My husband Tom and I took a day trip yesterday to enjoy the leaves and the glorious Iowa countryside.
One of the things we did in the car was listen to a video by Fr. Michael Gaitley, a Marian Priest. The previous evening we had watched a video entitled “Bakhita, From Slave to Saint.” These two things, the video and the talk by Fr. Gaitley, were an amazing and inspiring one-two punch, laying out what we need to deal with the problems in our world today.
Fr. Michael Gaitley was asked to comment on the chaos in the world, and he agreed to do it if he could also talk about the craziness he sees in the Church, because, he said, “we are all searching for something solid that isn’t going to move. Of course that rock is our faith and the Church.”
The problem right now is that there are voices coming from every direction shaking our confidence not only in our country’s institutions, but also Holy Mother Church. Fr. Gaitley assures us, this Church that Christ gave us, this Church that IS Christ, is still something solid we can hang onto.
Fr. Gaitley then pivots to talking about Vatican II and I was prepared to have him talk about all the problems stemming from Vatican II, but that is not where he went.
He said that as the waters seem to be rising around us, the craziest talk is not about defunding the police or tearing down statues, but rather calls to reject or repeal Vatican II.
He said “I strongly suggest that the council (Vatican II) is the solid rock on which we can find firm footing amid the violent and churning waters of the modern world.”
Whoa. He surprised me.
I will admit, the older we get, the more orthodox my husband and I have become in our Catholic faith. Our closest friends are largely on the same page, and we are occasionally in the company of people who rail against Vatican II. Some people think the entire thing was a mistake.
This always makes me squirm. Hasn’t Christ promised to keep us safe from error? Isn’t the teaching authority of the Church one of the primary ways this occurs? Isn’t that the solid rock Jesus promised to leave us?
Fr. Gaitley agrees. He says we need to see Vatican II not as a mistake, or a tool of the devil, but as the answer needed for our time. He says it is the great gift of hope and mercy our world needs today.
He acknowledges that there was mis-implementation and confusion regarding the intent. Pope Benedict admitted before he retired, that the real council had trouble establishing itself and taking shape. Pope Benedict ended on a note of hope, though; he said the true intent of the council has been slowly and surely establishing itself.
Where is the authentic Church?
Gaitley suggests that Saint JPII, the greatest man of the 20th Century, represents the true representation of Vatican II and faithfully showed us the way. What is that way? MERCY.
Pope John XXIII said at the council “The Catholic Church, by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be a loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness.”
So, Fr. Gaitley says, during these confusing and chaotic times, the Holy Spirit is saying to all of us, God comes down to meet His people with mercy, in the midst of our messiness, as the solid rock we can hold onto, and trust.
This message of MERCY that came out of the council and was first introduced by Pope John XXIII, became the theme of Pope John Paul II’s papacy and was reinforced and embraced by Popes Benedict and Francis.
In this time of great and growing darkness, mercy is what this broken world needs. Pope Francis referred to the church as a field hospital after battle. He said “I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of the faithful, it needs nearness, proximity. You have to heal the wounds, then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds. Heal the wounds.”
And what does radical mercy look like?
We simply need to look to the lives of the saints. Watch the movie “Bakhita, from Slave to Saint” for a blueprint of radical mercy and how it can change everything.
And so my friends, I suggest that questions about the finer points of liturgy and things like what is better, Latin vs. English, or whether or not we should be taking Holy Eucharist on the tongue or in the hand, is not what matters most. And it is not what will heal this broken world. The one primary thing that matters is that Christ came into the midst of our broken world, freely offered us mercy, and saved us.
I encourage you to watch Fr. Gaitley’s full talk. It is well worth 35 minutes of your time.