From time to time you read of the life of a saint, usually a priest or bishop who is noted for his reform of his diocese or parish. I've been tempted in reading those remarks to think about the joy of reform and having a nicer Catholic presence in that diocese or parish. Oh wouldn't it be nice to be in that reformed area where we all live like true Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ.
Maybe those places do happen after the reform, but I've come to the conclusion that living through that reform wouldn't be so much fun for either those being reformed, or the person(s) doing the reforming.
I think we're starting to see a little bit of it in our own country. Anti-Catholics think they have seen the weakness of our faith, and have decided to push out against us, to try to divide and conquer, and finally show the Church to be the paper tiger they have always believed it to be. Not only do we have blatently anti-Christian comments and actions to deal with, but also anti-Catholic.
Is this the beginning of a time of reform? Will these things begin to awaken Catholics to the precious nature of our faith, or will it take more, stronger efforts of those who push out against the Church? Cardinal George has made some strong statements that seem to point out that he believes this to be only the beginning of a modern persecution of Christians of all kinds, and Catholics in particular.
We Catholics, often at Mass, pray for the needs of the Church during the General Intercessions/Prayers of the Faithful. We often pray for a strong Church and strong leaders, who grow in faith and devotion. But that growth and strength does not come easy and without sacrifice on the part of all members of Christ's Body.
When reform begins to happen, at some point either through actions or words, people are told that the current way of doing things is not acceptable, that things must change, that they aren't living up to be the people Christ calls us to be. That never goes over easily. For the most part, people are comfortable with the current state of things, and change is either difficult to contemplate, or insulting if they think they are 'good people' or better yet, 'good priests.'
We are all called to daily reform and conversion to Christ. Especially during Lent we are reminded to pick up our cross and follow the Lord. Picking up that cross is heavy, and the splinters are painful. It is hard to carry. But carry the analogy forward. If we're picking up a cross, where are we taking it? What is the end goal? Do we just carry around a cross for a while -- or are we truly following the Lord to the Crucifixion? If we're carrying it, we are probably going to have to use it, and it is probably going to be used on us.
Many years ago, a holy priest told me at the beginning of my priesthood that especially as priests we are called to follow Christ. But remember in our churches we have a representation of where that path leads when we look on a Crucifix. We also know that there awaits the Resurrection on the other side. He told me that we all want resurrections, but we don't want the passion that gets us there. Reform is another form of that passion.
Reform can be painful.