“Clothe me, O eternal Trinity; clothe me with Yourself,
so that I may pass this mortal life in true obedience
and in the light of the most holy faith
with which You have inebriated my soul.”
–St. Catherine of Siena
My best friend called me a little while back, all distraught over some statement or action of the Pope or a cardinal or something or other. I can’t remember the specifics, because, to be honest, it’s a fairly regular thing that the Pope or a cardinal says or does something that distresses my best friend. Sorry man, but it’s true. In my friend’s defence, he is often in a position to witness the scandal caused by whatever situation has come along lately, and to a certain degree has an immediate responsibility to try to do damage control. Nevertheless, as my priest recently succinctly stated when asked about what’s happening in the Church regarding its teachings and attitudes towards marriage, divorce, and reception of Communion for those in irregular marriages, “Nothing’s changed.”
This truth, that nothing in the Church’s teachings has changed, is a certainty that we can hold to as Catholics. Nothing has changed at a fundamental doctrinal level, because nothing can change. Christ promised that His Church would be infallible in matters of faith and morals. The world thinks that its fashions are irresistible, and the Church needs to move with the times. But the Church is founded on the Unmovable Rock, and the irresistible forces of the fashions of this world will be shown in the end to not be so irresistible after all.
In the here and now, though, the tumult that rises while the Church examines how best to respond to the current fashions and needs of the world, can be confusing. Every attempt to discern the most prudent and charitable course is hailed as change by those who want change, and ruination by those who don’t—but who have, at least for the moment, lost sight of that Rock on which they stand.
In the end, my best friend and I came to a resolution and a recipe for sanctity and sanity in these trying times. In a flourish of marketable savvy, we codified our conclusion with a simple acronym in the spirit of those WWJD bracelets from the 90s.
We’re OPTing for holiness: Obedience, Prayer, and Trust.
Obedience: If Jesus is God, and if He founded a Church against which the gates of hell would never prevail, and if the Pope is His vicar on earth, to whom He gave the Keys of the Kingdom, then why are we so worried that after almost 2000 years, this pope is the one who is going to ruin it all? We can either submit to his leadership and obey the teachings of the Church, or we can go the route of the sedevacantists and Protestants, and claim that the Church was overcome by hell. But that choice ultimately means that Jesus Himself is the one who failed, and that means He’s not really God. And if that’s the case, why even bother pretending? But on the other hand, if we’re obedient in all humility and charity, then we will have remained faithful, and Jesus will remain faithful to us. The best way to be sure when trying to sort all of this out is to get a good spiritual director who can help you lay out a plan of spiritual growth specific to your state in life.
Prayer: The fact that the Pope has the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals does not mean that everything he says or does will be the most prudent—especially, let’s be honest, at 30,000 feet. While we strive to remain faithful in holy obedience to the Church, we must persevere in prayer first for our own holiness, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Pope, all bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders in the Church, so that they might faithfully proclaim the truth in love, and lead lives of virtue. Prayer is our connection with Jesus—our very oxygen, without which we have no hope of living the spiritual life. We must cultivate a deep prayer life, taking time both to talk to God, and to spend time in silence, listening to Him.
Trust: Obedience and Prayer will just end up as mindless rote without the final ingredient of Trust—by which I mean that loving, filial relationship of love with Jesus, knowing that He loves us more than we could ever comprehend, and that He is working out His great design in His Church and in the world. The notion of childlike faith was made clear to me while I was visiting my nieces and nephews recently. My youngest niece, who is 2, had climbed up onto the coffee table in front of the couch on which I was sitting, and looked at me, reached out her arms, and when I raised my arms, she jumped into them without hesitation. I put her down and she immediately climbed back onto the table and jumped again. We did this for several more times, until I was distracted by my nephew momentarily. My niece nevertheless climbed back up and jumped, trusting me to be paying attention and catch her. (I did! Barely!) This is the sort of trust we need to have in Jesus—a trust that continues in prayer and obedience even when it seems like He’s not paying attention to us. It’s a trust that says, “It’s Your Church. I’m just a part of it. I’ll do my part, and no matter what it looks like, I know You’re in control.”
The choice is yours. Will you OPT for holiness?
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