Friday, March 26, 2010

Holy Thursday... Historic Thursday?

Last June, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death of St John Vianney, Pope Benedict declared the following 12 months as the "Year of the Priest" -- an observance envisioned to highlight the order and further encourage the "spiritual perfection" of its members.

Suffice it to say, 2010's indeed seen massive global attention placed on the priesthood… just in anything but the way the pontiff and his advisers would've wished. And as with seemingly everything in church life these days, it's clear that the response to the wide net of painful revelations which, in their latest round, have rocked much of Europe, parts of South America and even reached far into Benedict's own homeland and history has fallen much more along factional lines -- a "despicable" attack on the church for some; a well-merited, long-delayed indictment to others -- than the simple, visceral emotions that lie at every uncovered story's core: heartbreak, shame, anger, a turning to prayer… and, above all, a fresh commitment to seek that renewal whose signs come less in the shape of political agendas than the unifying, purifying revolution born of a return to witness, from which all the rest effortlessly flows.

Reactions aside, it shouldn't come as a surprise that -- as it always does, but likely even moreso this year -- the worldwide news-cycle's focus on Rome and B16 will only intensify during this Holy Week. And given how what was intended as a celebratory year has instead found the broadest swath yet of the global church plunged into the scandals' "trail of tears," it wouldn't be sensationalistic nor unfair to expect something significant from the Pope at the one annual liturgy dedicated to the priesthood, this Priestly Year's theoretical climax: the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday morning -- the day's one liturgy held in St Peter's, and the only papal Mass through any year at which all priests present concelebrate.

If anything, given the ferocious climate and the story's root in the crimes of the ordained, a dramatic word or move of the game-changing sort would be even more conspicuous by its absence… and, sad to say, its failure to appear would rightly be decried or, worse still, cited as more "proof" of an inability to face the magnitude of a state of affairs that, as Benedict himself observed in last week's Pastoral Letter to Ireland, "has obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree" no external assault could ever have wished.

In the meanwhile, church, simple though it sounds, all that remains is to pray, grieve, seek forgiveness, do whatever's possible to work for healing… and, above all, keep in mind that a better, stronger Body never begins with pointing fingers or policy changes, but always in the quiet of each heart that belongs to it -- the only place God can birth a "yes" that doesn't just opine about what could be, but inspires one's hands and energies to actually build it.

God love you lot forever… and to one and all, every blessing, comfort and good gift of the Week -- may it teach us all anew everything we're really about.