I am deeply in love with Jesus and his Church. It is the reason I started asking my parents to drive me to Mass, even when we didn’t go as a family; it was the reason I decided to go to a Catholic college; and ultimately it is the reason why I felt called to enter the Daughters of St. Paul three years ago and become a religious sister. But over the past few years, people have posed the question to me more than once: “Why would you want to give your life to the Catholic Church, when it is so corrupt?”
Over the past year and a half, on more than one occasion I have found myself wrestling with this question. Deep in my heart, I knew that I was trying to be faithful to the Lord and his call, not actively trying to support any “corruption” in the Church. In a real way, at the very beginning of my religious vocation, it seemed I was inheriting a situation I had not asked for or anticipated at all.
As I prayed and questioned, I discovered a conversation from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien that really spoke to what I was experiencing. In this conversation, Frodo is beginning to feel the weight of being entrusted with the all-important ring that he must destroy. He realizes that it is a bigger task than he had originally realized and no longer thinks he can do it. Expressing his distress, he says to Gandalf, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.”
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is been given to us.”
This is the time that has been given to us. Words cannot begin to express how much I wish that these stories of scandal, the staggering numbers of how few Catholics attend Mass on Sunday, and the large percentage of people who don’t believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, the rising numbers of opioid overdoses and suicides, mass shootings, and immigration crises were not happening in our time. But my faith tells me that God has brought you and me to live in this time for a very specific reason. Now we have to ask what we will do with this time that we’ve been given.
The answer to how we can address the problems that the Church faces will not be found in any number of popular books written on the subject, in any set of well-planned procedures, programs, or conferences. The answer to how our Church will become the pure witness to salvation and spotless Bride of Christ is actually a person: Jesus Christ. And this purification will take place coming from one place: the Eucharist. In short, the only way that our Church will come to grow and truly bring Christ into the world today is if we pray.
As we come to the end of the liturgical year, we celebrate the title of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It’s a pretty awesome title and I always imagine some fireworks going off in the background when I see it. It’s this opportunity to look at all of the pain and suffering in our world and even in our Church, to take a step back, take a deep breath and a sigh of relief as we say, “All of that is true, yes. But Jesus is King.” It is not flippant or dismissive. It is the peace of knowing that all of humanity (and the entire universe) rests in God’s hands. We know that God can bring great good out of the most evil of situations. That’s the kind of king he is.
When we are baptized, we become heirs of the kingdom of heaven and so we share in Christ’s kingship. Jesus is not some far distant king, but one who comes close to us and who desires for us to help him rule. We have every right to approach his throne with total love and confidence and to ask for whatever it is that we need for ourselves or for our loved ones, knowing that he will give it to us if it is what is truly best. He is our king and our loving Father who cares for us in every way. We only need to ask.
In this moment, friends, one of our deepest loves desperately needs some grace. And we are in the perfect position to obtain that grace for our beloved Church, the Body of Christ on earth. It’s time for us to approach the throne of the king and ask for what we need.
The bishops in the United States are meeting in Baltimore this week. They will discuss the very real issues that are facing the Church today. They are not only discussing internal struggles in the structures of the Church but also the trials and sufferings of humanity today as a whole. They are discussing the very same issues that are weighing on the hearts of you and me. The way that they answer these questions will determine the future of how we, as Catholics, bring Christ into the world today.
So this week, please say a prayer for the United States Bishops’ Conference as they meet to discuss the state of the Church in America. But don’t let it stop there. When you’re driving and pass a church, say a prayer for your bishop. Offer part of your Rosary for all who work in the Church. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to move and enliven our Church so that we will be able to witness honestly and authentically through our very lives to the truth that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe by knowing first that he is king of our hearts. Pray for yourself and for your loved ones, that you will be faithful members of Christ’s body, living the vocations that he has called you to with fidelity, and helping to build his kingdom on this earth.
Prayer is a relationship with God. And if all of us, every member of the Church, is honestly praying for the Church, our mother, Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, will hear and answer our prayer. He will give us every grace and strength that we need to build his kingdom on this earth. He will move us to live our vocations to the full, to respond to those in need, to witness to his love. We are members of the one Body of Christ, with Christ as our head. There’s no better place to be.
And if we are ever tempted to be discouraged, we can remember the words of our Lord: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). He will always be victorious, even if we can’t see it because of how we are viewing the battle at this moment. But Jesus is, in fact, the King of the Universe, the Savior of the World, and the king of our hearts. He has brought us to live in the time where we find ourselves now. We have absolutely nothing to fear—but we do have much to pray for.
I invite you to share your prayer for the Church below.
by Sr. Cecilia Cicone, novice of the Daughters of St Paul
image: Marcus Woodbridge for Unsplash