Joy Will Keep You Afloat in Desperate Times

“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.” —Hilaire Belloc

People are making a killing off panic. Whether it is panic about COVID, panic about country-wide protests, or any other kind of panic, you can bet there are pundits; politicians; and yes, even churchmen waiting in the wings to make their careers off other people’s fear. If you think the circles you run in are different, think again. I love Catholic and conservative podcasts, news sites, blogs, and radio shows as much as you do, but they are in large part becoming way too focused on the negative. Sure, there is plenty of negative on which to focus, but that has always been the case, and it is the job of Christians — of saints — to be the light to a negative, evil world.

St. Peter, the first pope and the man to whom Christ handed the keys to the kingdom, was a miserable sinner. He denied Christ on the night before His passion, which happened after he was made the first pope, after he received Holy Communion at the last supper, and after years of watching Christ perform miracles. This man, now honored as a great saint, the man Jesus handpicked to found His Church, denied Christ.

During the Arian crisis, it is estimated that over 80% of the bishops fell prey to the heresy [1]. We have had antipopes, popes who had illegitimate children, bishops and cardinals who covered up for sexual abusers, a pope who kissed the Quran, and now a pope who allowed a pagan idol to be worshiped in the Vatican itself. And that only touches on some of the Catholic Church’s problems and scandals throughout the centuries.

But you know what? The Church is still here. God always rights His ship, and those who stay faithful to Him will be righted and hopefully justified as well. In fact, incredible amounts of goodness and clarity often come as a result of living through a crisis; most Church councils were called to address a problem. Maybe we are living through the worst crisis in the Church’s history. In fact, I am inclined to believe that we are. But if you are living your vocation, maintaining a solid prayer life, living according to God’s law, and receiving the sacraments, then what are you worried about?

Follow the advice of St. Padre Pio: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” You are not a cardinal; you are not a bishop; all you can do is pray and live your vocation. So just do that. For most of the Church’s history, limited travel and communication made it difficult for Catholics in far reaches of the world to know the political happenings in Rome. Depending on where you lived, how educated you were, and how wealthy you were, you may not even have known who the current pope was! But yet people still rose up and lived lives of heroic virtue and became saints. You do not need to follow every tweet of Pope Francis or place bets on who the next pope will be in order to attain salvation.

When you are in despair about the state of the Church, suffer joyfully and remember the words of St. John Bosco: “All past persecutors of the Church are now no more, but the Church still lives on. The same fate awaits modern persecutors; they, too, will pass on, but the Church of Jesus Christ will always remain, for God has pledged His Word to protect Her and be with Her forever.”

Do not confuse my message: where you see evil, speak up and stand up against it. Where you see priests and bishops denying their flock of the sacraments, let your anger and righteousness be heard. Educate yourself on the evil we are being afflicted with, but do not get mired in it; do not let it be all you think or talk about. There is also good in the world, and it is your job to spread it. Remember, the word “gospel” goes back to the Greek word “euangelion,” which means “good news.” My point is simply this: the way your average layman is called to take a stand is by living his vocation, praying often, and loving Christ wholeheartedly. That won’t make a news story, but it will make saints.

I am thankful that publications like OnePeterFive try to strike a balance between reporting on current events and helping Catholics to deepen their faith regardless of what is happening around the world. Be like St. Padre Pio; be like St. John Bosco; and for Heaven’s sake, be like my patron saint, Philip Neri, and have a little joy!

[1] Aquilina, Mike. The Church and the Roman Empire (301–490): Constantine, Councils, and the Fall of Rome. Ave Maria Press, 2019. P. 56.

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