Friday, June 21, 2019 - Updated: 12:48 pm
On Father’s Day, June 16, I received a call from a man who lives across the country, and I have known him for more than 30 years. He was victimized sexually at the hands of a priest as a child. When I saw the name on the caller ID, I answered the call knowing that it would take at least an hour of my time.
His brother was also victimized and committed suicide at age 21. I listened, listened and listened as more and more of his anguish and anger erupted like a volcano. He has charted a course to champion and be an advocate for all children and the vulnerable to stop these heinous crimes.
He told me that, along with his wife, two sons and their families, they attended a Catholic church in the mountains of Arizona. They sought reconciliation and healing by attending Mass as a family on Father’s Day. As a priest and friend, it did my heart good to hear that they all wanted to be healed, reconciled and strengthened by the Eucharist.
Bishop Robert Barron, in his recent book, “Letter to a Suffering Church — A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis,” presents a concise, historical, scriptural and powerful message. This priest of 33 years who has served the last four years as an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles addresses the crisis head-on.
He wrote the book, as he states in the preface, “… for my fellow Catholics who feel, understandably, demoralized, scandalized, angry beyond words, and ready to quit … but I urge my brothers and sisters in the church to stay and fight — and to do so on behalf of themselves and their families, but especially on behalf of those who have suffered so grievously at the hands of wicked men.”
I highly recommend that everyone read this small and powerful book. It is only five chapters in length. I urged my Father’s Day caller to get a copy. Visit www.sufferingchurchbook.com to order yours.
In Chapter 4, “Why Should We Stay?,” Bishop Barron re-examines the great Eucharistic Chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel. John tells us that the majority of Jesus’ followers abandoned him, denied him and turned their backs on him, and so Jesus turns to his inner circle of apostles in exasperation, asking them if they too are going to “jump ship.” Peter pipes us and says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68).
Our greatest need, desire, longing and urging of the human condition and story is what Jesus alone can provide. There is nothing in the universe that makes us whole like the unconditional love of God poured out for each one at the Eucharist.
Sometimes it only takes a small matter to make us want to leave the church, or our family or a workplace. But to remain steady and faithful takes a greater measure of grace and holiness. The devil will attempt anything to hinder and disrupt our relationship with God and others.
No doubt each one of us wrestles with temptations, inclinations, imperfections, shortcoming and weaknesses, but God’s grace seeks to heal, unite and reconcile. Jesus fought against the weapons of the world by employing compassion, forgiveness and ways of non-violence. Bishop Barron states it bluntly: “… the Eucharist is the single most important reason for staying faithful to the church.”
Each day at UPMC Mercy hospital, Catholics have the opportunity to attend Mass in the beautiful Holy Family Chapel, or patients can tune in through the hospital channel to view Mass in their rooms. In addition, extraordinary ministers take Communion daily to the sick and suffering. One of the ministers texted me upon completion of Communion rounds on Father’s Day and said 37 people received Jesus in the Eucharist that day — a cause for great joy indeed.
As we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) we receive the precious and priceless gift of Jesus — his body, blood, soul and divinity — to strengthen us in our daily struggle with sin and evil. As the Lord takes, blesses, breaks and shares his love at the Eucharistic table, we are charged to imitate his faithfulness and sacrifice with selfless giving and living. The Eucharist calls us to communion and sends us forth on mission.
Father Jones is a chaplain at UPMC Mercy.