A Longing for Lent

By Rebecca Drake
Iobserve [Springfield MA]
Downloaded February 20, 2004

Tears fell and jaws dropped in the Diocese of Springfield last week when news of abuse allegations against our bishop followed the announcement of the Vaticanís approval of his early resignation. The troubling headlines add yet another blow to a diocese, and a church, already beaten down by the clergy abuse scandal of the last two years.

Iím not sure I can add anything new to the communal conversation about the future of the Catholic Church in Springfield and across the nation. I will add my agreement to those who proclaim that our first response, as a people of faith, should be to minister to victims of abuse and injustice through our prayers, our presence and our charity. As members of the Body of Christ, we are called to help and heal any part of the body that suffers, not least of all because an injury to one is an injury to all.

In addition to meeting the psychological, spiritual and financial needs of victims, our Christianity commands us to also offer our forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. For most of us, this, alas, is easier said than done.

What parent would not respond with rage to find out her or his child has been harmed by someone held in highest esteem by society and the church? Who would not want revenge, restitution and public punishment? Who would not feel betrayed and discouraged?

The question for some Catholics now is: Should we stay in this church? Judging by Mass attendance in parishes this past weekend, I think, most of us remain committed to Catholicism even as we are disillusioned with some of its leaders. Saddened and sickened by abuse allegations, true or not, we sit in the pews awaiting solace and solidarity, we kneel in humility, we pray for healing and we stand to proclaim our membership and our faith in the Roman Catholic Church.

And into our midst during this time of public and private turmoil comes the liturgical season of Lent. Next week on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, we will hear the words of the prophet Joel: ďTherefore also now, says the Lord, turn you even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.Ē

In the days ahead, Scriptures will advise us to seek purification through prayer and sacrifice, and to prepare ourselves, as Jesus did, to accept the burden of sins, even those committed by others; to extend to the suffering our compassion; and, for those who have hurt us, to ask for Godís mercy. Then, and then only, will the church be healed and whole once again.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.