Wednesday, February 20, 2013


One very insightful and powerful Address has sustained me over these past difficult years as all of us in the Church had to face the fact that Catholic clergy sexually abused children and young people.

Entitled On Carrying A Scandal Biblically it was first delivered in late 2002 by Father Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I., in Canada.  The Address was edited into an article, and is readily available on his website. (1)

There is nothing else in print which has so captivated my heart and soul, and served as the basis for countless meditations and reflections.  I recommend it to anyone who is searching for a truly counter-cultural approach at dealing with this terrible sinfulness which has overwhelmed all of us in the Church.

You will never find the Rolheiser approach even mentioned in any news media, since it is not about condemning others, but about how disciples of Jesus are called to carry and live out a terrible scandal day by day.

He calls our suffering what it really is:  painful and public humiliation, which is spiritually a grace-opportunity.  I have tried to live out--poorly and inadequately far too often--his two implications of humiliation:

1.   the acceptance of being scapegoated, pointing out the necessary connection between humiliation and redemption;

2.   this scandal is putting us, the clergy and the church, where we belong--with the excluded ones; Jesus was painted with the same brush as the two thieves crucified with him.

His example of Mary at the foot of the cross pondering all that is happening has meant so much for me, and I turn to her daily seeking her help to carry this scandal as she carried the scandal of Jesus' cross with such inner strength.  Note how Rolheiser pictures Mary for us:

"Mary at the foot of the cross.  What is Mary doing there?  Overtly nothing.  Notice that, as the foot of the cross, Mary doesn't seem to be doing anything.  She isn't trying to stop the crucifixion, nor even protesting Jesus' innocence.  She isn't saying anything and overtly doesn't seem to be doing anything.  But Scripture tells us that she 'stood' there.  For a Hebrew, that was a position of strength.  Mary was strong under the cross.  And what precisely was she doing?  She was pondering in the biblical sense."

And then, Rolheiser gives us the golden rule for our own thoughts and conducts as we are being humiliated:  "To ponder in the biblical sense means to hold, carry, and transform tension so as not to give it back in kind."

"Jesus models this for us.  He took in hatred, held it, transformed it, and gave back love; he took in bitterness, held it, transformed it, and gave back graciousness; he took in curses, held them, transformed them, and gave back blessing; he took in betrayal, held it, transformed it, and gave back forgiveness."  That's what it means to ponder biblically.

I surely need your prayers and your encouragement in my own life to handle all of my mistakes, omissions, and commissions as God asks, and as Jesus and Mary lived out:  to take in what swirls around me, to hold it, to carry it, to transform it and to give it back as grace, blessing, and gift.

Jesus and Mary, walk with us and show us how to follow you!