My friend Zoe and I were watching our kids play at a local park. Once the kids were out of earshot, Zoe confessed that she’s been all out of sorts, all out of faith, since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on August 14, 2018. She poured out her heart in all its brokenness, all the pain that has inveigled its way into her relationship with God and, by extension, her relationships with the people around her, especially in her parish. She spoke of bitterness and betrayal. How could her parish demand that she jump through all these new child protection hoops when it was the Church who had harbored the people whose sins made those hoops necessary?
“One bad apple, I could understand, but how could they have let it get this widespread?” she demanded of the air in front of us — perhaps of God Himself. “I’ve had faith in this system my whole life. Now it’s gone.”
I tried to listen as best I could. I don’t think I did a very good job. As a survivor of family abuse, I am not shocked, not in the least, when the people who are supposed to love us use us instead. I’m especially un-shocked when those people use the most vulnerable among us, because to use rather than to love is in and of itself a cowardly act. Cowards look for those weaker than themselves. Children are the weakest of us all.
Zoe is a cradle Catholic who’s never been tempted to leave the faith until now. I tried to listen as best I could, to empathize with her hurt, a hurt borne of the new realization of how deeply depraved humanity is without the love of Christ — of how desperate Satan is to fill our Church, the holiest “place” on earth, with filth, so much filth that those who strive for cleanness in their own lives want to do exactly what Satan wants them to do, which is to leave the Body of Christ.
Sadly, I don’t think I did a good job. I was shocked at her shock. My own history has jaded me. I can’t think of any sin that would surprise me anymore. By the time our conversation was over, I felt like my listening had done her no good, and that a crack in my own compassion had been revealed: I have a hard time with people who are turning away from the Church because of the scandals. Their rage frightens me and confuses me. Aren’t we supposed to have faith in God, not in a system run by selfish, fallen humans?
The PA grand jury report was released on August 14, 2018, on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption. Almost by accident, our family was in Lourdes that day, and I had offered up my bath for the salvation of child abusers. Hours later, the news of the report was blowing up all my social media feeds.
I cannot help but see that the timing of the report’s release was no accident—not in God’s eyes, and not in Mary’s. In fact, I wonder if Mary asked God to release that report on that day as a gift to her. As we can see in every Rosary we pray with our families, Mary is no stranger to betrayal and suffering. Our Lady of Lourdes never wants dirt to stay in the way, not when she has healing to distribute.
Jesus tells us in Luke 12:2 that, “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” All sins, even the worst sins, will eventually come to light. Mary wills it, because God wills it. Any dirt that obscures the source of healing and goodness must be cleared away. We must allow ourselves — and our friends — to feel that betrayal, because they are the earthly vessels of that same betrayal Mary feels, both for and by her children. Even abusers are her children. She wants them purified, too.
I must admit my belief that my friend Zoe is closer than I am to the pain Our Lady is feeling, has been feeling all this time, every time any one of us sins against her Son’s precious and adorable heart. The Rosary shows us that Mary takes betrayal, brings it to God, and shares that betrayal’s redemption with us. It takes time, time only God knows. Mary trusts Him. Mary trusts Him to judge the unrepentant and to heal those who cry out to God to forgive their sins. Judgment and agony are not pretty. Our Lady is not afraid of dirt.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
Read more about Erin’s 2018 Lourdes bath experience.
Copyright 2019 Erin McCole Cupp