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Archbishop Carlson’s homily from the Mass of Reparation Sept. 7

This evening, we gather as the Church of St. Louis to acknowledge with sorrow and shame the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults. Many of you I’m sure feel anger over the seeming inability of bishops and others to address this issue.

As George Weigel said in his recent article on Aug. 30, Catholics do not go to Mass on Sunday because they admire the pope of the day, or their local bishop or their pastor.

Rather we gather in friendship with Christ to hear the word of God in the Scripture and to learn from Christ and to be fed by Him in Holy Communion — the primary reason for Catholic worship. So, tonight in this Mass of Reparation, this Mass of healing, may God’s grace move us along a journey of renewed conversion.

In the first reading, we heard the words of the Prophet Joel, “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God.”

As I sat with this reading, I was invited to repent — to grieve for the sin of abuse — to feel humiliation of the failure of the Church — my failures — to seek contrition and forgiveness — to open my heart to Christ’s love and the gentle whispering of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, to ask forgiveness for the thousands of child abuse cases around the world.

A few days ago, someone sent me information about “The Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church,” and reflecting on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery the author said, “It is the destruction of spiritual childhood which is now the primary objective of Satan within Christ’s Mystical Body the Church. And it is because of Satan’s success in this work that the infinite graces of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice are now bearing so few graces within the Church, and the Church is now ascending its own, largely self-inflicted Calvary.”

Two thousand years ago, Christ allowed His physical body to be crucified by those who opposed him. And today, His mystical body — the Church — has been crucified by those who claimed to follow Him.

I believe that tonight’s second reading gives us a path forward — a moment of grace:

St. John said, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”

The Church today around the world and here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis suffers from the wounds of many scandals. The Body of Christ experiences the weight of scandal and is in need of divine mercy in order to be healed. We turn to Christ and humble ourselves before the Paschal Mystery and we pray that by the Blood of the Lamb, Our Lord Jesus Christ, our sickness, our sin-sickness, will be cured. We ask God to take away our blindness, our deafness, our stubbornness, our vices and our pride. And through the sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharist, we pray that the Divine Physician manifest in each of us, in our local church, in the Church around the world, only His healing power.

This brings us to the Gospel of the Prodigal Son — with the two significant movements in that passage — first, the dire need of the son; and secondly that the father was deeply moved. If we understand this movement we understand the message. We discover the hope, which is there for us, if we can mine it, which is the limitless mercy of God.

And so tonight we pray as people have prayed for thousands and thousands of years, “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me” (Psalm 51).

As people of faith, we trust that God will bring good out of this, this immense suffering, and through His grace of forgiveness may He make the Church once again healthy and holy.

I have some favors to ask of you.

First: I invite my brother deacons, and priests and bishops to consider some sacrifice of prayer, of fasting and almsgiving from tonight until the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, some thirty days from now on Oct. 7.

And secondly: On Oct.1, the feast of St Therese of the Child Jesus, the one they call the Little Flower, I invite all of you to pray for our clergy, especially priests.

Thirdly: On Oct. 2, the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, I invite everyone in this archdiocese to pray for victims of abuse.

And finally: I also call upon the lay people present here, and throughout the archdiocese — to put it simply: we need your help — I, personally ask for your help. Deacons, priests, and bishops need to be first in line when it comes to doing penance and making reparation. But my brothers and sisters, we cannot do it without you. I would be grateful for any sacrifices you can make to help bring healing to this situation, to our experience here, especially in your daily prayer.

I thank all of you who came out this evening. I thank our priests and deacons, all who serve the people of the Archdiocese, in religious life, in the curia, and the various parishes and schools of our archdiocese. I thank you for what you do, my brothers and sisters, day-in and day-out. I know that there is much distrust right now in the Church and no one of us has all of the answers — I certainly do not. But I believe that we need to address these things together.

I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for joining with me tonight. I thank you for praying for me, praying for us. I thank my brother priests and deacons for the good that you do, so often, good that goes unnoticed. And I pray for the great people of this local Church and I promise to pray for you.

— Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis

From the Archive Module

Archbishop Carlsons homily from the Mass of Reparation Sept 7 2944

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