One recent Sunday morning — after spending way too long reading and talking and thinking about Archbishop Viganò’s memo calling for the pope to resign — I was craving silence above all.
So, of course, I managed to get myself into an Uber, one vibrating from radio volume. The driver and I eventually negotiated a compromised volume, but it felt like a physical manifestation of what I had been feeling: strangled by headlines, drowning in noise, overwhelmed by evil. Such has been a bit of the Catholic experience of late. Instead of taking a deep breath during the last days of summer, we were grasping for air.
At the same time, though, I’ve been hearing and seeing something magnificent when I get myself off Twitter and away from the endless commentary, including about things we don’t even have basic facts about. While I’m as angry and sad as most of us are about the scandals that are coming to light right now — sin is an ugly reality — I’m also hearing and seeing God. Everywhere.
I’ve never listened to the responses at Mass quite like I do now. They are voices of true believers.
A few things: God was present. So clearly. Not just on the altar — and in the exquisitely providential words of Scripture — but in his faithful people. They really are faithful. They — we — really do belong to him and I hope they truly know it. It’s sometimes hard to remember because we are blinded by our sins.
The faithful at this parish also seemed to love their pastor. There was a mutual respect. He talked about the scandals in his homily. He thanked them for coming and focused on Jesus Christ, which is what we must do. Isn’t that what we haven’t done enough of? To truly know him we must spend time with him. Not pontificating about the pope or the president, not letting ourselves be blinded by anger, but seeking to see with God’s eyes.
Outside of church, on city streets, homeless men have seemed angels from heaven. One man, Bill, asked me for an ice coffee. Person after person seemed not to notice him. How can you not notice a man with such a specific craving? It wasn’t for the cream and sugar or caffeine though; it was for the human encounter. To be seen. And to let me know he saw me and cared to be a part of my day. He radiated Christ.
Back inside, in a church in midtown Manhattan, another man, Michael, on another dark day — the day after reading as much as I could of the Pennsylvania grand jury report — kept saying “Alleluia!” I was kneeling in a pew struggling to pray, and he seemed like a siren from heaven. He asked for a dollar, which I gave him. I offered him a water, too. It didn’t seem like much, but you would have thought I gave him gold, given how grateful he seemed. And through this encounter, he gave me so much more.
Pray for Bill and Michael. Everything the Bible says about the poor is a gift for us so that we might become who we were made to be. Fully human, loving one another and trusting God completely, the God who provides.
I’m filing from the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral right now. “How Can I Keep from Singing?” is the hymn being sung. A few days ago, I might have been annoyed. Now, thanks be to God, I’m nodding and about to do a holy hour for those who have been harmed by evil men in the Church and beg forgiveness for my own sins. We really are unworthy. And he really provides.
Keep breathing and praying and singing and seeing with his love.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).