“The church is undergoing difficult times. You will hear about priests and nuns who abandon their vocations, about families that are broken. Do not forget that there are thousands of faithful priests, nuns and families.”
This statement, made by Mother Teresa in 1987, certainly rings true today, because with sex-abuse scandals dominating the news, we may overlook faithful Catholics who carry out Christ’s work in the world.
On a recent visit to my sister in Wichita, we were lunching with her friends — non-Catholics — and I cringed inwardly when the conversation turned to religion — expecting the abuse crisis to rear its ugly head.
Instead, the people around the table began praising the church for its good works.
My sister mentioned a lady who couldn’t pay her rent, so she applied to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which promptly fixed the matter. “And she wasn’t even Catholic,” my sister added.
Someone else spoke enthusiastically about the Lord’s Table, a ministry of the Wichita diocese, which serves supper to the poor with the help of volunteers from all religions.
Please don’t misunderstand me — I’m extremely disheartened about the tragic mess the church is in, but I still find solace in the good works ordinary people do quietly each day.
As Jacques Philippe notes, “Evil is only overcome by good, and we can only put a stop to the spread of sin by fervor, joy and hope, doing all the good we can today without worrying about tomorrow.”
Priests, deacons and lay ministers put these words into practice by visiting homebound and hospitalized people to give them Holy Communion.
Parishioners routinely make snack bags for the homeless, visit prisoners, teach Bible study and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
Then there’s Birthright Atlanta, a pro-life group that helps pregnant women keep their babies and ministers to the family after the birth — as expressed in the beautiful motto, “We love them both.”
Many parishioners generously give money and volunteer time for this group started by Louise Summerhill, a Catholic mother.
Our city has a great blessing in the Gift of Grace Home on St. Charles Avenue, where Mother Teresa’s nuns care for women suffering from AIDS.
In southwest Atlanta, the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne tenderly minister to cancer victims at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home.
Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary lead a contemplative, humble life in a cloistered monastery an hour’s drive from Atlanta, praying for the salvation of all people and for world peace, and welcoming prayer requests from the community.
At the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, the monks follow the rule of St. Benedict, combining prayer and work each day, and inviting people from all faiths to guided and silent retreats.
It’s tragic that the church is suffering from a disease of abuse and cover-ups — and heart-breaking how many innocents have been emotionally scarred for life.
Christ came into a world that rejected him because it preferred the darkness — and sadly, some people, who call themselves his followers, remain in the shadows today.
Still, countless numbers of the faithful flood the world with light, as they feed the hungry, visit the lonely, comfort the ailing and soothe the broken-hearted.
Upon founding the church, Christ promised evil wouldn’t triumph over it, which implies the devil’s devious efforts to destroy it would fail.
He also said something that rings especially true for Catholics today: “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
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Lorraine has written eight books, including “The Abbess of Andalusia,” a biography of Flannery O’Connor. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.