I humbly asked our fellow MSSN clergy to reflect on the article about the Pope’s Secretary in Crux Online Paper that carries this message: “Pope’s secretary warns people will abandon Church if Church abandons them amid virus.” This message was picked up by a few clergy that I know to support their opposition of the call to be COOPERATIVE, DISCIPLINED, and COMPLIANT as we fight against COVID-19.
I am deeply troubled by this claim that Catholics will abandon the Church because they suspended Masses or even closed churches to comply with worldwide, national, and local emergency requirements imposed by respective governments. In this pandemic emergency requirement, the message is very simple and resounding – be COOPERATIVE, DISCIPLINED, and COMPLIANT to save lives and minimize COVID-19 transmission.
What’s wrong with that message? That is as clear as the voice of John the Baptist in the desert asking all of us to prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths. Simply, do something radical to prepare for God’s coming.
Why is this abandoning the people? I find this concept out-of-touch with reality. Why? The message is clear and resounding – every single one and families are put on notice of the danger and how to save our lives from this pandemic. If we use the concept of VOX POPULI, VOX DEI, this is a perfect illustration of it. The call to be COOPERATIVE, DISCIPLINED, and COMPLIANT is the gospel message during this great danger. In fact, all three words can be best translated as FIDELITY TO CHRIST in times of danger.
We humbly COOPERATE, DISCIPLINED, and COMPLIANT with medical experts to care for one another. People understand this message. And the fear that we are now witnessing from people is turning into what Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I know of so many peoples – individuals, families, and organizations, who are putting altars in their homes, organize religious activities with their children when schools are closed, and organizations and groups praying online rosaries and other prayers. They are turning more deeply to God.
They are not feeling abandoned by the Church when we, as clergy, make ourselves available by phone, emails, and other social media connections to have SPIRITUAL COMMUNION with them. I received so many calls when they asked me for resources like video materials and online Masses. We are in touch with people in their struggles in our thoughts and prayers. We don’t abandon them, and I don’t believe the faithful will abandon the church with this clear and resounding message in the midst of danger. In fact, if you truly support the message to be COOPERATIVE, DISCIPLINED, and COMPLIANT during this pandemic, all clergy has the greatest gospel message, that is, God has given us the best opportunity to cultivate and nurture the DOMESTIC CHURCH, the family, which has been abandoned due to busy schedules of parents.
I will NEVER have this thought to cross my mind that the people will abandon the church with the resounding message that we can easily rally around to save lives. People are way smarter than what this article claim. I don’t know why they would abandon the church. People did not abandon the Church during the Inquisition. People did not abandon the Church when clergy abuse women and the young. Why they don’t abandon the Church? People look at the Church as Christ’s own Precious Body and they fully know that God will never abandon them. The danger is when clergy removes and replaces God and think that they are the Church. Like the olden way: “Rome has spoken… and that’s it.” The Church is divinely controlled; but, unfortunately, the way human beings perform the Business of God, they think it’s their power to control. I think it was Pope Paul VI or Pope John XXIII who prayed this statement every single night: “Lord, this is your Church, I am going to bed!”
Finally, you are all familiar with this short story that we often use for homily illustration:
A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help. Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, "Jump in, I can save you."
The stranded fellow shouted back, "No, it's OK, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me."
So the rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. "The fellow in the motorboat shouted, "Jump in, I can save you."
To this the stranded man said, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith." So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, "Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety."
To this the stranded man again replied, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith." So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, "I had faith in you but you didn't save me, you let me drown. I don't understand why!"
To this God replied, "I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"