I have spent the last months at prayer in my small Talkeetna hermitage. I have prayed for a renewal in my priesthood and for a deepening celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
This might seem strange as I am celebrating 40 years a priest. You would think I had it down by now. Nope. But I do realize that all great revivals in the church have had two aspects — renewal in the Eucharist and renewal in the priesthood. Benedict XVI wrote, “Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord’s eucharistic presence among his people.”
Similarly, Saint John Paul II proclaimed, “In a very real way, the renewal of the church is linked to the renewal of the priesthood.” As he puts clearly, “There is no priesthood without the Eucharist and no Eucharist without the priesthood.” So when I speak of renewal in the church, and dire need for revival, I must look in the mirror every morning and say, “What about you?”
I know what I will do for my next 40 years of priesthood (I plan to be around awhile). I will pray for a revival of the Bride of Christ, the church.
Revival is often sought when the church is persecuted from without or decaying within. Today we have both. First, we Christians are under attack everywhere. Recently there was the horrendous loss of life in Sri Lanka where more than 300 innocent Christian men, women and children were murdered while celebrating their faith at Easter. As reported in Open Doors USA, “Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christian torture remains an issue for believers throughout the world including the risk of imprisonment, loss of home and assets, physical torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith. Trends show that countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are intensifying persecution against Christians, and perhaps the most vulnerable are Christian women…”
According to Open Doors, every month 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons, 105 churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked and 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned.
Yes, we need to beg for revival.
Secondly, however, we need to pray for revival from the obvious decay within the church. The evil of abusive priests where we see lives shattered and broken by rotten shepherds has led to a faith crisis for many. The lack of shepherding and the loss of trust in the hierarchy in our time is revealed in the angst and the anger found in the church today. For every person who comes into the church, six leave through the backdoor — many are young people. Decay and crisis is tearing the church apart.
Matthew Walsh, a Catholic blogger and speaker, in a talk at Steubenville Franciscan University, said Satan has an attack plan to destroy the church. First is the “front on attack” — just kill Christians. This does not always work because as Tertillium said during third century persecutions, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The church actually can thrive under persecution. These martyrs are willing to give up everything for Christ. How many of us are willing to give up anything? Let alone everything.
Walsh says, “This martyrdom is not Satan’s strategy for us in the West.” There is a plan B from Satan for us. He just lets us destroy ourselves. We bend our knees to the forces of evil and without ever firing a shot. We are lulled to sleep with all pleasures known to man. We are made fat and lazy. Kill us? Why would anyone do that? We are not even worthy of persecution. We are no threat to Satan. He laughs at us.
Christians in Syria are the real threat — not the lazy, soft Catholics in this country. Just let the luck warm Catholic turn on the TV or the internet and float to oblivion as he conforms to the culture — a culture where babies are killed by the millions, marriages fall apart, and children are emotionally and spiritually abandoned in broken homes. Their innocence is attacked and their purity destroyed by pornography. We are drowning in sin in this country.
When we come to church we are desperate for direction, correction or something. Instead, we are given cultural affirmation and told, “All is fine.” No, it is not. We all need to pray and beg for revival — laity, priests and bishops must be on our knees.
Benedict XVI spoke several times about the “silent apostasy” of some Catholic priests and laity. For Benedict, laypeople and priests don’t need to publicly renounce their Catholic faith to be apostates. They simply need to be silent when their baptism demands that they speak out — to be cowards when Jesus asks them to take courage.
Saint Augustine said, “God made us to make the times, not the times to make us. And unless we make the times better with the light of Jesus Christ, then the times will make us worse with their darkness.”
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, in an address on reforming the church said, “The great Catholic reformers in history had three essential qualities: personal humility, a passion for purifying the church, starting with themselves, and a fidelity to her teaching, all motivated by unselfish, self-sacrificing love.”
Saint Peter challenges us: “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us…therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” Each of us must look in the mirror. My friends in Christ, the time for prayer and revival is now.