It's nice to be back from my vacation, on which I had a very nice time. As you can imagine, I watched a lot of trains, took some great pictures, and listened to some good books in the car. One, called The Yanks Are Coming, was about American involvement in World War I. The other was about Attila the Hun. (What can I tell you – I like history!)
I also had the pleasure of attending three Appalachian League baseball games. Being a Rookie League, the teams in the Appalachian League are populated by very young ball players. Indeed, there were several players as young as 17 on the field – and the oldest player I saw was 21. They had an energy and enthusiasm that was truly tangible.
While on vacation I also heard the news about the scandalous behavior of some priests. As most of you know, I addressed this in my homily last weekend. A number of people have asked if they could have a copy of that homily. So – instead of my usual column – I'm going to print that homily here. I don't usually do this, but thought it made sense in this case. As usual – I want to ask everyone to pray a Hail Mary for me every day. You are always in my prayers.
"Do you also want to leave?"
Jesus said this in today's Gospel – because He knew that many people were walking away from Him. In last week's Gospel He taught them about the Real Presence – that He would truly give them His Flesh and Blood to eat in Holy Communion – and they found it hard to believe. So they stopped following Him. They walked away.
And Jesus asked the Apostles: "Do you also want to leave?" And Peter – speaking for them all – said that the apostles weren't going anywhere. They believed in Jesus – and were going to stay with Him.
"Do you also want to leave?"
I think these words are appropriate for us – and every Catholic at Mass this weekend. We all know lots of people who have stopped coming to Church – for any number of reasons. Maybe – like the crowd in the Gospel they found some of Jesus' teachings hard to believe. Maybe they got out of the habit of coming without even realizing it at first. And maybe – these days – they are rightly furious over the scandalous behavior of too many priests – and the cover-up that
But you and I are still here. Like Peter and the Apostles in the Gospel – we want to stay. But we know – deep down – that we have to do something – and I wantto talk about that right now.
Most of you know that I was on vacation the past two weeks – when all this news from Pennsylvania broke. I was listening to the Catholic Channel on my satellite radio – to a call-in show hosted by a laywoman – and convert – named Jennifer Fullwiler. It was encouraging – even inspiring – to hear her callers – who were rightly angry – say that were still committed to their Faith. Their general feeling was that no sinful priest or neglectful bishop was going to make them give up theirFaith. I feel the same way – and I suspect you do, too.
As to what we should do, Jennifer offered an analogy that made a lot of sense. She reminded everyone that the Church is the Body of Christ – and we all became part of that Body at Baptism. At this difficult time – all the good people and priests of our Churchneed to be the "White Blood Cells" of that Body.
Think about it. When our physical body gets an infection – the white blood cells attack the infection and flush it out. If they don't do that – we die! The predators in the priesthood are an evil infection in the Body of Christ on earth – and we have to be the White Blood Cells that force them out.
How can we do this? By leading holy lives.
Holiness is always the antidote to evil. When the Church got too worldly in the Middle Ages – holy people like St. Francis of Assisi got things back on track. When the immorality of Church leaders in the Renaissance sparked the Reformation – the holiness of people like St. Theresa of Avila and St. Ignatius Loyola set things right. In the same way, we need to grow in holiness today – all of us – priests and laity alike.
"Do you also want to leave?" I don't. I want to stay – and I hope you do, too.
More than that, I hope you – and I – will work together to live really holy lives and so become the White Blood Cells that flush this evil out of the Body of Christ so she can be all Christ wants her to be.BACK TO LIST