Our church has been rocked by an earthquake of accusations, and the aftershocks keep coming. Quickly, the horror actually starts to feel monotonous, as new reports emerge of crime after crime, outrage after outrage, disappointment after disappointment. In response, we hear only denial after denial, platitude after platitude, delay after delay.
“Don’t worry! The church has been here before!” we hear. “The Borgia popes were worse! We’re a church of sinners, but the Holy Spirit will preserve us! No need to fret or do anything drastic! Pray, hope, and don’t ask questions!”
Ah, well. The church will get through this one way or another, and survive for another day. She may end up smaller, weaker, more broken, and broke; but we know that God’s holy church is ultimately invincible, founded on a rock.
Despite these assurances, and despite a powerful trust that the Lord can create good even out of this evil mess, I feel quite incapable of sitting back and doing nothing. But what do we do, the people in the pews, the boots on the ground, the sinners in need of sacraments? How can we take action in this time of trial and tribulation, when it feels like the vitally needed response is intolerably slow in coming from the hierarchy? How can we improve the state of the church, now, without waiting for the red tape to clear?
I suggest holiness. It’s time to be saints.
In times of difficulty in the church’s past, it was not usually the cardinals and clerics who succeeded in turning things around. God often chooses someone unexpected, someone that society ignores — an illiterate woman like Catherine of Siena (now a doctor of the church!) to influence the path of a pope, or a peasant girl like Joan of Arc to restore a lost prince to his rightful throne. St. Juan Diego was a humble man of no worldly stature when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to ask him to persuade a stubborn bishop to build a cathedral.
This has always been God’s preference — King David was the youngest and smallest of all Jesse’s sons, but it is he that God anoints to lead Israel. Mary herself looked like a “nobody” to her neighbors before she became the mother of our Lord.
God lifts up the lowly. None of us is too small to be of service to God, sometimes in surprisingly big ways.
How will God use his people now? We will have to wait and see. In the meantime, we need to open our ears and hearts to hear his still, small voice when it whispers. We need to get ready by getting holy.
“Get holy,” is, I know, vague advice. But the wonderful thing is that holiness is accessible to everyone. It doesn’t require hours of kneeling, or selling all of your possessions.
Holiness is about letting God into your day. Rather than telling him, “God, please do such-and-such to so-and-so,” instead try asking, “Lord, what do you think I should do?” We need to seek God’s will for us, rather than pushing our own desires and wills to the foreground. If we can take our mundane to-do lists — work, raising kids, doing dishes, paying bills — and mentally ask God to guide us in those tasks, he can use those very things to turn us into saints. We can pursue holiness simply by willingly and lovingly doing the duties that God has put in front of us.
Still not sure what to do? Here are a few concrete suggestions to up your spiritual game. Pick one or pick a few, and get started.
• Go to Mass more often.
• Go to confession. (If you haven’t been in a while, don’t be afraid! The priest will be delighted, and forgiveness is guaranteed. Go get the grace that God wants to give you!)
• Commit to 15 minutes of prayer every day.
• Make your next book one by a saint or a spiritual master.
• Give alms, or volunteer your time with your parish or a homeless shelter.
• Donate unused goods to a family in need.
• Next time someone speaks sharply to you, don’t respond unless you can do it kindly.
• Bring fresh cookies to a lonely neighbor.
• Pray a rosary or a Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Dream big. Aim for real holiness, and trust in God. As we transform our daily lives through small actions, he can use us to transform the church — and might ask us to do something big. Listen for his voice, and be ready. We can be the change that the church needs no matter what happens to the “red hats” in Rome. Let’s be saints.
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