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Friday, June 22, 2012

Fortnight of Prayer -- the Rest of the Story

This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent . . . . (Mark 1:15)
I received an email from a fellow Catholic about the Catholic Church’s call for a “Fortnight of Prayer.” The Health and Human Services mandate requiring Catholics and others to pay – albeit, we are told, indirectly – for contraceptive services started a groundswell of religious-based opposition to the mandate and has culminated in this call for prayer for religious freedom.

I logged onto the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (see this link) for more information and found a number of suggested prayers, not too dissimilar to this which I received in my inbox:

Loving Father, Thank you for the gift of life and for the freedom to love and worship You. Through the power of the Holy Spirit inspire us to be your witnesses. Grant us the courage to boldly and joyfully stand in protection of our freedom. In your mercy, guard our religious freedom so we may continue to live out our faith and transform the world in which we live. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Those who have read my blog long enough know I believe in prayer. I practice it daily. I urge others to pray. I frequently write about it on this blog, even posting a series of strategies for prayer. But I came to a realization years ago that prayer, without confession of sins and a determined repentance, is hollow at best, and a veritable stench in God’s nostrils at worst (See for example Psalm 66:18 and Isaiah 1:4, 11-17 ).

How different is the suggested prayer I received through my email from the one which, for example, Daniel prayed. Here is a sample of his prayer, but you can find it in its entirety at this link

Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your covenant and show mercy toward those who love you and keep your commandments and your precepts!

We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and turned from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and all the people of the land. . . .

We are shamefaced even to this day: the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the lands to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you. O LORD, we are ashamed, like our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, for having sinned against you . . . .

We did not appease the LORD, our God, by turning back from our wickedness and acting according to your truth, so the LORD kept watch over the evil and brought it upon us. The LORD, our God, is just in all that he has done: we did not listen to his voice.

Now, Lord, our God . . . we have sinned, we are guilty. Lord, in keeping with all your just deeds, let your anger and your wrath be turned away . . . . Now, our God, hear the prayer and petition of your servant; and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolate sanctuary.

There is a stark contrast between the prayers suggested for the Fortnight of Prayer, and this prayer by Daniel. And that, I believe, is our undoing.

Certainly there is enough for individual Catholics to confess and perform honest penance as we ask God’s favor during this fortnight of prayer. But there is also plenty for the Church as a group, and its shepherds and priests on behalf of the Church, to confess and perform honest penance.

The priest scandals related to pedophilia – and the Church’s typically anemic response – is just one reason to rend our garments as well as our hearts. But what of the sins of those Catholics – especially high profile Catholics – who publically support, without rebuke by their Bishops, policies and laws that directly contradict Church teaching about, for example, the Sacrament of Marriage and abortion? Or what about the sins of the Catholic laity, Religious and Clergy who publically protest against Rome regarding the role of women and the priesthood? Or artificial birth control? Or a plethora of other matters of faith and morals?

I suspect there are very few Catholics who do not know of choir directors, RCIA leaders, Faith Formation catechists, Deacons, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, and other leaders within their local parishes who act as a Fifth Column within the Church and who receive little – if any – rebuke from the Shepherds or pastors.

Fortnight of Freedom? Yes, we must pray for religious freedom. But Oh, Holy Spirit! Please bring us to our knees with a heart for a good confession, true repentance and worthy penance. For then, and only then, can we count on Your promise for help, as You said to King Solomon, If My people, who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land.


On June 24 I remembered a post I made a few weeks ago along this line of thought: http://thecontemplativecatholicconvert.blogspot.com/2012/05/holy-mother-church-and-child-abuse.html


orlagh said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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Gary Presley said...

I am shamed by the "official" responses to the child abuse scandal, aggravated by the hierarchy's refusal to confront the issue in a moral fashion. (I am speaking in generalities, of course.) I say this after reading your piece today, which provoke the thought that perhaps the church's teachings on abortion, contraception, etc. are being rejected (in part) because of a congregational perception that, if the issue of child abuse is judged on a sliding scale of relativism, the issues of abortion, etc. can also be so judged.

Too many seemingly good men in power turned away from their moral duty too long, and that surely has ramifications for those they intend to lead.

Richard Maffeo said...

Thanks for your first comment, Alena. And thanks also for visiting. I hope some of what I say is useful for your journey of faith. May God richly bless you.


Richard Maffeo said...

Gary, as soon as I read your comment about the "sliding scale of relativism" I had an epiphany. I am sure you have hit on something of vital importance. For too long the Church hierarchy has danced around the edges of the practice of holiness, and thus we have a Church (I too speak in generalities) in moral disarray, practicing 'cafeteria Catholicism' and calling it a banquet. I wish I could make is so that your comment is read by every Catholic priest and bishop in America. You speak for a lot of us out here, Gary.

Thanks for your comment.

Gary Presley said...

The issue has trouble from the beginning. Christianity at its essence is about love and forgiveness. When the scandals began to break, I happened to serve on a parish council. I discussed the issue with a friend, a physician. I said, "I think a bishop cannot be blamed for giving an abusive priest a second chance." My friend said no. He said he believed pedophilia was a transgression that could be forgiven but such a sinner (criminal) could never again be placed in a position of trust. I thought him too harsh.

And then, as we know, there have been repeated incidences of archbishops and bishops shuttling abusive priests from one place to another. I can understand the concept of second chance, but does not God expect us to serve the least among us (children, in this case) the best?

Can I defend the church? Not in this instance. I don't even try. I am too flawed myself. I have come to think that the church at best is a reflection of God's will through flawed humankind, and there's no reason to believe that sin -- even the willingness to rationalize moral failure -- can forever be hidden by a bishop's robes.

Peace be with you, my friend.

Richard Maffeo said...

to your comments again I say, "Amen."