It’s been a month since the release of Fiducia Supplicans, and faithful Catholics can be forgiven if that scandalous document put a damper on their Christmas spirit. After all, it’s yet another scandal coming out of a Vatican full of them lately, and it’s easy for Catholics to become demoralized in the face of this reality.
The possibility of demoralization and even despair among faithful Catholics today is the reality behind the most common question I receive from readers: How do we live joyfully as Catholics when from all human appearances the Church seems to be self-destructing? How can we remain faithful to God’s promises when we see millions of souls—including the souls of loved ones—being lost every year?
I won’t pretend to have the definitive answer to these tough questions, although I do try to address them in a recent podcast. I can say what I personally do, what I would call “detached monitoring and response.” What I mean by that is that I monitor what is going on at the highest levels of the Church, for I know those activities have a real impact on people I care about—my family, my friends, my fellow parishioners. Of course, this is the purpose of Crisis: to inform readers of the crisis in the Church and help them navigate through it.
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I also, when necessary, respond to the various scandals happening in the Church. We are sometimes criticized here at Crisis for supposedly rejoicing in scandal so that we can have more click-baity articles to publish. Nothing could be further from the truth: I’d love to shut Crisis down tomorrow, because that would mean there is no great crisis in the Church to which to respond. However, there is a crisis, and so we will continue to respond to it. Each person of course has a different sphere of influence and so each person’s response will be different. But we can’t put our heads in the sand and act like everything is awesome. Souls are too valuable.
So I monitor and I respond to today’s crisis. But it’s a detached monitoring and response. By that I mean that I don’t obsess about the latest news from Rome (or from Washington); I don’t spend all day doomscrolling my social media feeds to see the latest scandal and the reactions to that scandal, and the reactions to those reactions. That’s not healthy, spiritually, mentally, or even physically.
But just resolving to not do something usually doesn’t work long-term: the pull of social media and its algorithms is strong. So we must replace that activity with others. And here is where I think we open our eyes to see the good that God is doing in the world. These things are usually not “news-worthy” in the sense that they won’t make the front page of the New York Times or even Crisis Magazine, but in God’s eyes they are likely vitally important.
For example, just since the release of Fiducia Supplicans, at my parish alone the following has happened:
A recently-married young couple, who met through our parish, announced that they are expecting their first child.
Another young couple, who also met through our parish, was married in a beautiful ceremony.
Yet another young couple (this time, my own son and his fiancée) celebrated the mostly forgotten but still beautiful Rite of Betrothal.
This is God working in my own little corner of the world, and I’m sure He’s working in yours as well. We just need to raise our eyes from our devices to see it. And over time, these small activities will make a large impact on the Church and the world. They are the mustard seed which grows into the beautiful and fruitful tree.
Beautiful acts of faith are happening all over the world as well. I’m honored to be part of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Fatima and one of our current projects is building well-constructed chapels in parts of rural Philippines to replace chapels that are little more than a few bamboo poles and a steel roof.
These faithful Catholics, who often only are able to hear Mass once a month or less, will now have a beautiful—and more permanent—place of worship, all because of the charity of other faithful Catholics.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m advocating a pollyannaish view of the Church. I know we’re in a crisis and to ignore that reality is to reject Our Lord’s call to live in this time of trial. Yet in the midst of these trials God is still pouring out His graces, we just need to look up to see it happening all around us.
(And yes, I’m currently re-reading The Lord of the Rings [which is also a great way to keep a good perspective on today’s crisis], thus the title of this article. Be like Sam!)