peter invites us to become aware of the price of our Faith and shows us how to allow it to be purified:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faithare shielded by God’s poweruntil the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith– of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him[present in the Church] and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith: the salvation of your souls.”(1 Peter 1:3-9)