With gratitude for Fr. James Martin’s inspiration:
Sometimes I, too, get so frustrated with your church.
So much I love, so much I hold as true. But so much I struggle to understand.
I look into the bright eyes of my children, so young and trusting. I wonder what questions they will ask about our church. I wonder if they will see my staying as hypocritical. I wonder if they will choose to leave when times get tough.
I want to lead them into a life of faith, but sometimes the road seems so dark. Storm clouds are swirling above, and my light flickers so small below.
When I hear news that disheartens, help me not to despair. Let me remember that we have been struggling from the beginning with blindness and brokenness. But Your Spirit has always been blowing among us, strong and steady. Perk my ears to that small, still sound of hope.
When I’m tempted to shove those who disagree with me into neat boxes with easy labels, help me to look beyond divisions. To see Your face in each of theirs. To learn from the challenges they pose to my faith.
When friends tell me they’ve had enough – that they feel battered and bruised enough to leave – widen my heart to hold their hurt. Bend all our winding paths to you, no matter how far they roam. Remind us that You have always been bigger than our imagination and institutions.
And when I’m tempted to draw the line in the sand, to shout with tears in my eyes that if they push me one step farther I will leave too, pull me even closer to You and whisper words of peace. Remind me that You sent the life You loved most into this world – Your child – to preach peace and forgiveness and radical love. All of which is still vibrant and humming in Your church, no matter how far flung in corners it sometimes seems.
God of light, many people I love are calling this a dark time for the church. The pain on their faces, the anger in their voices, the sadness in their hearts – I share it, too. But I refuse to let go of my stubborn faith in resurrection. I refuse to leave a community that has been full of sinners from the beginning. I refuse to believe that I have it figured out on my own.
God of truth, I am deeply grateful for what this church has taught me. To defend life from its beginning. To work for justice for all. To celebrate sacramental moments. To find You in word and prayer and community and the poor.
When I think of all the gifts your church has given me, I am overwhelmed with love. But when I think of all the ways your church continues to fall short of striving towards Your kingdom, I am overwhelmed with sadness.
When I doubt, help my unbelief.
When I feel alone in my struggles, let me strengthened by all who came before me, who claimed the name of Catholic with fierce and faithful hearts.
And when I worry about how to raise my children, let the memory of their baptisms run deep in my heart. Let the echo of promises, the splash of water, the smear of oil and the spark of light remind me that a whole communion of saints promised to help me on this journey.
When I was younger and people would ask me how I could call myself Catholic in the face of scandals and failures and deep, deep sin, I would respond that I loved Your church like I loved any person in my life – as flawed and broken but beautiful and full of grace.
Now that I am a mother, I think perhaps I’m called to love Your church like my child. Not in a condescending way, but with eyes that see all its potential and promise. With a stubborn heart that loves despite the difficulties. With patience that forgives failure and never gives up on hope.
Help me, God. And help Your church.
Don’t give up on us, and don’t let us give up on each other.