My husband, Mike, and I have spent much of our married lives migrating to and from Pennsylvania. We raised our children in parishes in the Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Allentown dioceses. The report from the Pennsylvania grand jury was devastating to us and our children. I can’t begin to describe the anguished calls we received from our adult children as they read through the lists of names and the pages of the indictments. I shared this reflection with them and it’s applicable beyond my family.
Recently, our pastor began the homily by saying it was the hardest homily that he’s given in the 42 years of his priesthood. He said he was ashamed, disgusted, angry, frustrated … His list of emotions was exhaustive. On the heels of the Cardinal Theodore McCarrick revelation and the Pennsylvania grand jury report, he was unsure how to move forward. Mike and I had tears streaming down our faces for the whole Mass. How did this happen? How do we respond? The lines from the Our Father hammered in my head, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
But Jesus anticipated it. When He put His arms around the child and warned against harming these littlest of His. When He declared not everyone who cries, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom. When He told Peter that it’s not what goes into the body that is evil but what comes from the body.
Jesus knew this sin would happen. It was counted in the stripes He received on His back at His scourging. It was counted in the thorns driven deeply into His scalp. It was counted in the strokes of the hammer, driving the nails into His hands and feet. He anticipated the anguished victims in His plaintive, desperate cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
How do we move forward? We must move forward with the Eucharist as our bread for the journey. We move forward with eyes wide open and hearts, though raw with pain, still the instruments of love and compassion. While these seem mere platitudes, sometimes platitudes are small islands for which to cling — to catch our breath, gather our strength, and discern the path toward justice and healing, mercy and peace.
Our hope, our peace, our salvation may not come in this world. A glance at the list from the grand jury report shows many perpetrators died before earthly justice could be meted out. But the anger, frustration and despair that we feel does not go unmarked by the Father, Son and Spirit. All will be made whole and right in our Father’s house. All will be brought to the fruition of Christ’s promise. All will be healed through the Spirit.
This I believe. Though my anger and frustration and sadness are not assuaged and I cry for justice in my time, I still believe in Jesus, His Church and the eternal love, mercy and justice of the Creator.
Pressimone is the pastoral associate at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in University City.