|Chester Cathedral window dedicated to the Reformation in England|
I hope I am completely wrong and the two years of 'hypersensitivity training' I have undergone has been for nothing. We should all welcome a year of Mercy. Let's go with that. Who could oppose mercy?
Think of all the initiatives in parishes and Dioceses that could come from a grassroots renewal of devotion, promotion of the Sacraments and the works of mercy. A top-down, one size fits all model of mercy would be, I think, a little outside of what Vatican II expressed as desirable. Subsidiarity is surely the key, so that the local Church, while always remaining in Communion with the Pope and Bishops is able to promote mercy according to the particular needs of that area, without rupturing the fragile unity and Catholicity of the Church by abandoning the necessary link between doctrine and pastoral practice and thereby making visible a breach in the hull of the Church. I do rather have deep-seated fears of the newly appointed 'missionaries of mercy' that Pope Francis wishes to send to be welcomed by Dioceses around the globe. I hope they are not Volpi-clones, sent to dispense 'mercy' as endured from a certain Vatican-sent Commissioner, chosen, as he was, to flood with his own unique brand of tenderness and compassion, the Franciscans of the Immaculate.
Time will tell. Prayers could make all the difference. I have several Protestant friends and have been discussing with them the Kasper proposal and the upcoming Synod. It is amazing how little Protestants seem to understand of what is going on within the Catholic Church. All the news (but not gossip, of course) on the Synod was news to them. Two of them expressed astonishment that the Catholic Church could even countenance the Kasper proposal, knowing what the Church believes about the Holy Eucharist and what it has consistently taught regarding marriage, the natural law and divine law. One friend said, "If the Catholic Church did that, that would be huge...that would mean it no longer believed in marriage as a permanent union." So basically, even Protestants with little contact with the Catholic Church think the Catholic Church is in auto-destruct mode, with massive ramifications for the world.
I had emphasised, as a Catholic, what it could do to the fabric of the Church. I found it intensely interesting that the Protestant replied, "Nevermind the Church...what about society!? That would mean the Church sanctioning the breakdown of the family and marital break-up." Yes, indeed. Of course, that is exactly what it would mean, as Voice of the Family have made known and shouted from the rooftops. If the Church is to become no longer a moral voice in society for the family and marriage, it is hard to see how the Church could remain a moral voice at all. Why believe anything She says? Most of my Protestant friends are evangelicals, which, ironically, is an 'ecclesial community' that Pope Francis has gone some way in 'reaching out' towards.
We are all, as Catholics, called to be missionaries of mercy, to extend mercy towards others. We are also called to proclaim the truth in season and out of season and there is no contradiction between these two. I'm not sure to which period of the Church's history Pope Francis is pointing when he talks about a time when we could or should have been more merciful and why it is he feels that the Church can go beyond its previous 'limits' of mercy. I'm confused as to what this might mean. There are no limits to God's mercy, because God's mercy is inexhaustible and infinite. There are, however, limits to which we creatures will feel bound by, say, if we do not desire to change, or do not desire Salvation. The Church has never really said anything different to that. How much 'further' can Francis go without turning mercy into liberalism and sanctioning of sin?
|"Nobody expects...": One Peter Five got there first...|
The reality is that it is we as individuals who fear change, or avoid true repentance. The Church, as ever, holds up to us an Ideal of human life, or, rather a Person - Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life. We avoid His way, we often shun His Truth and we miss out on Life in all its fullness, the eternal life that He wishes to give to our souls. Let's be frank. That's the real reason the Reformation happened in England. That's the real reason we do not follow Christ perfectly as we should. I hope the missionaries of mercy will be in the service of Jesus Christ as He revealed Himself, imparting the mercy of God to the repentant and preaching the mercy of God to all who will hear for a false mercy will only bear witness to a false Christ. I hope that they do act in such a way which will cause scandal, as has been seen with the Franciscans of the Immaculate, or damage or impair that fragile communion that exists within the Body of Christ.
Finally, I don't, but others do, have first hand remembrance of the 'wreckovation' period during the 1970s in the Church, when Sanctuaries were destroyed in order to make way for a new liturgical revolution that re-orientated the parish churches. Many have taken time, raised and spent money to restore Churches to at least a reflection of their former glory. We all know of cases where priests have, courageously, restored both the Sanctuary and the liturgy of the Church to make it more fitting for the worship of God. Pray for them, that the hard work they have put in to give God glory, is not reduced to rubble by any 'missionaries' who think, like the knights that skewered the head of St Thomas Beckett, that what they do, they do in the service of the monarch.
I suppose what many clergy and some Bishops may be disconcerted about when it comes to papal 'missionaries of mercy' is not the promotion of mercy 'at a local level', but perhaps the very anti-thesis of the Benedictine vision of the Church renewing Herself from the bottom up - the most ambitious exercise in micromanagement ever undertaken by the Catholic Church in Her entire history. It would be a humble one, though...naturally. Evangelii Gaudium showed us the what without explaining too much the why. It looks like Misericordiae Vultus (or is it Vulpus?) is showing us the how. Let's hope that how is the very epitome of Christian mercy and love.
The martyrs of the Reformation in England and Wales exemplify the truth that, at the end of the day, the Christian is the one who accepts following, in life and in death, the One Who was nailed to the Wood of the Cross, Who hung there to bleed to death to the delight and the derision of the crowd, with only a few people there to offer some kind of human consolation. These martyrs also understood that anyone who stood underneath that Cross shared in the pain and humiliation of the One they loved. Are we followers of Jesus Christ or followers of the World? Do we want to follow Him? Do we want to imitate Him? Do we want to imitate them?
Pray. Pray. Pray for the Pope, for Cardinals, Bishops, priests and the Church throughout the world.