The other day I opened the paper (or rather clicked on my phone) to check the headlines, and I immediately regretted it. From top to bottom, every story was bad news: multiple incidents of gun violence, ongoing pandemic epidemics, natural disasters, squabbling between politicians.
Even a recap of the Jersey Shore summer season was grim, marred by annoyance with rowdy teens, garbage, long lines, and flies – all of which oddly made me feel a little better off. not having visited the beaches in my home state in the past few months.
Among Catholics, the thread is often not much more encouraging. Worshipers are shooting and slamming each other on social media, while too many predict that – after decades of declining Mass attendance – COVID and factionalism will conspire to kill the Bride of Christ, plunging the world in an ungodly abyss from which it cannot be redeemed.
Without in any way minimizing the very real angst caused by the equally real challenges we face, I would say we might want to seek advice from a few predecessors who viewed the intimidating circumstances from an entirely different perspective – a based not on human initiative, but on the divine redemption won for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
About 75 years ago, Peggy and Christine Smith – two elderly sisters with blindness and arthritis respectively – looked around their remote Scottish village and, despite the rugged beauty of the sight, saw dark clouds that threatened.
As the rectory of the Lewis Free Church, the island on which they resided, noted in a public statement, Christianity there was in a “low state of vital religion.” In addition to the “chaotic conditions of international politics, national economy and morality,” the people lacked “the spiritual power of the ordinances of the gospel.” The pews were empty of “increasing neglect of the observance of the Sabbath,” and the oaths and vows were broken so lightly that the sacraments themselves, especially baptism, were “in too many cases an offense to God rather than a means of grace ”.
The prognosis was indeed grim for the island – part of an archipelago known as the Hebrides, located off the west coast of Scotland – as a “spirit of pleasure” had taken “such a hold. on the younger generation who all consider all that is higher (appeared) with very few exceptions, they have been completely taken out of their minds.
And it was all, notice, after not one but two world wars, cosmic-level conflicts, one would have expected to send any reasonable person running to the altar to beg the Almighty for help.
Amid the grave utterance that “these things make it clear that the Most High has a controversy with the nation,” Peggy and Christine, though physically unable to attend church, calmly put their hands together, bowed their heads. and prayed.
Their prayers were heard and answered gloriously.
As they interceded day after day, night after night, the sisters felt compelled to contact their local pastor, who in turn enlisted other parishioners in the prayer effort. Soul by soul, congregation by congregation, a revival spread across the island, one that would come to be known as the Hebridean rebirth.
After visiting Lewis, Presbyterian minister Duncan Campbell said that “while a brother prayed, the very house was shaking.” He himself “could only stand in silence as wave after wave of divine power swept through the house, and a few minutes after this heavenly visit, men and women were face to face in soul distress” repentant and asking God to reshape their hearts.
Instead of partying in the pub, said one youth, “the prayer meeting… and worshiping God in his house on the Sabbath day” has become the “delight” of the island’s young residents.
And while every revival, and indeed the reign of Christ himself, faces a continual attack from the enemy “until all are subject to Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 671), the call to seek the Lord remains constant, as Pope Francis reminds us: “I invite all Christians everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least to an opening them; I ask you all to do it infallibly every day ”(Evangelii Gaudium, 3).
The deadlines of the world are always hollowed out by the Good News of the Gospel: “Every time we take a step towards Jesus, we realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. … With a tenderness that never disappoints, but is always able to restore our joy, he allows us to raise our heads and start afresh ”(Evangelii Gaudium, 3).
We can write a new story worth telling if we are willing to follow the example of some older ladies, long past in eternity, who have humbled themselves before the Lord so that He can them. exalt (Ja 4:10) – and the rest of us too.
Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast and author of the forthcoming book “Stations of the Cross for Sexual Abuse Survivors”. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.