A recent e-mail I received got me thinking of the Church, the times, and
discouragement. It's understandable that someone would be discouraged over
things occurring in the Church today. Bishops, priest and other religious
are making up their own versions of the Liturgy. Militant lay groups are
making up their own versions of Vatican II, theology, spirituality and
morality. A life of service as a priest or other religious is seen as a
waste (and faithful service as a religious is often discouraged), what's NOT
to get discouraged about?
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,
and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
"and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
Discouragement is a natural emotion that we face in many facets of life.
But it's when we let that discouragement be the driving force of our life
that we end up the losers. What person hasn't been discouraged with
something? Whether a job, a person, a love done, etc. If we allow the
discouragement to overtake us, we give up on our job, the person, or our
loved one. It's the hero, the saint, who perseveres in the face of
When the disciples left Christ in John 6 because His teaching was too
hard, did the Apostles, discouraged, leave also? After all, it appeared that
His mission was at an end, everyone left Him, turned against Him.
"Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also wish to go away?' Simon Peter
answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of
God'" (John 6:67-69).
Besides the implicit and explicit rebellion by many IN the Church (which
has occurred from the first Pentecost), we also see the subtle anti-catholic
forces (even IN the Church) gaining ground. For example, the movie
"Elizabeth" was from beginning to end a treatise against the Catholic Church.
Priests as agents of assassination, cowering in hidden rooms making plots.
(The reality is that those where "Priest Holes" used to hide priests so
Catholics in Elizabethan England could hear the Mass since it was a capitol
offense to be a priest or even hear the Mass.) Elizabeth as a 'new' Mary,
etc. But it does make a point. Today, many try to remake the Church, give
us a 'new' (but artificial) spirituality. According to the movie, Elizabeth
may try to transform herself into a new Mary, but she isn't Mary. Just a
cheap knock off.
From a movie of the same era, we can see a person faced with
discouragement hold fast. In "A Man For All Seasons" (I'm always amazed on
how it mirrors what we are facing), we hear St. Thomas More say, "This isn't
reform but war against the Church." And the Duke of Norfolk says of the Pope
"Well the Pope's a princess isn't he?" (The Church is an organization isn't
it?) In the end, he said, "I die the King's good servant. But God's first."
Discouraged? Here he was, from humble parentage, rising to be Chancellor of
England, and almost overnight, he loses it all. But his faith and loyalty
remained strong. For 'fellowship's sake', he refuses to water down his
beliefs and follow the crowd. And though not seeking martyrdom, he doesn't
bend when faced with it.
Yes, it can be discouraging. Are we facing the same thing? Just as King
Henry's 'wants and desires' ushered in the "Church of England" rather than
the Church IN England, we seem to be facing the emergence of the 'Church of
America' rather than the Church IN America. Yes, it can be discouraging when
we seem to the lone voice at home, in our parish, or in the Diocese who
remains faithful to God and His Holy Church. But we are not alone. Not even
counting the countless faithful Catholics who are silent observers, we have
Christ with us. As well as His Mother and the saints.
So, when we are faced
with discouragement recall the words Christ said to Peter, that His Church
shall not perish from the earth. That He will be with it until the end of
time. Recall those who went through the same, and even harder times. And
remember the words of St. Paul.
"…brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by
us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).