As a writer, it’s hard to be in a situation where it feels as if none of your words will be able to adequately describe the way you feel. It’s hard to see things happening around you and know that they desperately need to be spoken about, yet wonder how to even begin.
Yes, as a writer, this week has been hard.
But as a Catholic, that first part must be sorted out, prayed through, and solved.
Because as a Catholic, it is inconceivable to see the news on any given day recently and not be infuriated, ashamed, heartbroken, and devastated. It is inconceivable to simply move on with the day as if it were just… another day.
And as a survivor of sexual abuse?
It is impossible to stay silent.
Because let me tell you something, loved ones, our silence is costly.
Today I went to mass. Today I went to celebrate the most glorious of sacrifices. I went to join with rest of the church in hopes of finding comfort in one another, hoping to have conversations and hoping for the scandal that has been breaking all of our hearts to be spoken about.
And today I received silence.
Not a word. Not a prayer intention.
No message of apology, comfort, or encouragement.
And it hurt.
It hurt because I know too well the sting of silence. I know how overwhelming the darkness can seem when our experiences are kept in the dark. I know too well the price that is paid when we refuse to use our voices.
That price is freedom. That price is life – the abundant sort that is spoken about in today’s gospel from our beloved Jesus’ very lips:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Despite my experience at mass, these words remained with me through the day, taking away my own disappointment and reminding me what the church was always about to begin with:
It’s not about me, as much as my human nature wants it to be sometimes.
It’s not about my own feelings, or my emotions- whether I feel comforted and consoled by a homily or am terribly disappointed by it .
It’s not about the priests, deacons, cardinals, or any of the other fallible humans who have let us down so tremendously.
It’s not about the many, many beloved, faithful, loving, generous and Christ-like clergy members who serve the church and her people so sacrificially.
And while I will be the very first person to stand up and say to the world that survivors of sexual abuse NEED to be heard, it’s not about us either.
It is about Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
And in the midst of heartbreak, those words spoke truth to me this morning:
My hope is not in humans.
My hope is not in hearing the perfect words spoken at mass.
My hope is not in having every single abuser and liar behind bars.
My hope is not diminished by the presence of darkness.
My hope is not faltering because of the enemy.
My hope sure as hell is not weakened, even by the stories of abuse I read which hit too close to home in my own heart.
My hope is in Jesus Christ, the bridegroom of the Church. My hope is in the Eucharist, source of life and greatest sacrifice. My hope is in the Kingdom of God, the eternal life that’s promised to His children.
It is silence that brought us to this place to begin with.
My dear friends, let’s choose, today, to be better.
Lets use our words to fight for the church we love.
Let’s choose to use our words to bring the life so desperately needed in our church today.
Let’s use our words to share stories, even the uncomfortable or painful ones, with hopes of building one another up.
Let’s use our words to ask our Priests and clergy how we can support, love on, and pray for them in what I am sure is a very hard time to be walking in their shoes.
Most of all, let’s share words of praise, thanksgiving, and wonder, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
We can learn from the One who made Himself vulnerable.
The One who spoke on even the hardest subjects.
The One who never for a moment allowed the devil to claim victory over anything.
Jesus Christ is not absent.
Our church is not defeated.
Our church was, is, and will remain