Mercy for the Church
Mercy for the Church
‘What a joy it is to be a faithful child of the Church! O how much I love Holy Church and all those who live in it! I look upon them as living members of Christ, who is their Head. I burn with love with those You love; I suffer with those who suffer. I am consumed with sorrow with those who are cold and ungrateful.’ (511)
Above all, St. Faustina was a child of the Church. She regarded the Church as she regarded herself—the least yet much loved member of it. When she declares: ‘I feel my own weakness and wretchedness in the most profound depths of my being…I can only endure such moments by trusting in the infinite Mercy of God’ (944), she lays the merciful, truthful foundation on which she loves the Church.
She describes in her diary a Church which is achingly beautiful, and yet broken, even dangerous in its wanderings. Her heart loves the good without guile and rejoices with it; she also possesses a wise and fearsome discernment for the compromised body of Christ
She accepts the Church in all its flaws as His dwelling place. Thus her heart beats in communion with His body, a syncopated rhythm indeed. In that way, St. Faustina emulates a truth we each must realize: to love the Church with a whole heart is to suffer. The Virgin Mary is our model here, whom Schonberg describes as triumphing ‘not with the sword in her hand, but in her heart.’
St. Fasutina’s life was Church life. ‘I do not live for myself alone, but for the entire Church.’ (1503) She knew that she had a part to play in making the Church a better place, one member among billions. Why? She understood the impact we have on each other as members of the same body. ‘The sanctity or fall of each individual soul has an effect upon the whole Church.’ (1475)
Pedigree did not move her. As a young, uneducated woman, she took her responsibility for the Church seriously. Its grandeur did not intimidate her, nor did its hypocrisy sway her from doing her part. That should challenge each of us. The Body is neither ‘big brother’ nor we its hapless victim. God looks upon each one of us and our offering as possessing profound significance; we must decide how we will exercise that power.
We can love the Church powerfully and well. St. Faustina did; in that love, God gave her painful sight as to its evil. Perhaps this to be the hardest thing about loving the Church: seeing things as they are, not as they should or could be.
She received this vision from Jesus. ‘Look and see the human race in its present condition…I saw horrible things—they struck the Lord mercilessly. These were priests, religious men and women, high Dignitaries of the Church.’ (445)
To St. Faustina, church leaders who abuse their office abuse Christ; they crucify Him afresh. Here is a timely word for the 21st century in a Church rife with scandal over the sexual abuse of children and its cover-up.
St. Faustina realized that the greater the authority, the greater church leaders impact its members. Like her, we are wise to take seriously our role in ensuring that leaders practice what they preach. They deserve respect when they live out their callings respectfully; they should be corrected when they lie against the truth.
In this hour of the Church’s exposure, God is calling us all to wake up to our responsibility ‘to provoke one another to love and good deeds’ (Heb. 10:24), including our leaders. Let us each do our part to expose sin so that Mercy, not judgment, might prevail in our midst.
‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to those through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.’ (Lk. 17:1-3)
‘Jesus, give us Your heart for Your body. Open our eyes to her beauty and her brokenness, that we might love her well. Make us mature gifts to the Church; help us to discern both good and evil, and to love her wisely with all the Mercy You have shown us in our many contradictions.’
Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.