by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
This Sunday, the solemnity of Christ the King, marks the official close of the jubilee Year of Mercy.
I am delighted that several thousand individuals will join me in concluding a 33-day do-it-yourself retreat by making a consecration to Divine Mercy. Father Michael Gaitley’s book “33 Days to Merciful Love” provides inspiring, thought-provoking daily meditations based on the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
If you were not able to make the retreat in preparation for the solemnity of Christ the King, I encourage you to acquire Father Gaitley’s book and make this personal retreat in preparation for Christmas. It will help make this Advent a powerful spiritual experience for you.
Many of our priests have shared with me that the number of people coming to confession on a regular basis has increased this year. A commitment for the frequent use of the sacrament of reconciliation/penance would be a wonderful fruit of this special jubilee.
Prompted by the Holy Father’s encouragement, every Catholic in the archdiocese was asked to make a commitment during the jubilee to live in an intentional way one or more of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy. I urge you to re-up by renewing this Advent your commitment to live one or more of the works of mercy.
On Mon., Nov. 7, at Christ the King Parish in Topeka, we celebrated our third healing service for the jubilee Year of Mercy. The purpose of the healing services was to encourage everyone in the archdiocese to pray for healing for those who have been victims of sexual misconduct by clergy or other representatives of the church. I encourage parishes and individuals to continue to pray on a regular basis during the coming months and years for this intention.
In my homily at the healing services I noted: “Words alone are powerless to heal the wounds caused by sexual abuse. Abuse by a priest or a representative of the church creates a double wound. First, there is the horrible hurt caused by the sexual abuse of minors or adults who had their innocence stolen by being violated by another person.
“Sadly, clergy sexual abuse creates a deeper, more complicated and more tenacious wound. It is a spiritual wound resulting from not only having been hurt by someone you had every right to trust, but from being abused by someone who represented to you the church and perhaps in some measure symbolized God.
“The unique and insidious nature of these wounds is that they can impede those victimized from being able to approach the very places and persons one should be able to come to for healing and comfort. Misconduct by clergy can inhibit one’s ability to trust the church and, even more devastatingly, can block our desire to reach out to Jesus — the divine physician, the ultimate healer.”
Jesus promised to be with the church to guard her from making fundamental errors regarding her doctrinal and moral teaching. However, Our Lord did not promise a sinless church. In fact, Jesus warned his disciples that in the kingdom of God the weeds and wheat would grow up together.
Sadly, in any community of human beings there will always be sin. Our faith is not in the frail human beings that are entrusted with the leadership of the church, but in Our Lord’s promise to be with his disciples with all their flaws and failings until the end of time.
I am not suggesting that anger is not a normal and healthy reaction to being victimized by another. Nor am I proposing that victims should “push down” or “deny” legitimate anger for a grave injustice. However, to be consumed by anger for the rest of one’s life is not desirable. Anger can rob us of the capacity for joy. When this happens, one remains victimized.
Certainly, the perpetrators need to experience consequences for the hurt and harm they have done to others. They need to be prevented from victimizing others in the future. They have a grave responsibility to do everything they can to facilitate the healing of the wounds their misdeeds created.
I ask every member of the archdiocese to pray for victims of abuse. Pray that they can experience the healing and peace Our Lord desires for them. Pray for me and those who assist me with the care for victims. Ask Jesus to give us the wisdom to help each victim in the best way possible, considering the unique circumstances of their lives.
Finally, I ask your prayers for our priests. We are blessed with extraordinary priests in the archdiocese who are dedicated and zealous in their service of God and his people. Pray for the vast majority of priests who are not perpetrators, but, rather, devoted and caring shepherds of God’s people.
It has been a difficult and discouraging time for priests, who feel betrayed by brother priests and who feel they minister under a cloud created by the horrible misdeeds of a few. May Our Lord help them to know how important their priestly ministry is to their people and grant them renewed zeal, determination and joy in their service of God and his church!
The jubilee Year of Mercy may have come to a conclusion, but it does not mean our efforts to receive and give mercy should diminish. The jubilee Year of Mercy has reminded us that we are called to be a church of mercy, where every person feels treated with compassion and respect. May we never grow weary of being God’s missionaries of mercy in the world!