3 November, Thursday — On Coming Home

Nov 3 – Memorial for St. Martin de Porres, religious

St. Martin (1579-1639) was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, Juan, and a young freed black slave, Anna Velasquez. He grew up in poverty and spent part of his youth with a surgeon-barber from whom he learned some medicine and care of the sick.

At the age of 11, he became a servant in the Holy Rosary Dominican priory in Lima, Peru. He was promoted to almoner and begged more than $2,000 a week from the rich to support the poor and sick in Lima. He was placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary, and was known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order” and Martin took vows as a Dominican brother in 1603.

He established an orphanage and children’s hospital for the poor children of the slums. He set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. He lived in self-imposed austerity, never eating meat, fasting continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation with a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He was a friend of St. John de Massias.

He was venerated from the day of his death. Many miraculous cures, including raising the dead, have been attributed to Brother Martin, the first black saint from the Americas.

Phi 3:3-8
Lk 15:1-10

“Rejoice with me…I have found my sheep that was lost.”

Those of you reading this blog regularly will know that I stopped going to church briefly when the news of our Catholic Church’s scandals came to light a few years back. Since then, I found my way back to mass, albeit a little warily. The distrust that I feel for the ruling priestly elite hasn’t gone away. You can say that I have taken to heart Paul’s advice to “not put confidence in the flesh”. I am a committed Catholic. I identify myself as Catholic. I’m not afraid to speak of my faith, even back then, with all the scandal surrounding our Church. Outwardly, I told everyone that this was surmountable, that we would emerge a stronger body of believers. But privately, I felt lost, like the proverbial sheep. The trust between myself and the political institution that is the Catholic Church was broken. So, going to Mass became challenging. Like the wife who has been cheated on, or the child whose innocence is lost, I was there physically — but things were just not the same.

I have been re-reading the Bible a lot, grasping for a sign, for something. It’s ironic how familiar verses speak new meaning to us when our circumstances are different. I yearn for the homecoming that is described in today’s gospel, that great rejoicing when the shepherd finds his lost sheep. But to what exactly am I coming home to? God’s Church has been defiled. If this is our threshing moment, when wheat is separated from chaff, what will God’s Church look like when it is all over? And with all this anger, frustration and disillusionment in my heart, will there still be a place for me with Him?

As if to throw me a lifeline, God led me to a small community of women that formed within my own parish. We seem to all have this in common, this feeling of being scattered like sheep. We spend one morning a week, praying, poring over the Bible, processing our feelings of confusion about this whole thing – who knew what when, and what did they do about it. This must be what a support group feels like. Wow, am I thankful for it!! I’ve also taken to reading up on the history of the Catholic Church. We seem to go through cycles of renewal and purification; perhaps we are in the throes of one now. I wonder how it ends.

Christ’s words from the Book of Matthew have never been more significant to me than right now – “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves…a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then you will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7: 15-20). If this is to be a threshing moment for all believers, I hope that at the end of it, I will not be found wanting. I pray that God will help me to process these feelings I hold in my heart, so that going to Mass becomes less of a struggle. Because I want that homecoming, to be that lost sheep that is found. I want to reclaim that trust that was lost. Don’t we all?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are working towards healing the Church and restoring its credibility with believers.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people that God puts in our lives to get us through difficult moments.

One thought on “3 November, Thursday — On Coming Home

Add yours

  1. Sharon. This is a heavy reflection. I will be praying for you to feel His LIGHT. I would love to talk with you about this. My husband felt similar emotions and anger. I saw it differently. Our anger is at men – nit God and not His church. We have been cheated and lied to, and endangered by the men of the church, not Christ — similar to Jesus when he said to Peter, “get behind me, Satan!”
    We will never make any sense of the atrocities committed under the roof of our Church. Never.

    “Do not look to the past, you will not find Me, my name is not I WAS. Do not look to the future, you will not find me, my name is not I WILL BE. Look to the oresent, you will fin me, I AM”
    Love in

    Your sister in Christ,
    Gina

    Like

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