Does anyone else feel a bit like characters in a Chicken Little book? Instead of the sky falling, I am constantly hearing "The Church is falling! The Church is falling!" from a swelling underbelly of paranoid Catholics and a growing army of gleeful anarchists.
If you take a look at the media, you'd think the Church was at death's door!
Relax, folks. I assure you, the Church isn't going anywhere. Remember that whole business with Peter getting renamed in front of the giant cave that devoured infants?
Let me refresh your memory, then. Since all four of the Gospels were pretty clear about this, it's obviously important enough for folks to understand.
Once upon a time, Simon (meaning "reed") was following a cool guy named Jesus. Simon wasn't super smart, he certainly wasn't very rich, and he didn't hold major sway in the community. That was okay. He wasn't interested in being the smartest guy in the room. Money didn't hold any power over him, and he didn't aim to have folks do his bidding. He was just a guy who loved Jesus and was willing to follow Him wherever He went - up to and including the Gates of Hell.
That's right, folks! Simon followed Jesus to the Gates of Hell! Believe it or not, this place actually existed in his time. It was located in Caesarea Philippi, and today, it looks like this:
What you're looking at is a giant cave that was carved into a massive chunk of stone. In fact, this giant stone mass housed several caves which, at the time of Jesus, would have been temples dedicated to various deities.
This particular one, however, was dedicated to Pan, god of desolate places (being a lonely little farmer / herder dude isn't the best diety-gig to have). Because his temple had a bit of water running through it, folks would come and sacrifice their infants over the cliff to him where they would either drown or die of blunt force trauma. Thus, because of the grisly sacrificing of such innocence, it was likened to the gates of Hades (even by the Romans).
So Simon followed Jesus all the way to Caesarea Philippi to stand before this giant stone structure that signified death and complete desolation. It was here that Jesus asked a series of silly questions. I'll let the Bible talk from here:
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Good old Simon. His birth name meant reed, something easily bent or even broken by the passing breeze.
Now, however, Jesus blessed him with the name that translates to "large rock." Jesus didn't change Simon's name because He was impressed with Simon's knowledge of Scripture. He didn't change his name because He liked how sinless Simon was. He didn't even change his name because of how faithfully Simon followed Jesus all around the known world.
Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter because name changes signify divine inspiration - a deep, spiritual change that dictates a person's destiny. It's part of the reason we are given new names at Confirmation, too!
Jesus specifically changed Simon's name to Peter because He asked a question with an answer that only could've been arrived at through divine inspiration. Simon was open to the movement of the Spirit, and this is why he was chosen as the cornerstone of the Church.
On Peter's shoulders the Church would be built. When Jesus goes on and explains that He will give him (after the Ascension) the "keys to the kingdom," He was referencing Isaiah 22:22-23.
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder;
For those unfamiliar, the "key" wasn't just a symbol of power the king bestowed onto his most trusted servant. The key was an actual key that could open or lock all the doors in the kingdom (grain storehouses, vaults for gold, even the very temple doors). Whoever wielded the key was given the king's authority (with his approval, of course) while the king is absent. The servant then went about doing the king's bidding by opening grain storehouses for the hungry, the vaults to pay for kingdom necessities, making pronouncements, etc.
Jesus was telling Peter that his openness to divine inspiration announced him as this highly trusted servant. And thus, on Peter's shoulders, the glory of his ancestors (the Jews) and his descendants / offspring (the Catholic Church / various sects of Christianity) will hang on his leadership. PETER is the cornerstone on which Christ's Church is built.
If you continue reading Isaiah (and I love this), the original servant spoken of is named Eliakim. Verses 24-25 speak of Eliakim's eventual downfall and the institution of another servant. This servant is Peter, and when the Lord speaks, it is Jesus who does the speaking. How awesome is that?
Anywho, Peter is set as the everlasting servant. The gates of the hell (Death) shall not prevail against the Church set forth under his guidance. Jesus entrusts this destiny to Peter because he has proven his openness to divine inspiration. Peter proves himself as the faithful, humble servant who does not put his own "wisdom" above that of God the Father.
THAT is the sign of a great servant.
So why do I bring this up at all?
Because for all the bellyaching folks are making about Pope Francis, they need to keep in mind that he is a servant. He is a servant hand-selected by divine inspiration to "keep the keys" until Christ comes back for the 2nd Coming.
You trust Jesus, right? You trust that what he said 2 millenia ago still rings true today, yes? Then quit your bellyaching and trust that when He said He wouldn't let His Church crumble, He's not gonna let His Church crumble.
The Church is His eternal bride. He's not going to forsake us. We'll be persecuted and crucified, this is true. We must, after all, follow faithfully in His Footsteps. But we must remember that with a death fashioned after Christ's comes a resurrection as well.
We have been told that the time is coming for this great persecution and crucifixion, but we're not there yet. Even if we were, your job isn't to head for the hills or apostatize. Your job is to keep your oil lamps filled and burning brightly. Your job is to be a beacon of Christ to others. Your job is to continue praying for and supporting the Church.
I am deeply saddened for and shamed by those Catholics who are renouncing the faith simply because this pope doesn't do things the way they expect. Our faith goes beyond a man in a white cassock. Our faith is the Resurrected God-Man who consents to give Himself to us as food in the Eucharist... as mercy in the Confessional... as divine royalty in Heaven.
I'm also saddened for and shamed by those who are gleefully dancing over the tears of those Catholics who mourn the loss of faith in their communities and families. Things may look bleak from where you're standing. You might delight in the passing of laws that deride the Church and force Her members to face fierce punishment and humiliation, but we know better.
We've witnessed Our Lord upon the Cross. We've seen His Divine Face, even as blood and spittle made Him almost unrecognizable. We've recognized that through this torturous sacrifice, evil was conquered and hope for our eternal inheritance was restored. Laugh now, but we are no strangers to persecution.
Know this. We are the Church that Christ founded. We are His Body, we are His Bride. He will not allow us to be destroyed.
So to you Catholic Chicken Littles running around freaking out about the state of the Church, relax. Do your part by praying, sacrificing and being the person God meant for you to be. Do not worry about the pope shirking his mantum or the local priest singing One Bread, One Body. Unless you witness an actual sacrilege or liturgical abuse happening, try not to freak out and just turn to Christ in prayer. Don't spread paranoia and upset by lamenting the terrible state the Church is in because Father So-and-So allows women to distribute Communion.
You folks know I hate that. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. But ya know what? I don't deny myself participation in the one, true and Catholic liturgy because of bone-headed mistakes. Also, even if the priest in question did it PURPOSEFULLY KNOWING he was in the wrong, I'm not going to let his sin cut off my avenue to Christ, because even if he was stained with a thousand mortal sins, Father Pro-Women Eucharistic Ministers is still Christ's representative on Earth and is able to consecrate whereas I am not.
To you Christian Chicken Littles hoping beyond hope that the evil Catholic Church is finally crumbling, sorry. You guys are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We still pray for you at every.single.Mass. You are our offspring. Do not neglect your Mother.
To those of you who are foaming at the mouth waiting to ravage the remnants of a Church on fire, don't hold your breath. Seriously.
My proudest accomplishment in Mexico was my conversation with a friendly old landscaper. We went back and forth several times until I had to apologize (which I did in Spanish) for my rudimentary grasp of their language. He grinned so broadly and said, in English, "It is good you try!"
I had been so self-conscious until he extended appreciation for me trying. I realized how arrogant we are to always expect English, so offering even my butchered bit of Spanish was accepted as a gift. How kind of that gentleman to be so gracious.
Until that point, I'd sheepishly greet folks or excuse myself as I made my way around people in the resort. I knew how to say "Hi" and "Excuse me" but I felt silly for even attempting because my accent would be terrible or people would think I was trying to sound more worldly than I am.
After that conversation, though, the tiny bit of Spanish I retained from high school came out freely. I was even complimented by one kiosk worker (who was likely just trying to charm his way into my wallet, but I appreciated that particular compliment nonetheless).
That kindly gentleman freed me from my inhibitions and empowered me to use the knowledge I'd been given. What a blessing. :)
I can't help but imagine he's an example of how God views us. In our feeble attempts at honoring His graciousness, we stumble over ourselves, unsure of how to best communicate with Him. However, God does not frown at us for our weakness in this; instead, He smiles broadly and appreciates the effort. Just as a parent appreciates the torn up weed bouquet clutched in their child's fist, so too does God appreciate even our smallest efforts to return to Him the love He so graciously gifts.
Since this past week has been so frustrating and difficult for Vincent, I wanted to take him somewhere completely different to give him a chance to really run off some steam.
There is a massive playground a few towns over that he hasn't been to since he was very, very small. I decided that would be the perfect spot to forget the stress of his new environment and just have fun.
Vincent knew he was going "to the park" today, but he figured it was the one we regularly go to right around the corner. When we didn't make a right-hand turn off our street, he knew something was up. He started to whine, "No, Mommy. I want to go to the park. Turn right, Mommy. Turn right!"
I said, "Vincent, no whining. Mommy IS taking you to the park. We're going to a special park for you today. You're going to have SO much fun!"
He, however, was having none of that. He started to cry. I guess the poor kid was expecting his routine playground, and when his expectation for "normal" was once again smashed, he got upset.
I looked at him through the rear-view mirror and said, "Vincent, did Mommy tell you she was going to take you to the park today?"
He said, "Yes. I want the park."
"I'm going to take you to the park, Vincent. We're going to the park now. It's a BIG park with LOTS of fun things. You're going to like it, so stop crying, okay?"
His crying slowed to silent grumpiness. Clearly he did not trust Mommy to bring him to this big, awesome park that supposedly was better than his trusty old one.
I was confused as to where this distrust in me came from. I'm his Mom. When I tell him I'm gonna take him fun places, I take him fun places. Was the trauma of school really so much for him that he now thinks I've only got challenging things in store for him?
I drove on, but since this playground is a few towns over, it took longer than he's used to. He began to whine again that he wanted to go to the park.
I admit I was starting to get annoyed.
Then I felt this little knock on the head and an inner voice chuckling, "How do you think I feel when you do the same thing to Me?"
I really DO whine the exact same way when God tries to lead me down roads I want no parts of. I don't trust that He's leading me to goodness. I want to stick to my comfortable life of sin. What could Heaven possibly have that I can't find on my own down here on earth?
Vince's whining painted that picture better than any homily ever could. I was the crying kid who wasn't trusting her Father to take her to joy. How OFTEN I am that crying child.
And why? What has He ever done to cause me to doubt His goodness? Nothing. Some experiences have been tougher than others, sure. But all of them have helped me to grow when I've allowed them to. Heck, even when I've tried NOT to.
Point is, how often are we whining little children in the backseat of God's caravan?
We need to trust our Father to drive us to Heaven. It might take longer than expected. We might go down roads we're unfamiliar with... that might be a bit bumpy. But in the end, He's the very best driver there is, so we'd do well to trust Him.
By the time I'd finished that meditation, I was pulling my car into the parking lot of the playground. Vincent was in awe of how massive the structures were. It was pretty funny to see him go from whining to flipping out with excitement.
I imagine that's how we're going to be when we finally get to Heaven. In the end, we'll realize just how worth it that caravan ride really was, and we'll likely want to kick ourselves for all that pointless whining.
Here's a slideshow of Vince enjoying the playground. :)
It takes a village.
Or in this man's case - a town.
We need more stories like this depicting the incredible beauty that humanity is capable of.
God bless the people of Bussey, Iowa.
Through the Facebook Page of Veils by Lily, I came across a new blog-group called Catholic Sistas. It's a group of 40+ women who share their experiences with Catholicism. The ribbon you see to the right was created by one of their members, Erika (read her AMAZING story here!)
Anyway, this particular blog entry is what drew my attention. It details Erika's journey towards and feelings on veiling. I felt very connected to her story as it mirrors my own almost perfectly. For those of you still contemplating this for yourselves, give this entry a read.
Also, this "Ribbon Lady" melts my heart. Erika was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with her daughter. Through the grace of God, they're both alive and doing well today. However, through her suffering and emotional hurricane, this hope-filled Ribbon Lady was born. She is a beautiful reminder of hope, maternal love, and the graces of God given through Our Lady.
I really wanted to pass this along. Please share it with others and link them back to Erika's story. It's a plethora of inspiration and love. :)
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