Thursday, July 7, 2011

In whom do you place your faith?

Perhaps one of the benefits of my aging is that I have had the opportunity to learn just how unrealistic it is to expect those whom I hold in high regard to be any more free of human failings than I am myself. Be the arena one of sports, politics, social justice or religion, may times I felt let down by men and women who fell short of my idealized version of them.
However they may have tried to hide their shortcomings from public awareness, my heroes were certainly not unaware of their frailty. St. Paul is one of those heroes who was both aware of his failings and acknowledged them. In 2COR 12:7 he reminds us "... that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated," and he refers to himself as the "...least of the apostles."
As years go by, I no longer expect those whom I hold in some esteem to be paragons of virtues in all areas of their lives. Nonetheless, when one I admire is shown to be less than I hoped, whether it be a politician, actor, athlete or religious figure, there is some sense of betrayal. This is playing out for many in the case of Fr. John Corapi.
He brought many people into or back to the faith by his personal witness and powerful preaching. He never avoided and indeed boldly confessed the many failings of his early life and used his own example to point the way to Christ. The compelling nature of his story and the energy he brought to evangelization and catechesis made him somewhat of a "rock star" among Catholic preachers.
It appears now however that he is something of a fallen star.
A press release from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, his (former) religious order, indicates that there are grounds to believe that Fr. Corapi may not have been as exemplary in his personal life as his many admirers might have hoped. There are many feeling a sense of pain and betrayal because of these revelations. All we can do is to pray for Fr. Corapi and for all parties involved including the many who are now experiencing confusion and hurt.
The faith of some may be shaken, however it was never about John Corapi. I am sure that he would be the first to remind us all that it is Jesus Christ who is the foundation of our faith. Whatever the failings of His ministers, Christ is the center of our faith and we have the opportunity to unite ourselves to Him in the Eucharist.
J.R.R. Tolkien made this point in a letter to his son when he wrote, "I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament." He further emphasized that it is Christ and not His ministers on whom we rely when he went on to advise:
Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.
I pray for all those affected by the current situation and hope that is comes to a good conclusion. However it turns out, we still have Jesus Christ, "...the same yesterday, today and forever."