Yesterday, I opened my Magnificat and prayed Psalm 15.
O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
The Lord clearly answered:
He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart; who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
Later that same morning, I opened the Instagram app on my phone to see that a grass-roots campaign had exploded. Started by two Catholic women, the effort invited unity and solidarity, as our emotions, anger, and grief overwhelm. Black and white memes with the hashtag #sackclothandashes explained why we need to make reparation for the atrocious crimes committed against the innocent.
Over the past few months, to protect my own heart, I have only been able to read so many news stories. I have only been able to listen to so much discussion.
But having just prayed Psalm 15 and having just witnessed the courage of two sisters in Christ, I wondered. God, what are You calling me to do?
I am not one to be overly political, and my words do not promote controversy. My desire is to encourage and support, give hope and point others to Christ.
But certain men within the Church I profess to love, who were in positions of trust, acted in a way completely opposite of how God instructs us to act in Psalm 15, in the 10 Commandments, and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I allowed my emotions to surface: outrage, anger, disgust, sadness, sorrow, grief, and pain. I desired to sweep up my children and hold them a little closer, to protect their innocence and pure faith.
And I thought of the anguish this scandal must cause the Lord and His Blessed Mother. I pictured Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane weeping over these sins to the point of sweating blood. Then, I imagined the tears shed by the Guardian Angels of these profound sinners, as they witnessed their heinous crimes … and the greater tears of the angels of their victims. I thought of the satisfaction Satan must feel, as he slithers and snakes his way into places he does not belong.
Lord, how long must this go on? And what can I do during this time of devastation?
This is my church, after all. And I love it, because of Jesus. Through the Church, I receive the very “body, blood, soul, and divinity” of Jesus in Holy Eucharist, and this Bread of Life gives me life (John 6:57).
So, what can I do, as a Catholic woman, living in this world, raising children and caring for my family? What can I, who so often feels so small, possibly do that will make a difference, in the face of such devastation?
A Woman’s Hour
Perhaps this prophetic statement from Pope Paul VI, at the close of Vatican II in 1965, is coming to fulfillment:
The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.
He goes on to say: “Hold back the hand of man who, in a moment of folly, might attempt to destroy human civilization.”
Does this not ring true, right here and now?
Women—young and old, single and married, moms and grandmas—it is time to hold back the hand of man! Not in a way that claims we are better, but in a way that exercises our gifts, our strength, our mission, and our purpose.
As women, our strength resides deep in our souls. We contain a feminine genius that God created to serve, guide, and lead our world. We do this differently than men. Not better, but differently. We do this by receiving humanity: children within our wombs, the little child in the classroom, the grieving, the suffering, the vulnerable, the one who needs a friend. We see each person as a unique, unrepeatable child of God. And we desire each person to value his or her dignity as much as we do and especially as much as God does.
As women, we have an instinct that can’t always be expressed with words. We trust our gut. We value our intuition, as if it is our super power. For our instinct, our sensitivity, our feminine radar can prompt action, change, and reform. Women, we can reorder this world to what is good, true, and beautiful.
So, “women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.”
I think part of what this means is to follow Mary’s example. During the most horrific moment in history, when her own Son suffered the greatest of injustices, what did she do? Mary did not run away or abandon her post. Rather, she trusted God, and she stood strong.
And now, the Lord invites us to trust Him and stand strong, too.
Beginning tomorrow, August 22—the Feast of the Queenship of Mary—and continuing through the month of September (dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows), will you join me in a time of prayer and fasting? Will you join me for #sackclothandashes?
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:3)
Simple Ways to Pray and Fast
Here are a few tangible ways to boldly and humbly make reparation:
• Pray specifically for healing, justice, restoration, and renewal.
• Fast from something, according to your own strength and ability.
• Bring our own sacrifices to the foot of the Cross and unite them to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, so we may “fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ.” (Colossians 1:24)
• Live our faith well and share why we love the Lord, the Eucharist, Our Blessed Mother, and so many other treasures of the Church.
• Invite others to join us.
• Share publicly on social media as a sign of solidarity with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Thank God Ahead of Time
And then, let us follow Blessed Solanius Casey’s wisdom and “thank God ahead of time” for His generous and lavish response to our prayer and fasting:
I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me … I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful … when I was brought low, he saved me … you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling … I kept my faith, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted” …
What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord … O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord … Praise the Lord! (Psalm 116)
Will you join me for #sackclothandashes? Let us do this together, friends!