At this juncture, words sufficient to the occasion almost fail me. This is all too overwhelming at the moment—a time when, yet again, it is very difficult find oneself a priest in the Catholic Church. We ordained are all mired in the muddy swamp of the church’s guilt and heinous sin, whether we like it or not.
I once visited the ruins of Cluny, its destruction the result of anti-church violence during the French Revolution. But the great days of Cluny had long since passed by 1789; it had devolved into a corrupt and gilded clerical enclave by then. And as I surveyed the vast footprint—as big as St. Peter’s—I was reminded of Jesus’ words: not one stone will be left upon another. That will happen one day to St. Peter’s, too, whether by human hand, or by force of nature.
Yes, the temple is tumbling down. It is imploding, and in many ways, dying—a relic of the past.
Yet one thing has always been clear to me: the object of faith lies not in human creations or religion per se, but in the lure of God made manifest in the person of Jesus, who, like the prophets before him, decried religious hypocrisy, and died for his dream of what could be. And out of death, he revealed, comes resurrection.
I believe there will be a resurrection from the debris, and that the signs of it are in the holiness of the people of God, and in the many ways the faithful are, despite the imploding temple, living the Gospel. The holiness that the young John Henry Newman once saw is still there, and people are still dying, being killed, because of it. I never want to forget that, for that is the seedbed of hope for resurrected forms of faith that one day will come and are already emerging from the ashes.
But there will be more imploding and dying and misery and shocking exposure before any of us will see the new, and most of us will not live to see it, except for what we can help make happen now. How? By trying to live in new forms of holiness (something Francis talks about at length in Gaudete et Exsultate). Like the Hebrews headed to the promised land, our conviction lies in what God has promised, and our belief in what we cannot yet see.