This week’s election results were a demon’s dream.  Although many were expecting a “red wave”, the prediction did not come true.  Instead, the political party whose battle flag was the slaughter of unborn children at any time for any reason held its own.  Michigan is now a regional, if not national, slaughterhouse of abortion.  Additionally, the major politicians who trumpeted this satanic mantra will be in office again.

Many reasons can explain this phenomenon, including fraudulent ballots, fraudulent counting of ballots, a refusal of the Republican party to support its candidates due to pro-Trump/anti-Trump divisions in the party, among others.  A general cultural rot can also explain at least some of the voting toward evil.

But culture and politics are always downstream from religion.  It is our relationship with the Divine Creator that sets the tone; if that is messed up, everything in society degrades.  A decadent culture is secondary to a weak Church.  Therefore, it is worthwhile to see how the Church, of which the Gaylord Diocese is a part of, played a role in the continued worsening of the moral environment we now live in.

Whenever a culture disintegrates (such as what we are now experiencing in the United States), the blame can pass through many channels.  It starts with the Church.  The first level of accountability is that of the Catholic in the pew.  Have we done enough to offer reparation, repentance, sacrifice, and good works of charity and prayer to combat evil?  Are we too distracted with the clutter of the world to keep our own souls in check?  Are we willing to fight and suffer for the truth?  At the heart of this is the individual and that individual’s relationship and obedience to God.  God does not give us more than we can handle.  Perhaps the suffering we face is to sanctify us for entrance into eternal life.  Without it, we may not make it to Heaven.

The next level of reflection should go to the Church hierarchy.  For decades, bishops and priests have failed to confront a society that is increasingly hostile to even the most basic of Judeo-Christian values.  So-called Catholic politicians have not been held to account for their virulent, disgusting support of abortion.  The denial of Holy Communion to wayward politicians has almost universally been ignored despite its clear mandate in Canon Law. Furthermore, there has been an almost complete submission to secular pressure.  As an example, Catholic churches in Michigan closed before the governor shut down the state allegedly due to concerns of COVID-19.  This was despite the obvious need for the Church to minister in the early days of an unknown pandemic when much was being figured out.  Instead of offering comfort and leadership, the bishops closed churches and denied the properly disposed faithful their rights to receive the sacraments.  It was as if the bishops were in utter fear and panic about COVID-19; this was seen by many as a lack of supernatural faith.  Or maybe it was a desire by the bishops to be willing participants with power-hungry politicians in a false narrative about a virus that is no more deadly, and now less deadly, than influenza.  This comes as no surprise; over 60% of the budget of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops comes from the federal government.

What resulted was a huge decline in Mass attendance once the churches opened up.    The Church in the United States (and elsewhere) has not recovered from it.  Add to that a preoccupation with bureaucracy, such as the Synod 2021 – 2023, which has recently been extended to 2024, as well as a host of sexual abuse scandals, the sum total of these realities is that the Church, and society downstream of the Church, is in for a rough ride.

If one looks at Church attendance, increasingly it looks like that of Europe:  the pews are less than 60% filled, and those attending are on average way past childbearing age.  Children are increasingly rare.  Funerals outnumber baptisms by an astronomical amount.  Catholic weddings are almost non-existent.  All of these findings represent years of incompetence, a lack of work, and even intentional destruction from within by a cadre of clergy that have turned their backs on the true needs of souls entrusted to them.  Worse than that, they have injured these souls by focusing on such absurd priorities of “inclusion”, “spirit of Vatican II”, removal of kneelers and access to the Traditional Latin Mass as an option for those who are spiritually uplifted by this liturgy, just to name a few.  Priestly pastoral action has been pawned off to incompletely or totally untrained lay or worse yet, consecrated religious who busy themselves with meeting after meeting after meeting.

But the cliches still stand:  God is in charge.  Everything is for a reason.  Strive for total abandonment to the will of God.

Bishop Walsh has called for a day of reparation:

A voluntary (not obligatory) day of fasting and prayer in the reparation for sins against the Fifth Commandment (Thou shalt not Kill) will take place in the Diocese of Gaylord on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.

In our Catholic tradition, every Friday is a remembrance of the day our Lord suffered and died for our sins. In solidarity with our Lord’s cross, Bishop Walsh invites the faithful to offer a voluntary fast and prayers to “make up for what is lacking” in the Lord’s suffering (Col.1:24). In particular, the passing of Proposal 3, which will enshrine an artificial “right” to abortion in the Michigan State Constitution, cries out for reparation. Fasting from a favorite food or snack and offering a devotion like the rosary or divine mercy chaplet, or ideally going to daily Friday Mass, will unite us to God in His promise that we will have life and have it to the full.

This is a worthwhile and important gesture that should be supported by all.  But it is not enough. Our clergy need to reorder their priorities so that the faithful understand the importance of the Church and her sacraments.  These sacraments should be readily available, multiple times during the week.  Confession times should not be limited to Saturday afternoon, for example, and Saturday Mass times other than the evening vigil Mass for the Sabbath should be widely scheduled.  The whole concept of a day or two off per week for the priest should be abandoned – which parent takes a day off from parenting?  If this unfortunate situation does not improve, then the clergy will continue in their current status of not being relevant to the vast majority of people in their communities.

The bishops of Michigan did more than they have in years to combat Proposal 3.  Their work seemed to be completely disregarded by the public, ie, their input was irrelevant.  Perhaps this is a wakeup call for them to reflect on their priorities and be the evangelists for the truth like so many of their saintly predecessors have been.

Furthermore, in order to avert at least some of the catastrophe that is coming our way, we should start with our own souls on a daily basis.  Fr. Donald Libby of Holy Rosary Church in Cedar offered a very useful and practical start in the bulletin this week:

We could say that St John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church, made this analogy popular- that our life is like one big purgation, purgatory here on earth as we advance in the spiritual life. This is why our bare minimum of fifteen minutes of prayer each day is so important (better yet ½ hr or hour!). Not only as a ‘check-in’ time with the Lord but a time to ‘give things up,’ reorder our days, let Him purify our desires and appetites. Often, when we first start our prayer life, we do so because we need and are looking for consolations, as we should. God is the only perfect One who will never let us down, even though it might seem like He does at times when we only see life through our own eyes (parents know this when they need to deny their children things that aren’t good for them, even if the child thinks that they are). But once we really commit to a life of prayer (the best investment we can ever make), God lets us go through aridity, also. St Francis de Sales describes it as a child who is being weaned from their mother’s breast. We need to grow into the solid food of suffering love. In a way, we could leave out the word ‘suffering’ or the word ‘love’ as in deeper things; these two words become synonymous. This is why the Cross of Christ becomes the beacon for us all to reach eternal life. No suffering without love, no love without suffering, no salvation without them both. St John of the Cross expresses that we become ‘other Christs’ through the crucifixion playing itself out in our lives, as St Paul depicts in 2 Cor 4:10.

If we persevere in prayer, not just when it is sweet, but when it is dry, we will discover the great treasure of purgation here on earth and merit for it. We will learn to love as we suffer and suffer as we love. And then our lives will have real meaning. That is why being open to life, even if it means to suffer, is so rewarding within marriage. And why giving up the goods of marriage for religious life and priesthood is so rewarding as we come to the end of Vocation’s Week. Look for the Cross in this month of November, in these forty days before Christmas—it is there that you will find the path to eternal happiness and life.