Monday, March 21, 2011

God Bestows Silence for Lent Although We May Not Always Recognize It as a Blessing

What a weekend.

First came the notice that not enough people have signed up for either of our CRHP retreats to make them viable. The March retreats are being postponed until October. We were asked to pray and to ask God to guide us in the future of the retreat at the parish. The decision was given with regret and only after much deliberation, but it prompted many emails in support of action, immediate action. That is a very understandable response as we are, of course, Americans which means that immediate action fixes many ills and is the first thing we think of. Sometimes, though, there is no helpful action to take. We must practice patience, prayer, and obedience. Ouch! The triple threat, but such a needed reminder, especially during Lent.

There was a young woman in the pew next to me on Sunday who quietly wept during a good portion of Mass. She had been whispering about the retreat to her friends before it began and my surmise was that she felt, as Tom thought must be the case for those who had gone through CRHP recently, "as if there were a death in the family." I felt sorry for her, but also hoped that she could take those feelings into the desert with Christ ... it can be a blessing though it never feels like it at the time.

Then came the news that Father Corapi, a much admired priest by many people I know, announced that he has been accused of sexual impropriety, among other things. Read about it at The Anchoress where there are many other good links and good reflections, with which I agree.

I myself have no particular feelings about Father Corapi either way, except to be quite surprised at his angry comments about the Church immediately putting him on administrative leave. Has he read the news for the past few years? What does he expect? I think of how many saints were, to use modern terminology, put on administrative leave for various attitudes and "offenses" against the Church. They took it in a spirit of obedience. Quite a contrast. Perhaps this is part of God's provision of Lenten silence for the good father. I pray for his accuser and for him, that justice and mercy may be meted to both as needed by the authorities and by God, especially in this time of Lent.

Finally, Tom happened across Archbishop Dolan's interview on 60 Minutes (watch it or read the transcript here), a show we never normally watch. He was very impressed and reported a lot of it to us over dinner. Luckily, it pushed The Amazing Race back far enough that my taping of that show caught most of the interview and we were able to watch it for ourselves. If he is the new face of the Church, then we are blessed. (Read his telling of an airport encounter here to see how much.) He seems not only well spoken but to understand real people, which is key. Some of my favorite bits:
He is unwavering on what he calls the "settled" questions: abortion, birth control, ordination of women, gay marriage and celibacy.

"No question that you're conciliatory, that you like to have dialog, but underneath that you're an old-fashioned conservative. I mean, in the sense that of right-wing conservative," Safer remarked.

"I would bristle at being termed right wing. But if somebody means enthusiastically committed and grateful for the timeless heritage of the church, and feeling that my best service is when I try to preserve that and pass that on in its fullness and beauty and radiance, I'm a conservative, no doubt," Dolan said.


"Do you fear that aftereffects of these [sex] scandals are just gonna live on and on and on?" Safer asked.

"In some ways I don't want it to be over because this was such a crisis in the Catholic church, that in a way we don't wanna get over it too easily. This needs to haunt us," Dolan said.


Dolan says he wants people to celebrate the beauty, charity and timelessness of the church, and not focus so much on what the church prohibits. "Instead of being hung up on these headline issues, let's get back to where the church is at her best," he told Safer.

"But the headline issues are where people are living their lives. And an awful lot feel that the church is going down the wrong road," Safer said.*

"Yeah, I guess, you got two different world views there," Dolan replied.

"And you ain't gonna change," Safer remarked.

"I'm in one world. You're in the other," Dolan replied, laughing. "I'm glad you're visitin'."
What does that have to do with Lent and silence?

This statement: In some ways I don't want it to be over because this was such a crisis in the Catholic church, that in a way we don't wanna get over it too easily. This needs to haunt us.

We like to forget that we are fallible, that we don't know the best way, that we have to turn in humility to God. Sometimes only prayer, patience, and obedience are what we can do. Lent forces us to contemplate true perspective, true reality, and let it sink into our souls. We may not recognize it as a blessing, but it is one indeed.

  • Mark Shea says what needs to be said about Fr. Corapi and about any other accused priest and the process of investigation. He essentially says what was the initial reaction at our house. Good common sense.
  • Meant to link to this updates post as well as to The Anchoress's post above. More good common sense.
  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker has an excellent reflection on Priests and Pedestals, based upon once being mistaken for Fr. Corapi.
2nd Update: St. Macarius the Great
Hannah was trying to think of the name of the saint whose story she told us ... a priest or monk who was accused of sexual impropriety and reacted in a praiseworthy, Christ-like manner, as she told the story. I don't think it was Desert Father, St. Macarius the Great, but he is a wonderful example ... and we can thank Frank at Why I Am Catholic for telling us his story. I meant to link to this yesterday, actually, but got sidetracked ... shame on me! Go read and let us all reflect upon the times when we could have been more Christ-like and ask for God's grace to do so in the future. Which is the point of Lent, right?

*Note: this took us aback and was a real insight into how journalists think. We, actually, are evidently not in his world view because we do not live our lives by headline issues. What a dreary world that would be.


  1. Let's be clear about Fr. Corapi's anger in this situation. He has been consistently critical of the "zero tolerance" policy in place since 2002 and has counseled priests unjustly accused - whose reputations never recovered from the accusation. The idea that the accuser can remain anonymous while the accused has his name plasterd all over the blogosphere is simply unjust. Some question Fr. C's statement on his website, but as soon as he had to cancel the first (of likely many!) engagements the rumor mill would have gone wild. Much better to put the story out now than to have to TRY to correct it later.

  2. Amen, KateJohn.

    Mother of God, pray for us. Jesus our Savior, bless and protect us.

  3. By the way, dear Julie, I do not mean to come across as critical of what YOU wrote regarding Father Corapi. I completely understand your reaction!

  4. Julie, I have nothing I wish to say one way or the other regarding Fr. Corapi but I do want to thank you for linking to the 60 Min piece with Archbishop Dolan.

  5. I missed the 60 Minutes Dolan interview. Thank you for the link. I have the pleasure of having Bishop Dolan as my Bishop. He is wonderful and charming and a great Bishop. I didn't think we could have someone as perfect as Cardinal O'Connor but we do.

    As to Fr. Corapi, I don't hedge my bets. I believe in his innocence and i will defend him at every opportunity. I can't believe how many Catholics are turning on him. And yes hedging one's bets is a way of turning on him.

  6. With all respect, Manny, I don't believe that acknowledging that we don't know the truth is the equivalent of turning on Fr. Corapi.

    I believe in him -- his love for God, his devotion to evangelization, the power of the Holy Spirit as demonstrated in his conversion. These will be true no matter what transpires.

    But I know my own human heart. I know that I'm not immune to temptation and sin. I know many strong and God-loving men and women who have fallen into sin, after which they have repented, confessed, and been absolved. It's possible that Fr. Corapi is one of them - one of us. He knows the truth. God knows the truth. And he and God love one another.

    True love for Fr. Corapi, I think, is best demonstrated by gentleness and doing what he asked us to do: pray for all concerned.

  7. What Roz said is the essence of what I took Mark Shea's comments as and, actually, as what my own thoughts were (however, they may have come across).

    Look at it this way. I don't know Father Corapi from Adam. I've heard his name around. That's all. So, then look at his statement in that light. And then let's look past the saints, shall we? Although they are good examples because many of them protested Church practices but did so in obedience and humility. Please forgive me if, as an outsider to the Corapi fandom, I do not see any humility there. However, in looking past all that, let's think about the fact that we are in Lent, when we are in the desert, when the Tempter would love to tear the Church apart from inside as well as from the outside ... when Christ was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing what sacrifice would be made, that of his own life. And let's look at his example.

    I am not saying that the innocent should suffer. However, this is part of the hazard of being a priest in our day and time. Every police officer who fires his weapon automatically goes under review. Every school teacher who is accused (fairly or not) of being too familiar with a child is investigated. Similarly for every coach, Boy Scout troop leader, and so on. How would it look if they castigated the investigation process? Now turn that look on this situation.

    Whatever happened to turn the other cheek?

    That's all I'm saying. Honestly, I was stunned by his statement, whether consistent or not. Which, to me, says something about his overall attitude in general.

    Is that fair of me? Maybe. Maybe not. But it does tell us how he is representing the priesthood to the general public who come across that attitude.

    Is life fair? We all know it is not. But Christ, knowing this and more, showed us what sort of witness He was and how we are to act. That is all I'm saying.

  8. St. Gerard is the patron saint of expectant mothers because he was falsely accused. And he handled the situation with great humility.

  9. Humility is ascent to the Truth. Pride is denial of the Truth. Nothing in Fr. Corapi's response denies the Truth. St. Gerard was not subject to the blogosphere - as long as one is speaking the Truth then humility is being practiced. Great damage can be done sometimes with silence - in fact, sometimes satan LOVES silence. So far, I am seeing humility.

  10. The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known.

    This is what caught many people's eyes. To someone who doesn't know him ... humility is not the first thing that springs to mind. Jesus is our ultimate example, quietly speaking up but not, as I recall, proclaiming how well known he is. I don't wish him ill ... I'm just saying that we were shocked when we read it. :-)

  11. Humility is ascent to the Truth. The truth is that Fr. Corapi IS extremely well known... sure, I have friends and relatives who do not know who Derek Jeter or Tim Lincecum is... but that does not mean these men are not well known. It only means that these folks do not follow baseball.

  12. No one is denying that. It is about attitude and since you can't see it though others do, we'll just have to agree to disagree and move on. :-)

  13. Brother Pilgrim6/23/11, 12:03 PM

    I was looking up information about Fr. Corapi and came across your blog.

    About CHRP...we have 10 CHRP participants stand up at Mass and give a testimonial about the weekend. (Which already rubbed me the wrong way since I was anticipating a homily)

    Of the 10, 5 were late to Mass and 7 left immediately after taking the Eucharist.

    The 10 were wearing their black CHRPs shirts and most wore jeans or shorts.

    I know that this sounds like I am judging, but if that is the level of devotion we achieve after attending thank you.


  14. That is odd, I must say. But it depends largely on who on the pastoral staff is approving such behavior.

    It seems to me that judging the entire CRHP program by how your parish chooses to encourage retreat attendance may be somewhat off-balance.

    Our parish may have one person at the end of mass give a very short personal invitation to encourage people to sign up, but that's it. Previous CRHP-ers may be encouraged to wear their CRHP shirts during that "invitation weekend" so that they can provide a visible testimony in case someone you know attended and you'd like to ask them about it. That sort of thing.

    The things you describe would never have flown at our parish. But there are lots of things from other parishes that wouldn't fly here ... and vice versa.

    Perhaps the other view might be to flip it. Does CRHP not only have something to give you, but do you have a viewpoint that the people on your retreat might need to hear? Or you could just complain to the church office ... which is the easy way.