Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Sadness Brought By Church Politics and the Joy Brought By Witnesses

Icon of Sts. Peter and Paul
Last night before going to bed, I stupidly read a few articles concerning ecclesiastical politics, rumors of Vatican intrigue, and ideological battles raging among members of the curia.  As soon as I read the articles, I felt a kind of sadness.  Upon recalling those articles this morning, the same sadness returned.  It's the same sadness that I feel when I sometimes hear people talk about the Church as though it were all politics: liberals against conservatives.  I tell them, "The Church is so much more than that!"  But there is this ugliness in the Church of political maneuvering and ideological nastiness.  It actually occurs.  It is specifically something that plagues the clergy.  When the clergy--bishops and priests--act in this kind of way, is it any wonder that it leaves people somewhat downcast and cynical about the Church?

As I said, when I woke up this morning, the memory of these political ecclesiastical articles came to mind again.  And with them, came a feeling of sadness.  As I was getting ready for the day, a text from one of my young co-workers at the BU Catholic Center arrived: "Holy Hour when we get in today?"  An hour or so later, sitting in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, I thought about the various experiences of the Church during the previous twenty-four hours.

The day began with a Holy Hour.  A co-worker and I try to pray a Holy Hour each morning.  While we prayed, a few others eventually found their way to the chapel and prayed their own Holy Hours.  Then, at the end of our hour, the FOCUS Missionaries and a few others arrived to pray their Holy Hours.  A short while later, twenty-five young people came to Mass. After Mass, I grabbed lunch with a student.  We talked about serious stuff and--as often is the case--I found myself moving closer to God as a result of this experience of the Church.  

Later in the day a small committee of staff and students met to discuss our weekly "Catholics on Campus" event.  We were continuing to plan out the semester for this weekly event.  All of us were kind of tired and sluggish during the meeting.  All of us wanted the meeting to end.  But, even the fact that we were all tired together gave me a sense of gratitude for our work together.

Following that, we had our weekly spaghetti dinner at the Catholic Center.  Among those with whom I conversed was a young man whom I met last year.  He's Muslim.  The opportunity to share a meal together and to have a pleasant conversation made me grateful.

After spaghetti dinner, we had our weekly, "Catholics on Campus" event.  This week's topic was about the "Hook Up Culture." As l listened to the conversations, I found myself moved by the fact that these young people have miraculously heard the voice of Christ despite living in a culture that is so opposed to that happening.

At the end of the evening, the FOCUS Missionaries, two Jesuit seminarians who help out here, a young man who works here as an intern, and I all had some social time together.  It was a lot of fun.  Among other things, I was again grateful for the opportunity to have these two young Jesuits here.  In Boston, though it is probably impolitic to state it aloud, there is a lingering tension, suspicion, and distrust between a good number of the Boston Clergy and some of the Jesuits.  The reasons for it revolve around the sale of the seminary property to Boston College some years ago.  It also revolves around competing theological visions.  I'm grateful for the presence of these two Jesuits who help out here and for other Jesuits in the area who have been invited to serve as adjunct spiritual directors at the diocesan seminary.  These types of friendships perhaps are the best way to heal what remains a wound in the local Church.  The witness of these two solid men, their vocations, their intelligence and fidelity, and our communion fill me with a sense of hope.   

Then, I went home and read those articles.  The articles about infighting, ideological agendas, and ecclesiastics treating each other poorly left me with a sense of sadness.  That's how I woke up too--  sad that things like that are part of the life of the Church.  But then came the text, "Holy Hour when we get in today?"  

As I sat in the chapel today and prayed that Holy Hour, I was grateful that the vast majority of my experience of the Church is not the stuff of juicy intrigue, ideological power-struggles, or political maneuvering.  My daily experience of the Church is people who love Jesus and love others.  My daily experience of the Church is praying together with young people before the Blessed Sacrament, hearing the confessions of young people, gathering around the altar together for Mass, talking about serious and beautiful things together, watching two Jesuit seminarians live their vocation, observing young people intelligently share their faith with others, witnessing young people discern their vocation, and seeing the communion of the Church lived with joy and with sincerity.

Were it not for the witnesses whom Christ places in my life, I might wind up only with the sadness that comes from reading about Church politics, or even worse, the deeper sadness that must come from giving your whole life over to Church politics.  Church politics and ideology brings me sadness.  But that sadness is crushed and replaced with joy by seven words: "Holy Hour when we get in today?"


  1. A lot of good things to think about in this latest post. The nastiness of politics can even drag us down to arguing with someone about where they want to set up chairs at a function.

  2. Thank you for this, it's a great reminder the joy that Christ brings is often in very small things which might go unnoticed.On reflection these are the things that sustain and encourage us. I've had this experience in my life also, thanks for helping me to tune into it!

  3. Read the Fulton Sheen stuff in the Pilot yesterday and had the same sense of sadness you speak of. But then at Mass this morning heard the words of St. Paul and those of Jesus putting his dinner host in his place and forgiving the sinful woman. Then I knew the "Sheen stuff" is unimportant in my life; the friendship and forgiveness of Jesus is the stuff that matters.