Is God enough?
Pursuing a vocation while the Catholic Church is troubled by the abuse scandal
By David Slonkosky, C.S.C.
Just a few months ago I knelt before my provincial superior, in the presence of God and his Church, to make my first profession of vows as a religious and seminarian of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Responding to an invitation from God found deep within me, I made public my love for God and my desire to live a life of single-hearted intimacy with him through living vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
On that day I knew very well that the world was not perfect. Those who serve God’s Church were not perfect; my religious community was not perfect; and most obviously I myself am not perfect. Still, with confidence, trust and zeal, I offered my life to God and to the service of the Church.
Now, a few months later, after hearing the recent reports on the clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups, I am aware more than ever of the imperfections that we must face as a community of faith. The hurt and disappointment that I have felt from this devastating news has caused me to reflect back to that moment of my first profession of vows.
What was it, in that moment, that made me feel such confidence, trust and zeal? Can I still have such affirmation amid the current Church crisis? Today I say with a mourning heart, but with hopeful confidence, trust and zeal that “Yes, I can and do feel just as I did when I professed my vows because I believe with all my heart that God is enough! “
Among the many questions that need to be answered, I believe the most important one is this: Is God enough? This was the question that Adam and Eve had placed before them when offered the one thing that God had restricted from them.
Sadly our first parents were convinced that the Garden of Eden, all the beauties of creation and, most importantly, God himself was not enough. They went beyond God to satisfy the false desires in their hearts, desires that led to death.
We as humans and as Christians are faced with this same question on a daily basis. In short, we are faced with the temptation of sin! These temptations come from within and from without, and there is no exemption for the Church.
The men who have committed these crimes of sexual abuse or the covering up of such abuse somehow believed that they needed to satisfy their desire for power, pleasure or wealth rather than their desire for God. Somewhere and at some point they stopped believing that God was enough.
I am no psychologist or sociologist, but I am a Christian, and any Christian knows well that at the heart of sin is the belief that God won’t be able to make you fully happy. These men bought into this lie. The truth is, of course, that God is the only one who will make us truly happy, and it is this fundamental truth that is found in the heart of the Church.
Holding to this truth though hasn’t always been easy for me. Now as a seminarian and religious in the current climate of the Church, I am more aware than ever of how much scandal can challenge one’s faith. Unfortunately, this is not my first encounter with scandal.
Growing up I was a part of a Catholic movement, whose Mexican founder was discovered to be living a double life, including crimes of sexual abuse and money laundering. As a young Catholic this crushed me, and it set me up for many difficult years, trying to understand how such corruption could infiltrate those who lead the Church that I loved and trusted. I had many questions, many of which I hear people asking again today.
However, by seeking the answers to those questions I discovered a new understanding of my faith that eventually led me to my current vocation and desire to join the priesthood and religious life. This discovery was that our life as Catholics needs to be rooted in our surrender to the will of God in the following of Jesus Christ.
The Church is not just a group of likeminded people who do good works. If that’s all we were, then the scandals would be enough for me to leave and look for a more “perfect” group. On the contrary, the Church is the very body of Christ, and as a member of this body I am claimed by God in a relationship of ceaseless love.
This relationship is the very essence of my being, and to abandon that love would be to deny who I am and to whom I belong. I belong to Christ, and Christ dwells in the Church through the sacraments and through the men and women who make up its body. The reality is, however, that we often find ourselves placing our trust in people rather than in God; in doing this we are betraying our baptismal call as Christians.
Is God enough? This question is so important because it gauges how attached or dependent we are on the worldly allurements of power, pleasure and wealth. These temptations will always be present inside and outside the Church. The consequences of pursuing these temptations have been felt in the worst ways by the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
This is no doubt a stain on the history of the Church that needs cleansing, and our first priority must be for the healing of those who were victimized by Church members in any way. Far from dissuading me from the seminary, the need for healing has only enlivened my desire to serve the needs of God’s people as a vowed member of the Church, because God is enough and God is alive in his Church.
I am confident, trusting and zealous in the Catholic Church and in my vocation, because my confidence is not in some secular authority; my trust is not in just any person; and my zeal is not for some earthly campaign. No, I am confident in the salvific act of Christ on the cross, continued in the sacramental life of the Church.
I trust fully in Jesus Christ alone whose Holy Spirit renews and purifies the church, and I am full of zeal for the greatest mission of all, which in the words of Blessed Basil Moreau is to “make God known, loved and served, and thus save souls!” God willing, I will fulfill this mission as a Holy Cross priest.
But this is the mission of all believers, and we will succeed in it only if we believe with all our hearts that God is enough!
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