Action Item – Mass Script for July 26, 2020 Zoom Liturgy

Mary of Magdala Celebration—a feast for all women and men!


All Are Welcome by Marty Haugen

 Verse 1:  Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live, a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive. Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

All are welcome, all are welcome—all are welcome in this place.

Verse 2:  Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true, where all God’s children dare to seek—to dream God’s reign a new.  Here the cross shall stand as witness—and as symbol of God’s grace; here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

All are welcome, all are welcome—all are welcome in this place.


 Presider:  In the name of God, our mother and father, and of Jesus our savior and healer, and of the Holy Spirit, our wisdom and guide.

ALL:  Amen.

Presider:  May God, the Blessed Holy Three, be with us, as we work together for partnership, justice and equality for women in church and society!

ALL:  And also with you.


Presider:  O God, may we see your feminine face in our female ancestors and in all women.

ALL:  May we open our hearts, like Mary of Magdala to the Risen Christ.

Presider:  Jesus the Christ, may we see the divine reality in the person of a woman especially in women who are called to serve you.

ALL:  May we, like Mary of Magdala, proclaim the Good News with courage.  

 Presider:  May the God of love, forgive us our lack of trust in your Spirit Sophia moving with us, in us, and through us, leading us to guidance, courage, healing and empowerment.

ALL: Amen.


First Reading:  Romans 16:1-7, 16

 Litany of Women for the Church

Presider:  Dear God, creator of women in your own image, born of a woman in the midst of a world half women, carried by women to mission fields around the globe, made known by women to all the children of the earth, give to the women of our time the strength to persevere, the courage to speak out, the faith to believe in you beyond all systems and institutions so that your face on earth may be seen in all its beauty,  so that men and women become whole, so that the church may be converted to your will in everything and in all ways. We call on the holy women who went before us and who stand beside us, channels of Your Word in testaments old and new, to intercede for us so that we might be given the grace to become what they are and have been for the honor and glory of God.

Please have people respond with, “pray for us” after each petition

ALL: Come, O Jesus, send us your Spirit, renew the face of our Church

  • Saint Esther, who pleaded against power for the liberation of the people, pray for us.
  • Saint Judith, who routed the plans of men and saved the community, pray for us.
  • Saint Deborah, laywoman and judge, who led the people of God, pray for us.
  • Saint Elizabeth of Judea, who recognized the value of another woman, pray for us.
  • Saint Mary Magdalene, minister of Jesus, first evangelist of the Christ, pray for us.

ALL: Come, O Jesus, send us your Spirit, renew the face of our Church


  • Saint Scholastica, who taught her brother Benedict to honor the spirit above the system, pray for us.
  • Saint Hildegard, who suffered interdict for the doing of right, pray for us.
  • Saint Joan of Arc, who put no law above the law of God, pray for us.
  • Saint Clare of Assisi, who confronted the pope with the image of woman as equal, pray for us.
  • Saint Julian of Norwich, who proclaimed for all of us the motherhood of God, pray for us.

ALL: Come, O Jesus, send us your Spirit, renew the face of our church


  • Saint Therese of Lisieux, who knew the call to priesthood in herself, pray for us.
  • Saint Catherine of Siena, to whom the pope listened, pray for us.
  • Saint Teresa of Avila, who brought women’s gifts to the reform of the church, pray for us.
  • Saint Edith Stein, who brought fearlessness to faith, pray for us.
  • Saint Elizabeth Seton, who broke down boundaries between lay women and religious by wedding motherhood and religious life, pray for us.

ALL: Come, O Jesus, send us your Spirit, renew the face of our Church


  • Saint Dorothy Day, who led the church to a new sense of justice, pray for us.
  • Sr. Joan Chittisterwho is passionate for change and challenges us to take the leap, pray for us.
  • Sr. Simone Campbellwho brings commitment and humor to the serious business of social justice, pray for us.
  • Bishop Bridget Mary Meehanwho leads Catholic women everywhere to honor their call to Ordination, pray for us.  
  • Mary, Mother of Jesus, who turned the Spirit of God into the body and blood of Christ, pray for us. Amen.

ALL: Come, O Jesus, send us your spirit, renew the face of our Church

Joan Chittister, OSB, Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania; amendments by G. Mog

Gospel Acclamation:  ALLELUIA!    (sung)

Reader:  A reading from the Gospel according to John 20:1-2, 11-18

ALL:  Glory to you O God.

Reader:  The good news of Jesus, the Christ!

ALL:  Glory and praise to you, Jesus the Christ!



ALL:  We believe in God who is creator and nurturer of all. We believe in Jesus, the Christ, who is our love, our hope, and our light. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of Wisdom Sophia, who energizes and guides us to build caring communities and to challenge oppression, exploitation and injustices. 

 We believe that God loves us passionately and forgives us everything.  We believe that we are radiant images of God who calls us to live fully, love tenderly, and serve generously.  We believe in the communion of saints our heavenly friends, who support us on life’s journey.  We believe in the partnership and equality of women and men in our church and world.  We believe that all are one in the Heart of God.  We believe that women’s liberation is human liberation.  Here we dwell in loving relationships.  Here we live our prophetic call of Gospel equality.


Lector:  Jesus healed St. Mary of Magdala of a very serious illness and then she chose to follow him, supporting his mission with all of her resources.  Thank you O Christ, for all the ways you heal us.  Open our hearts to receive your healing grace and let us, like St. Mary of Magdala, put all we have at your service.  For this we pray.

 Response:  Loving God, hear our prayer.

 Lector:  Mary and the other women and men disciples persevered with Jesus, even when he was persecuted by his own religious leadership and government authorities.  God of Strength, help us stand in Jesus’ truth and healing love especially when we experience persecution for justice’ sake.  For this we pray.

Response:  Loving God, hear our prayer.

 Lector:  Because of her witness and fidelity, St. Mary of Magdala is known as the Apostle to the Apostles.  Help us, O God of Righteousness, to accept your apostolic call “to go and tell our brothers and sisters of Jesus’ power to heal… even wounded structures which exclude.” For this we pray.

Response:   Loving God, hear our prayer.

 Lector:  Women were faithful disciples of Jesus and significant leaders in the early Christian communities.  Help us Most Inclusive One, to reclaim our baptismal call to leadership.  For this we pray.

 Response:  Loving God, hear our prayer. 

ALL: Amen

Liturgy of the Eucharist

 Preparation of the Gifts(Reminder to the people—here we bring and offer all that we are along with the bread and wine)

 (Presider lifts the bread)

Blessed are you, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.

All: Blessed be God forever.

 (Presider prays alonepouring a few drops of water into the chalice along with the wine)

(By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity).

 (Presider lifts the chalice)

Blessed are you, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.

All: Blessed be God forever.

 Presider:  My sisters and brothers; let us pray that these our gifts may be acceptable to God, our Creator.

Prayer over the Gifts [all stand]

 All: Holy One, accept these gifts from our hands for the praise and glory of your name, for our good and the good of all your people.

Presider:  God dwells in you.

ALL:  And also in you.  

 Presider:  Lift up your hearts and pursue justice.

ALL:  We lift them up to God, Pursuer of Justice.  

 Presider: Let us give thanks to the Creator of all.

ALL: It is right to give God thanks and praise.


 Part OnePresider: O loving God, O blessed Holy Three, who brings to birth the world of our dreams for mutual respect and partnership, we do well always and everywhere to give you praise.  Give us courage to act justly and work collaboratively to change systems that keep people poor and marginalized in our society. We thank you for the women and men who are working for justice and equality in our church and world. Your gift of the Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, gives us hope that one day all will be one at the eternal banquet of heaven. With thankful hearts in the company of the angels and saints, we praise you, God of Abundance and Welcome.


Holy, holy, holy, Christ Sophia.

Gentle pow’r, merciful might, your glory fills heaven and earth.

Blessed are you who comes in God’s holy name.

Hosanna, hosanna in the highest. 

Part TwoPresider: You are holy indeed O Mothering God. You are the Heart of Love. You affirm women’s bodies as holy and women’s stories as sacred.  Pour out your Spirit upon all who work for justice and equality.  Pour out your spirit upon this bread and wine so that we may become the body and blood of Jesus, the Christ, in whom we have all become your daughters and sons.

(please all extend hands as we recite the consecration)

Presider:  On the night before he died, Jesus came to table with the women and men he loved.  Jesus took bread and praised you, God of compassion. He blessed and broke the bread, gave it to all his friends and said:

ALL:  “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. 

Presider:  After supper, Jesus poured the final cup of wine and blessed you, God the Creator.  Jesus shared the cup with his friends, and said:

ALL:  This is the cup of the covenant of my love poured out for you.  As often as you drink of it, remember me.

Presider:  Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.

ALL:    Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

Part ThreePresider: In memory of Jesus, who showed us the path to liberation and empowerment, we offer you, Loving Creator, the bread of life, this saving cup. We give thanks that we live in your Enfolding Presence and serve you with grateful hearts.  May all of us who share in this sacred banquet of Christ be brought together as one in the Holy Spirit and be filled with courage to live Gospel equality in inclusive communities working for justice and peace in our church and world.

Part FourPresider:  God, remember your holy people throughout the world, make us one in love, together with Francis, our pope, our female and male bishops, and all God’s people. Remember our sisters and brothers, who face oppression, discrimination and joblessness, who have lost homes, partners, and hope.  Remember all those who work for justice. Remember those who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again, bring them and all the departed into your everlasting arms.

Part FivePresider: Have mercy on us all; make us one with Mary, Mother of Jesus, our sister and champion of the oppressed, and the apostles through the ages, especially Mary of Magdala, Junia and Andronicus, and all the holy women and men who have done your will throughout the ages.  May their courage inspire us to confront patriarchal systems that discriminate against women.  God, may we be free at last from all bondage and injustice, and give you glory through Jesus the Christ.

ALL:  Through Christ, With Christ and In Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, may our work for justice, peace and equality give You glory and honor, Holy God forever and ever.  Amen.


Join hands all around and across the isles and continue holding hands until the concluding prayer.

 ALL:  Our Father and Mother, who art in heaven…

Presider:  Protect us, God, from all evil and dismiss all anxiety from our minds.  May a thousand angels guide our steps to live justice, partnership and equality now as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of God in our time where all can say “thank God we are free at last!”

 ALL:  For the kindom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.



Loving God, you call us to speak truth to power.

ALL:  Have mercy on us.

Loving God, you call us to live the gospel of justice and peace.

ALL:  Have mercy on us.

Loving God, you call us to be your presence in the world.

ALL:  Grant us your peace.

 Presider:   This is Jesus, who called women and men to be partners and equals, and who liberates, heals and transforms us and our world. All are invited to partake of this sacred banquet of love.

ALL:  Jesus you make us worthy to receive you and become you for others.  We are the Body of Christ.


Our God of love and compassion, just as you called Mary of Magdala, you also call us to go forth and to tell the Good News.  We answer you as people who are often unsure of our desire to be so embraced.  Guide us closer to You and to each other.  Strengthen us in our walks of life and build us into the Reign of God and seal us with the Spirit of your promise.  We ask this through our Holy Sophia.  Amen.



Presider:   Our God is with you.

ALL:  and also with you.

 (extend your hands over one another)

ALL:  May the fire of God’s love warm our hearts.  May God grant our prayers for justice and equality in our church and world.  May the love of Christ fill us and radiate through us forever.


Presider:   Go in the peace of Christ.  May Mary of Magdala be our model of courage and faithful service.  By her example may we delight in the presence of Jesus and shout with joy:  “I have seen the Lord!”

ALL:   Thanks be to God.


All Are Welcome by Marty Haugen

Verse 4:  Let us build a house where hands can reach beyond the wood and stone—to heal and strengthen, serve and teach—and live the Word they’ve known.  Here the outcast and the stranger—bear the image of God’s face; let us bring an end to fear and danger:

All are welcome, all are welcome—all are welcome in this place.

Verse 5:  Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard—and loved and treasured, taught and claimed—as words within the Word.  Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace—let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

All are welcome, all are welcome—all are welcome in this place.

Bridget Mary Meehan Association of Roman Catholic Woman Priests


Action Item–Contact Senators and Reps on Up-coming Gun Laws

Dear Friends,

I got the following email from Anne Morse who heads up MOMS DEMAND ACTION here in Winona about something pro-active we can do to let our MN senators and reps know how we feel about making our state safer from gun violence. Anne gives us a quick response through emails and also the option of phone calls to the senators on the committee looking at these bills. Do as much or as little as you can, but consider doing something. I found if I used my computer to have the phone numbers handy and called on my cell phone, it was pretty slick!

Thanks for whatever you can do!

Below is the list of members of the conference committee that will determine if our two bills – Red Flag Law and Criminal Background Checks on all Gun Sales – are kept in the public safety bill, or not.  This is our big moment!!!  Contact them in the order listed, as the Republicans are listed first, and they need to hear from us even more than the dems!  Just email all six of the dems in one email, but call the top six, and if you can only make one call, call Sen. Gazelka!   The vote might come as soon as tomorrow, so please do it now!!!!

Moms Demand Action – MN

TAKE ACTION: Minnesotans must have a public safety bill with criminal background checks and Red Flag protections. Contact these committee members as soon as possible and urge them to support background checks and the Red Flag protections.

Senator Paul Gazelka, 651.296.4875,

Senator Warren Limmer, 651-296-2159,

Senator Ron Latz, 651-297-8065,

Senator Mark Johnson, 651-296-5782,

Senator Andrew Lang, 651-296-4918,

Senator Bruce Anderson, 651-296-5981,

Rep. Melissa Hortman, 651-296-4280,

Rep. Nick Zerwas, 651-296-4237,

Rep. Dave Pinto, 651-296-4199,

Rep. Kelly Moller, 651-296-0141,

Rep. John Lesch, 651-296-4224,

Rep. Carlos Mariani, 651-296-9714,

Action Item–additional thoughts

Dear Friends,

Hopefully,  I am not over-whelming you, but I wanted to send this last message with regard to anyone who may want to write or in other ways, be in contact with the Winona Diocesan bishop, John Quinn. (Diocese of Winona, Pastoral Center, 55 West Sanborn Street, Winona, MN 55987

I went out on-line finding The Courier, the diocesan newspaper to see if the bishop has written anything concerning the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. Indeed, he has and like other bishops, he has expressed horror, shock, and has expressed his sorrow to those who have been hurt and asked for their forgiveness. He says that he has met with all the victims.  He also states in this letter to the Winona people that the diocese has in place programs that will safeguard children in the future. I am not including the letter here as part of it is in very small print and I wasn’t able to enlarge it. But if you would like to check out The Courier  on-line, simply type in those words and you can read more.

Given all that the bishop has written about, when I write him; I will suggest that in order for these first, good steps to ultimately be meaningful, long term;  he must go further. I will remind him that the trust of the clergy has been badly damaged due to the sex abuse by priests and the cover-up of the crimes by bishops and as a result, it is very hard to believe and trust anything that is being said, even when it is being said by people (priests) that you previously did trust.

I will also suggest that the priests and the bishop must earnestly sit down and talk with each other, brain-storming about the best things they can do to gain the trust back. One of those things must certainly be to open up all the hidden documents and cease with the cover-up, and the lying.

Additionally, the priests and the bishop must look at what caused this climate/culture of evil, crime and mistrust to happen in the first place.  Within that discussion they must look at clericalism and celibacy and the part that each has played in the continuation of these evils.

Involvement of qualified laity and women in positions of decision-making must happen if this Church is going to be able to speak to more than the few rather than the multitudes. In setting up new policies for reform, the laity must be involved! In addition, women as ordained members of the Church must happen as part of the needed reforms.

And finally, I again encourage each of you reading these materials to do that which is yours to do–listening to your hearts in prayer will let you know that! Letters can be very simple–just state the facts, let the person you are writing to know of your concern, your love for all that the Church founded in the memory of our brother Jesus means to you–think beyond the clergy and their failures and challenge the clergy person you are addressing to their best self and to do what is right.  

If you write the bishop, let him know that you are looking for his leadership in a very public way. He said that he has talked to all of the victims–good to remind him that he has only met with those who have come forward.  Many have walked away because of their unresolved pain, unfortunately, some have taken their lives.

It is my hope and prayer that what I have written here and your eventual letters can go far and wide and that our beloved Church can once again be something for all of the people.  You may feel that this is beyond you and that you couldn’t address the bishop in this way, but just remember, that each of us as a baptized and confirmed Christian has the duty to speak what is true and good–trust that the Spirit will give you the words–as with the pope, be respectful (your respect is always for more than the person) and to the point.

Thank you all for the part that is yours to do–

Blessings on all,

Pastor Kathy

P.S. Write letters or give calls to every priest you know, respectfully telling them of your concerns and expectations of them! The pope does not receive emails or read them!


Action Item–follow-up

Dear Friends,

As in my previous communique, I would add these points to consider when you write to any clergy member; i.e, pope, bishop, priest:
Again, be brief, to the point
Express your concern for our Church–that is why you are writing
The fact that trust needs to be re-established in the clergy
That will be done through complete honesty–all the files must be made open
Any bishop who knew about abusing priests and sent them on, must resign–good one to say to the pope, with respect
Express thanks that (pope and bishop) have expressed sorrow and met with abused and that programs are now in place to prevent any more abuse from happening (Courier–September letter from the Winona bishop–I will share later) but that the issues of clericalism and celibacy must be addressed in regard to the culture that has made the abuse possible
Encourage listening groups of priests and the bishop to really uncover what they collectively need to do to right this situation
The pope has stated in the August 20,2018 letter that basically everything is on the table in this matter. If that is so, than more lay involvement must be considered, married male priests, and women priests must be part of the discussion
So, friends, some ideas to consider as you contact others–blessings–Pastor Kathy

Action Item–September 4, 2018


Dear Friends,
As promised, I offer you here the beginning of my suggestions regarding the challenge I made to all of us in yesterday’s homily. I am placing it here and will put it on our website and Facebook so as to get as much circulation as possible. Feel free to share this with all your contacts. This comes from the Vatican website which you are all free to look at as well, simply type in Vatican website and you will get there.
When thinking about who to write, Robert and I thought, might be good to start at the top! So, a letter to the pope is an option. There is a whole section if you type in, “How to write a letter to the pope.” I will give you the highlights of that here. Evidently, Francis does respond to letters from time to time and even gives phone calls!  Key things to remember in writing to a pope:
1. Always be respectful–address him as “His Holiness” (address–
His Holiness, Pope Francis
Saint Martha House
00120 Citta del Vaticano
Vatican City (do not say Rome or Italy as Vatican City is a country onto itself)
The respect we show in writing is not just for the pope, but the office.
2. Be short and to the point–best chance of getting your letter read!
3. Read the letter below from the pope to the People of God (us) dated August 20, 2018. Briefly, he speaks about his deep sorrow for the abuse, that the clergy at all levels did not respond soon enough nor appropriately–the crimes committed will last a lifetime for those abused thus “no effort should be spared” to see that this never happens again. He names clericalism as something that must be changed.  He doesn’t not mention celibacy and it’s possible effects –our letters could ask that this issue be part of what is looked at! Again, be brief and to the point–first of all, we want the pope to read our letters!
So, my friends, this is enough for this mailing–more will follow to give you lots of options of things to do.  I would invite your prayers asking the guidance of the Spirit that you will do what is yours to do. All of us can pray, but it is my hope that we can put “pens to paper” as well!
Blessings on all of you,
Pastor Kathy
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) |
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of
Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering
endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse
of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated
persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily
among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community
of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg
pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking
ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent
such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being
covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our
pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure
the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.
1. If one member suffers…
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at
least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of
conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years.
Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past,
nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the
victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they
require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this
culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of
these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or
silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to
silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by
falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on
which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo
throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers:
“he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from
their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we
realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we
With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we
were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner,
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) | Francis
realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.
We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the
words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross
composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many
victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among
those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much
pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their
unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering
endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the
depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).
2. … all suffer together with it
The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with
this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and
necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has
happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of
God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in
their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want
solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of
forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts,
tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an
outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii
Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever
endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all
forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable
and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable:
deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for
‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et
Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the
best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my
brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).
I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the
world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection
of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero
tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes
accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are
so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater
culture of care in the present and future.
Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the
ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a
personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does.
For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) | Francis
the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of
those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To
see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience
a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I
invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer
and fasting, following the Lord’s command.[1] This can awaken our conscience
and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never
again” to every form of abuse.
It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not
include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed,
whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of
God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological
approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without
faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.[2] This is clearly seen in a
peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many
communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have
occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies
the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the
baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.[3]
Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an
excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the
evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic
“no” to all forms of clericalism.
It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one
people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is
why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to
himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships
present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history
of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have
to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a
task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a
people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and
mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from
within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything
being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be
successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change.
The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to
come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring
forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up
with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever
we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness
of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) | Francis
forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for
today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with
sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics,
and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those
most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.
An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the
wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and
committed along a journey of renewed conversion.
Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to
other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions
that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to
the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that
can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth,
supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes
us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women
of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of
power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of
communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen
Gentium, 1).
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an
attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a
community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in
justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s
cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she
reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation
caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more
upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church
(SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the
disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of
the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the
model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing
needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our
resolve courageously to combat them.
Vatican City, 20 August 2018
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) | Francis