August 23, 2018
The homily below was delivered at yesterday’s school Mass at Bishop Chatard High School. We honored the patroness of our school, Mary Queen of Heaven, on her feast day.
An interesting phenomenon I observed when I was ordained six years ago. I noticed that more people started coming to me asking for prayers – prayers for a specific need, for a special event happening in their lives, for someone in their family who was sick or dying, and so on.
We do that, don’t we? We know our own prayers are heard by God, but it’s nice to have that little bit of help. So we reach out to someone we think prays more often, has a stronger faith, or is somehow closer to God.
We view priests, deacons, sisters, monks and others as “professional” prayers, so it couldn’t hurt to ask them to include our prayers along with theirs. Or maybe there is someone who just seems to know the right thing to say; they’re really good at praying. We want that little extra.
We also ask people that have died to watch over us. Someone we are close to dies and we are certain they have gone straight to heaven. We ask them to talk to God for us, or ask them to watch over us, our family, or our activities.
I bring all of this up because we are celebrating the feast day of Mary, Queen of Heaven – the patroness of our school. Our patroness does the same things I mentioned on a larger scale – interceding with God for the prayers of our entire school. Watching over the events and activities of the entire school.
Churches do this – St. Matthew, St. Simon, St. Luke – St. Pius X parish just celebrated the feast of their patron yesterday. Saints serving as the patron of these parishes, interceding for and watching over the parish.
We, too, are a church. We come together weekly to celebrate the Mass and offer our prayers together. We are a faith community – a church.
I emphasize this right now because the Catholic Church is mired in scandal – clergy sexual abuse, evil behaviors covered up or ignored, many people hurt by representatives of the Church. It is so sad, so disheartening. Our hearts ache for the victims. Our faith is challenged. How do we respond?
We, of course, pray for the victims and pray for the purification of the Church.
However, it is also time to embrace our faith, to be the light of our Church.
The abusive clergy is not the Church. Covering up evil is not the Church. Ignoring problems is not the Church. The Church is not merely a building or an institution or a hierarchy.
WE are the Church. The Church is people; it is us.
How we respond matters. What we do, how we live out our faith, matters.
We must be the change we want to see in the church.
We need to turn toward God, rather than turn away from him. We combat abuse by living the Gospel. We combat evil by the love of God.
We must live our faith. This will not only build up the church, it will also purify it and drive the evil out. It will build up the kingdom.
Be a patron or patroness for others. Be the person people come to for prayers, to intercede for them or to watch over them.
WE are the Church. How we live our faith matters.
We can be a light for others in a very dark world.