This has been a depressing few months for those of us at WIT. First the investigation of women religious, then the condemnation of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s book, then the Vatican’s takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and now the CDF’s notification on Sr. Margaret Farley’s book.

So here are three things that gave me some hope today. Perhaps they will do the same for you.

(1) Margaret Farley’s book, Just Love, is now sold out on Amazon. More are on the way. Two days ago, it was twice as expensive and shipped “in 1 to 3 weeks.” Now it is the #13 bestseller on all of Amazon, and the #1 bestseller in Religion and Spirituality books on Amazon. Continuum (which also published Sr. Johnson’s book, Quest for the Living God) should send the CDF a thank-you note.

(2) Here is an excerpt of a beautiful reflection by Karl Rahner, SJ, from the Karl Rahner: Spiritual Writings collection published by Orbis Books:

How boring, antiquated, bothered only with the system’s good repute–how short-sighted, how addicted to power the ‘office-holders’ in the Church seem to me: how conservative in a bad sense and clericalist…The official pomposities of your Church that often seem to me so arthritically and decadently European, as if the Church were not the world Church but a European Church with exports throughout the world–all that’s beyond my even wanting to talk about it. Three hundred years ago people in our part of the world burned witches, and it could turn out very badly for you if you questioned whether witches existed. Today this mass frenzy no longer exists in the Church–yet do we know for certain that there aren’t other forms of mass frenzy around in which the Church is naively colluding? Among those who took part in the frenzy back then, there were holy, learned, and devout folk of good will who failed to see how much their actions contradicted the gospel of Jesus. Can we say in advance that today’s Church is immune from all such horrors?…My God, have mercy upon us poor, narrow-minded, sinful fools, on us who form the body of Your Church. Have mercy upon those who call themselves your representatives. Have mercy upon us.

(3) If Rahner were young, American, and writing today, he might sound something like Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, in this lovely prayer:

A Prayer for Frustrated Catholics

Dear God, sometimes I get so frustrated with your church.

I know that I’m not alone.  So many people who love your church feel frustrated with the Body of Christ on earth.  I know that priests and deacons, and brothers and sisters, can feel frustrated.  And I’ll bet that even bishops and popes feel frustrated, too.  We grow worried and concerned and bothered and angry and sometimes scandalized because your divine institution, our home, is filled with human beings who are sinful.  Just like me.

But I get frustrated most of all when I feel that there are things that need to be changed and I don’t have the power to change them.

So I need your help, God.

Help me to remember that Jesus promised that he would be with us until the end of time, and that your church is always guided by the Holy Spirit, even if it’s hard for me to see.  Sometimes change happens suddenly, and the Spirit astonishes us, but often in the church, it happens slowly.  In your time, not mine.  Help me know that the seeds that I plant with love in the ground of your church will one day bloom.  So give me patience.

Help me to understand that there was never a time when there were not arguments or disputes within your church.  Arguments go all the way back to Peter and Paul debating one another.  And there was never a time when there wasn’t sin among the members of your church.  That kind of sin goes back to Peter denying Jesus during his Passion. Why would today’s church be any different than it was for people who knew Jesus on earth?  Give me wisdom.

Help me to trust in the Resurrection.  The Risen Christ reminds us that there is always the hope of something new.  Death is never the last word for us.  Neither is despair.  And help me remember that when the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples, he bore the wounds of his Crucifixion.  Like Christ, the church is always wounded, but always a carrier of grace. Give me hope.

Help me to believe that your Spirit can do anything: raise up saints when we need them most, soften hearts when they seem hardened, open minds when they seem closed, inspire confidence when all seems lost, help us do what had seemed impossible until it was done.  This is the same Spirit that converted Paul, inspired Augustine, called Francis of Assisi, emboldened Catherine of Siena, consoled Ignatius of Loyola, comforted Thérèse of Lisieux, enlivened John XXIII, accompanied Teresa of Calcutta, strengthened Dorothy Day and encouraged John Paul II.  It is the same Spirit that it with us today, and your Spirit has lost none of its power.  Give me faith.

Help me to remember all your saints.  Most of them had it a lot worse than I do.  They were frustrated with your church at times, struggled with it, and were occasionally persecuted by it.  St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by church authorities.  St. Ignatius Loyola was thrown into jail by the Inquisition.  St. Mary MacKillop was excommunicated.  If they can trust in your church in the midst of those difficulties, so can I.  Give me courage.

Help me to be peaceful when people tell me that I don’t belong in the church, that I’m a heretic for trying to make things better, or that I’m not a good Catholic.  I know that I was baptized.  You called me by name to be in your church, God.  As long as I draw breath, help me remember how the holy waters of baptism welcomed me into your holy family of sinners and saints.  Let the voice that called me into your church be what I hear when other voices tell me that I’m not welcome in the church.  Give me peace.

Most of all, help me to place all of my hope in your Son.  My faith is in Jesus Christ.  Give me only his love and his grace.  That’s enough for me.

Help me God, and help your church.


15 thoughts

  1. So heartened to have found your blog in such a time as this. Thank you for sharing this prayer from Fr. Martin and the beautiful litany from Joan Chittister. I’ll be sending more kindred spirits here.

  2. This said everything that I needed to hear and feel, to go forward. Fr. Jim Martin’s prayer captured all that I wrestle with. A wonderful way to start the day with this renewed strength.

    With regard to Sr. Farley’s book — the Holy Spirit at work is joyfully evident. Yesterday, I had conversations with two people, an Episcopalian and a self-described agnostic. In different settings, each of these friends were anxious to talk about Farley’s, Just Love. They weren’t interested so much in the CDF’s action, but they wanted to read the book. Thanks to the CDF, Sr. Farley’s work is reaching hands and hearts that never knew of her.

    I say…”Dance Holy Spirit… Dance” :-))

  3. Some other encouraging news:

    Franciscan Leadership Declares ‘Solidarity’ with LCWR

    I think that the CDF is basically correct in their assessment of some of the personal opinions on moral matters expressed in Sr. Margaret Farley’s book. While it is right and proper for theologians to push boundaries and explore possibilities, the Magisterium has a responsibility to speak out when important matters of moral teaching, which can have seriously damaging effects in peoples lives, are rejected.

    God Bless

    1. Yes, I was also glad to see the OFMs’ statement. Sr. Farley acknowledged openly that her “responses to some particular sexual ethical questions do depart from some traditional Christian responses,” and Just Love isn’t exactly written for popular readership. Before the CDF’s notification, basically nobody but people in higher education knew about the book, as its low ranking and slow shipping time on Amazon showed. I don’t think anybody who’s read her book has ever, ever thought that it represented current official Catholic teaching, and it doesn’t purport to. She doesn’t reference the fact that she’s a Catholic sister in the book, and the table of contents is hardly focused on the Catholic tradition. In fact, I think a lot of people who ordered the book just because it’s in the news now are going to be confused and disappointed when their copies arrive and they discover copious footnotes and nuanced prose instead of tirades against the magisterium. If the CDF actually wanted to prevent “seriously damaging effects in people’s lives,” they should have (1) learned by now (certainly after the Johnson affair) that issuing a notification only increases a book’s readership, and in this case rocketed Farley’s book to #13 on all of Amazon; and (2) realized that the amount of scandal created by issuing this notification has already FAR outweighed any scandal created by people reading the book in the context of a college course.

  4. Thank you for your sage and solidarious lifting up of prayer and its importance! As always, your blog (your writers) give us substantive food for thought and prayer!

    M. Shawn Copeland

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