Monday, November 12, 2007
St. Josaphat Kuncevyc and fidelity to the Church
It's interesting that I have a devotion to Saint Josaphat, even though at first I really didn't know much of anything about him. It only started because I have a friend who has a huge devotion to Saint Josaphat after hearing about his life. So, in 2000 when I went to Rome for the Jubilee Year, I promised my friend I would pray for him at Saint Josaphat's tomb since he told me it was in one of the side altars at the Basilica of Saint Peter. Ever since visiting Saint Josaphat, I myself have gained an intrest and devotion to him. It really is amazing how much your devotion can increase for a Saint just by visiting their tomb. As I've mentioned before, this is how I have made several "friends" in Italy.
Providentially, I am starting to see why I have gained this devotion to Saint Josaphat. Given how he was martyred for the sake of unity between the Orthodox and the Catholics, I've been praying to Saint Josaphat a lot lately. Unfortunately the reason I have been praying to him so much lately is because of a situation which has arisen lately.
This situation has gotten me to thinking about people leaving the Catholic Church, especially because of scandal or frustration (not for doctrinal reasons).
On the hand I do sympathize with them. Yes, I know there are problems in the Catholic Church. But I always remind myself, it isn't the Church, but many of the sinful members of the Church Militant that mess things up. As bad as all the current scandals, and liturgical abuses, and heterodoxy being taught seem to be, these are not reflections of the Church Herself. You have to see that if these people who cause scandal had followed the Church's teachings, there would not be these problems. I really think that God is testing the members of the Church to see if we can see through the actions of individual members to see the true teachings and doctrine of the Body of Christ, the Church. Fleeing can certainly seem like an option: "Why hang around this place?" But in spite of all the garbage that goes on, the fullness of God's revelation remains in the Catholic Church. And part of that truth is that if we are to truly follow Christ, we are going to have to be crucified with Him.
I know it is easy to think that the current times of the Church are bad, and there have certainly been more idyllic times. But there have been many other difficult times in the Church. Look at the early Church and how so many bishops and emperors embraced Arianism. Read the writings of Saint Peter Damian who lived in the 11th century, and you'll see that there were sexual scandals going on then that are almost identical to the ones nowadays. You'd almost think that the Church Militant consists of men and women who suffer the effects of Original Sin. That's right, it is ... the whole world is. Yet in spite of all the problems, there has always been the constant teachings of the Church and the means to Sanctity (ie the Sacraments). As Saint Paul says, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. And we certainly see that in times of greatest persecution or problems, God raises up more Saints, men and women who have become holy precisely because they had to fight against sin and problems in the Church. And it's often because of problems that better answers are found. Look at the early Church and see how much deeper an understanding we gained about the nature of Christ, only becuase there were those in the Church who began preaching heresy. Thus, ecuminical councils were called, and truths about Christ were clarified and better understood.
So, my whole point is, I have seen people leaving the Church out of frustrations with problems, be it the scandals, or bad liturgy, or whatever. But, I fear these people are not seeing that these problems are not caused by the Church Herself, but by individuals who are actually not following the teachings of God and the Church. Sure, there might be more comfortable places outside the Church, but is it really worth throwing away the Truth? And should we expect comfort in this life when Christ Himself suffered for us, and told us to "come and follow Me" for "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light"?
We must stay strong in our faith, even though we may hear heterodoxy coming from those who should know better, even though we may hear of scandals by individuals who are clearly not following the teachings of Christ and the Church, or even though we may see a liturgical desert (which thankfully looks like it might start blooming again).
Saint Josaphat, please pay for those who are leaving union with Peter and the Church. And pray for us that we may never be tempted or give in to the temptation to flee the Barque of Peter, even when the seas are rough, because it is safer in the boat than floating in the middle of the storm on your own.