Voices Online Edition
Volume XVII, No. 2
Throughout most of the Church's history, the Pentecost season extended until Advent. Thus throughout the longest season of the Church year Christians were continually reminded that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, came to bring "solace in the midst of woe", in the words of the old hymn, Come, Holy Spirit:
Where you are not, man has naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend our stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
We write this a few weeks before our bishops' June meeting, where they will attempt to find a means of overcoming the profound damage to the Church caused by a few men -- by priests and bishops who sexually abused children and adolescents, by those who otherwise violated their vows of celibacy, and by superiors who compounded these grievous crimes by concealing them and knowingly reassigning the guilty men.
In the entire history of the Catholic Church in America, there has been nothing even approaching the magnitude of devastation this scandal has caused and will continue to cause. Persecution from outside, as history shows, often has the effect of strengthening the Church and the faith of believers. But corrosion from within is far worse -- like an undetected cancer that invades the entire body.
We cannot know, yet, how the Church will recover. If ever we needed the Comforter -- and reminders of His power -- it is now.
Yet, as with cancer, correct diagnosis must precede a cure. And even in the midst of this crisis, when every day seems to expose fresh wounds, there are signs of hope. Many Catholics are responding with surprising courage and resolve. This disaster may be leading some "lukewarm" Catholics to a reassesment of their own faith, and to a renewed commitment to fidelity to her teachings.
We have seen concrete evidence of this in the WFF office recently. There has been a dramatic increase in Affirmation signers in the past few weeks. Requests for information, prayer cards, etc., are pouring in. We have given away more than 25,000 prayer cards, and hundreds of the "Welcome packets" described on the inside back-cover of this issue -- and the entire overprint of the last issue of Voices was exhausted in less than a month.
Our mailing list for Voices increased by 10% since the last issue; and during the first four months of 2002, the monthly average for "hits" on the WFF web site increased by an astonishing 244% over the 2001 average. Our new "interactive calendar" with linked pages for feasts and seasons of the Church year is apparently filling a real need for Catholic families.
We also find much hope in our Catholic young people -- as one example, the essay by Elizabeth Cheffers herein. We are pleased to inaugurate the Voices Young Writers Award with her fine effort.
The present crisis in the Church should not prevent us from acting on other persistent problems. Catechetics remains a primary one, as the articles by Margaret Whitehead and Sheila Liaugminas detail. Family policy at the United Nations and elsewhere continues to conflict with Catholic teaching, as Rita Joseph describes.
These and other articles in this issue show that the role of the Church and of Catholic believers in the world is crucial. These challenges must be faced with vigor, fortitude and courage. Now is not the time for weak and debilitated laborers in the Lord's Vineyard. We rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the work ahead.
On June 22 the Church observes the feast of Saint John Fisher, the English bishop whose witness of fidelity unto death during a time of cataclysmic assaults on the Catholic faith remains an inspiration to all -- but especially to faithful bishops and priests. He was canonized in 1935, along with Saint Thomas More, another Reformation martyr. Lest we take too lightly the present crisis, it is worthwhile remembering that the results of that division within the Church of Christ persist to this day.
Oremus. Veni, sancte Spiritus, Consolator óptime.
On the faithful who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them Thy salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Sincerely in Christ,
Helen Hull Hitchcock
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