With the publication of a partially redacted Grand Jury report detailing the often stomach-turning actions of over 300 priests in Pennsylvania, and the equally repugnant actions of too many bishops working to conceal rather than reveal these criminal sins, the week has felt “apocalyptic” in the truest sense of the word: there is a great revelation, a great revealing, beginning to unfold throughout the Church.
We realize that Pennsylvania is not an isolated aberration of filth in a pristine ocean of pure Catholicism, but more likely the harrowing first reveal of a twisted vein of evil within the Body of Christ, the Church, and not just in the American church.
Reading that horrific report makes it clear that we are living within a true battle between darkness and light, between what is evil and what is good. Instinctively we have urged each other toward “prayer and fasting” – essential armaments in the spiritual arena.
Padre Pio famously called the Rosary “the weapon for our times.”
With that in mind, it seems reasonable that the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, prayed and meditated upon with specific reference to this apocalypse of filth within our Church, among our clergy, can be a weapon deployed daily, inviting in the assistance of the saints and, most importantly Our Lady — Mary, the Mother of Sorrows — who will implore her Son for our sake as she prays with us.
THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
Lord Jesus, you prayed in Gethsemane knowing that before you lay an ongoing torture, exquisite pain, and finally death for the sake of the world. Today your Church is facing something torturous too – gut-wrenching, shameful and soul-killing. We know our own agonies will be long and ongoing, but that they too must be endured for the sake of the world. In your humanity you begged your Father for deliverance, even as you surrendered your will to secure our redemption. Help us, now, to pray beyond the intensity of our anguish and anger, that we might gain wisdom and begin to see our way forward, toward restoration.
Ponder Jesus’ desolation. His humanity here eclipses his own divinity; fear is brought to the fore and acknowledged before trust and surrender are able to take hold. Anguished by what we have learned, and what we fear is yet before us, reach for Christ, the knowing companion who is beside us in this new Gethsemane.
THE SCOURGING AT THE PILLAR
Then Pilate released Barabbas to the mob, [and] had Jesus scourged. (Matt 27:26)
Suffering Lord, Pontius Pilate was an adequate administrator but a moral coward; he permitted what he knew to be an injustice against you for fear of the crowds, and of what unrest might do to his ambitions. This very ancient human failing is one that often brings about deep, sinful offenses and crimes, against the innocent. Our current crisis is rooted in this. But we cannot simply “wash our hands” and push away what is before us. Help us to see clearly all that must be done to repair what has been broken.
Place yourself as a witness to the crowd. Hear the self-serving, cynical, or hate-laden, often dishonest remarks that people unleash. At the peripheries are some who knew Jesus but keep silent in the face of it all. Jesus looks at their reserve, and challenges it. He is merciful, but deserves their voices, and ours, raised in truth.
THE CROWING OF THORNS
Weaving together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt 27:29)
O Christ, ignorant brutes unwittingly acknowledged your Eternal Kingship, even as they mocked and struck you. You could have ended it, yet you permitted their callous assault. The mystery of your consent to being abused by self-gratifying thugs is one we repeatedly revisit as we wonder why heinous, unjust afflictions are permitted to occur. We cannot understand and that sometimes causes us to doubt. You know that our struggles reside in our inability to know what you know. Help us to perceive your constant reality and presence, even as we wander, and to trust in your mercy and justice.
Like a mouse in the corner, watching the guards abuse Jesus, we are all incomprehension at the violence and evil before us, and we tremble. Yet we stay rooted, willing to be witnesses to the pain, and to feel the shame, and even to pray for the salvation of the soul-shriven brutes.
THE CARRYING OF THE CROSS
A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children. ..for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-28,31)
True Christ, you warned the very women (some who had greeted you with hosannas only a week earlier) that even when worship and humility before God are practiced, injustice and evil against their children may still occur, but when our faith goes neglected and unnurtured, even greater catastrophes await. We are weeping, now, for the ones who have carried heavy crosses due to the faithless-and-dry within your Church, and beg you to be their companion of consolation as they journey.
Our instinct is to make a lot of noise at the revolting things we are learning about members of our Church whose faith was either an illusion or had become corrupted. As Jesus carries his cross, as do their victims, let us walk beside them, in spirit, and cry out both our lamentations for their sake, and our support.
…And the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:45-46)
My Jesus, as you reached your culmination, the veil of the temple was torn in two. Sometimes it is easy to believe that the devastating and as yet unresolved issues before us will break us, and tear the faith asunder. But with your death you became the Eternal Bridegroom to your own Bride, the Church, everfaithful to her, regardless of how or where she fails you. Into your hands we commit your Bride, now so stained and unlovely. We know that you have received her, and redeemed her, and poured your flesh and blood into her, in order to bring about her fullness. We plead now for her sake – offering fasts, and sacrifices of our sufferings – that she may be promptly reconciled to you, renewed in faithfulness, and eager to serve your will, for the sake of the life of the world.
Hyssop is used to cleanse sacred places, including the body, for it has anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties. It can help free constricted lungs, reduce and soothe bruises, and treat infections. It is a tonic to rejuvenate the whole body, and spiritually, for the Body of Christ
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; O wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:9)
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us, the sinners. Our Lady of Sorrows, prayer for us.
Elizabeth Scalia is a Benedictine Oblate and author of several books including the award-winning Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life (Ave Maria Press) and Little Sins Mean a Lot (OSV).