Friday, March 09, 2007

St. Benedict on Lent, Part 5

"If we devote ourselves to prayer with tears."
RB 49: 4b

Today I offer more of a meditation than a commentary.

The gift of tears is not one we hear about a lot today. It is mentioned in handbooks of the spiritual path as an oddity given to St. Ignatius of Loyola and others. It has been admirably studied in the excellent book Penthos by Fr. Irenee Hausherr. But how many of us hope to cry when we pray or feel that we should?

It is five years since the Boston Globe broke the devastating story about the widespread abuse of boys by priests. Since then, media types and advocacy groups have called loudly for the institution of program to root this sin out, compensation for the victims and penalties for the predators. The bishops have responded with various plans. I have to report to the Archdiocese once a month because of this.

These efforts are indispensable for us as a Church to have made. One can reasonably argue with the specifics of any program, but inaction would be a far graver matter at this point.

On the other hand, can any human action finally make up for the brokenness of the child who has suffered at the hands of one who is sent by God as a healer? Can any program adequately address the lacerations caused to the body of Christ by this sin? Is there any response other than to throw ourselves at the foot of the Cross and ask God's mercy in tears? Perhaps we do not weep in prayer today because we lack a sense of solidarity in the Church: some other expert somewhere is thinking up a priest monitoring system that will end this crime once and for all. How much more effective if we 'wept with those who weep'.

I have been with persons who have broken down in prayer. It is almost always the sign the Holy Spirit is healing the person, and that the one being healed is finally willing to trust God's mercy and power. Letting go of the sense that we are in control, that we can solve the problem of sin which we did not invent, exposes us as weak creatures. These weak creatures are most beloved of God and tears are the natural expression of one who knows our weakness, our brokenness and the power of God in Jesus Christ, all praise to Him.


Edith OSB said...

Thank you for this post.

I have fully supported all the programs, although I have the sense that the burden of all the reporting will be too long to sustain decades, yet the need for close vigilance will last longer than that - and wondering what other structure might enhance the vigilance without so much paperwork and reporting.

But what I appreciate in your post is the question, in essence, where are the tears - not only for the sins in this scandal, but tears for the many sins and scandals of our day.

The news is full of one leader or celebrity after another admitting to dreadful actions, giving a pro forma apology - without tears - and then going on as though nothing had happened and all has been mended. Perhaps we should pray for the gift of tears for ourselves and our nation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Prior Peter,

The gift of tears is perhaps the most forgotten and most nescessary gift at this time. Thank you for reminding us of it. I am right now taking a class in Grief Counseling in my seminary studies and am more and more appreciating Jesus' words: "bless are those who mourn." I sent the link to this post to our class.

On praying tears through the crisis of teh Church, I like to read Daniel 9:17-19.

Christian, OSB
St. Meinrad

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Good point. Do we have hearts of stone, or hearts of flesh?

I once heard of someone who said about victims of abortion, "We've done everything but weep for them."

Harry said...

Beautiful thoughts, ironically about ugly realities. I echo your question that searches for tears, and perhaps because of the paucity of such heart-rending ... am all the more awed when I am privileged to witness the Holy Spirit break through and release tears and unleash healing in people whose own hardness prevented such. yesterday I was witness to such an occasion, and your words resonate with my soul today. Thank you ...


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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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