The seminary community joined the faithful of the Archdiocese at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul this past Friday, September 14, 2018, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross for a holy hour of reparation. Nearly all if not all the pews of the Cathedral Basilica were filled. Most of the seminarians sat together on either side of the Cathedral. While kneeling and gazing upon the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and seeing the massive crowd I could not help but think of one verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “At the sight of the crowds, His heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36).
There was Our Lord, truly present on the altar, looking out at His people, His suffering and grieving children. And we, feeling troubled and lost, and even abandoned, turned our eyes to Him, seeking consolation and comfort. How could Our Lord not but be moved with pity for us, sheep seemingly without a shepherd. The shepherds that should have been protecting their sheep seemed to have fallen asleep, and while asleep the sheep were made vulnerable, put in harm’s way, and left to fend for themselves. Yet, when I looked out at the crowd gathered in the Cathedral, I saw hope.
The sheep as hurt and betrayed as they may have felt still trusted in the shepherds and returned to the fold. The Christian people are a hopeful people. The People continue to believe and place their trust in the leaders of our Church, and we cannot let them down. More importantly the people continue to believe and choose to return because they know that the main Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, there truly present on the altar, will never abandon them, and so they came to be with Him. We pray that our shepherds will look to the Good Shepherd, whose “heart was moved with pity” for His sheep, for guidance and encouragement. The sheep deserve it. Despite the number of shepherds who have fallen asleep, there are many who are vigilant as ever, and we must pray for them. We must pray that all bishops and priests will be good shepherds who, like Christ, are the gates to the sheepfold, keeping the wolves and all who seek to destroy out, as well as shepherds who will lay down their lives for their sheep, and who will put at the top of their priorities the protection and safety of the faithful entrusted to them. We must pray that all priests and bishops will follow and remember the mission to which they are called: “…to be with Him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk. 3:14-15). Please be close to Our Lord, Fathers. Evil is here, and you must use the Word of God and the authority given to you by Our Lord to cast evil out and to drive the demons out to where they belong.
During this difficult time in the life of the Church we must keep our eyes fixed intently on Our Lord. We must keep in mind that we are a hopeful people. We are hopeful because we know that the battle has already been won. Jesus Christ suffered, died, descended to hell, broke through the gates of hell, conquered death, and returned to the Father in glory in Heaven. Jesus Christ is the Light that conquers the darkness, and this Light will remain with us during these challenging times. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Ps. 38:19-20). The Lord sees our pain and is close to us. Jesus Christ at this difficult time continues to be the Good Shepherd, and I believe He continues to assume the role of Gatekeeper in Heaven. Death and evil do not have the final word. During these turbulent times in our Church let us hold fast to our faith in Christ, knowing that He, the Good Shepherd will never abandon us for He assures us: “When he calls I shall answer: ‘I am with you.’ I will save him in distress in give him glory” (Ps. 91:15).
While acknowledging the tremendous pain and grief as well as betrayal by some of our shepherds, gazing at Our Lord on the altar that Friday night, and turning to see the devotion of the people and the faith of the believers, I cannot but be strengthened and encouraged and say that, “Yes, I am still proud to be Catholic. I am still and even more so now encouraged to, God willing, one day be ordained a priest of Jesus Christ.” Let us pray for all victims, all seminarians, all priests, all bishops, and the entire People of God, comfort and encourage one another, and most importantly, remain close to Our Lord for His heart is continually moved with pity for us and He will never abandon us.