Dear God, sometimes I get so frustrated with your church.

I know that I’m not alone.  So many people who love your church feel frustrated with the Body of Christ on earth.  Priests and deacons, and brothers and sisters, can feel frustrated, too.  And I’ll bet that even bishops and popes feel frustrated.  We grow worried and concerned and bothered and angry and sometimes scandalized because your divine institution, our home, is filled with human beings who are sinful.  Just like me.

But I get frustrated most of all when I feel that there are things that need to be changed and I don’t have the power to change them.

So I need your help, God.

Help me to remember that Jesus promised that he would be with us until the end of time, and that your church is always guided by the Holy Spirit, even if it’s hard for me to see.  Sometimes change happens suddenly, and the Spirit astonishes us, but often in the church it happens slowly.  In your time, not mine.  Help me know that the seeds that I plant with love in the ground of your church will one day bloom.  So give me patience.

Help me to understand that there was never a time when there were not arguments or disputes within your church.  Arguments go all the way back to Peter and Paul debating one another.  And there was never a time when there wasn’t sin among the members of your church.  That kind of sin goes back to Peter denying Jesus during his Passion. Why would today’s church be any different than it was for people who knew Jesus on earth?  Give me wisdom.

Help me to trust in the Resurrection.  The Risen Christ reminds us that there is always the hope of something new.  Death is never the last word for us.  Neither is despair.  And help me remember that when the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples, he bore the wounds of his Crucifixion.  Like Christ, the church is always wounded, but always a carrier of grace. Give me hope.

Help me to believe that your Spirit can do anything: raise up saints when we need them most, soften hearts when they seem hardened, open minds when they seem closed, inspire confidence when all seems lost, help us do what had seemed impossible until it was done.  This is the same Spirit that converted Paul, inspired Augustine, called Francis of Assisi, emboldened Catherine of Siena, consoled Ignatius of Loyola, comforted Thérèse of Lisieux, enlivened John XXIII, accompanied Teresa of Calcutta, strengthened Dorothy Day and encouraged John Paul II.  It is the same Spirit that it with us today, and your Spirit has lost none of its power.  Give me faith.

Help me to remember all your saints.  Most of them had it a lot worse than I do.  They were frustrated with your church at times, struggled with it, and were occasionally persecuted by it.  Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by church authorities.  Ignatius of Loyola was thrown into jail by the Inquisition.  Mary MacKillop was excommunicated.  If they can trust in your church in the midst of those difficulties, so can I.  Give me courage.

Help me to be peaceful when people tell me that I don’t belong in the church, that I’m a heretic for trying to make things better, or that I’m not a good Catholic.  I know that I was baptized.  You called me by name to be in your church, God.  As long as I draw breath, help me remember how the holy waters of baptism welcomed me into your holy family of sinners and saints.  Let the voice that called me into your church be what I hear when other voices tell me that I’m not welcome in the church.  Give me peace.

Most of all, help me to place all of my hope in your Son.  My faith is in Jesus Christ.  Give me only his love and his grace.  That’s enough for me.

Help me God, and help your church.

Amen.

James Martin, S.J.

Comments

Janelle Lazzo | 6/27/2012 - 11:14pm
I intend to share this beautiful prayer with my friends in Heart of America Call to Action.  We are very frustrated, and it is hard sometimes to believe that the bishops who supposedly guide us actually listen to the same Gospel we do.  We will pray for patience and keep in mind that this is not the worst shape the Church has ever been in -bad though it is.
Mary Miller | 7/10/2012 - 9:05pm
Thanks, Fr. Martin - a beautiful and timely prayer!  We had a parish liturgy committee meeting today and someone spoke of an article written by a priest who was chastised by his bishop for speaking some heartfelt thoughts not consistent with Church teaching.  The priest reflected on this, and decided it was more important not to risk jeapardizing his parishioner's (and listener's) faith, than to put his own message ''out there''.  So while we are feeling frustrated and it's important to voice our opinion, it's also comforting to know and we need to trust that the Holy Spirit is still in charge.
Karen Silver | 6/12/2012 - 4:52pm
It strikes me that the bad guys are noisier than the good guys. I remember a wonderful line from Rumer Godden's book, "In This House of Brede" wherein the holiest person is the one nobody notices because he or she is just doing what is needed.
Magdalen Yum | 6/12/2012 - 2:37am
Dear Fr. Martin,
The timing of sharing this prayer cannot be better.
It is very unsettling indeed for Catholics to see the Church in conflict.
We need to be reminded on the fundamentals of our Faith in order to stay strong  and to be more understanding and tolerant till things work out. I like to mention one of the songs that is always sung in mass : " Glory to God, Glory to God , Glory to God in the highest, And on earth, peace on earth, peace to people of goodwill." Amen.
David Pasinski | 6/9/2012 - 11:25am
Recent posts point out the struggle about who ?a?n?d? ?w?h?a?t? ?i?s? ?????"C??h??u??r??c????????h" and the paradox of "trust in action."???
??As a youth, a wonderful priest - one of the first of? that era to leave after a crushing from the bishop - instructed our little group ("cell" for those who remember the Douglas Hyde era) in t?he? French JOCist model of "ob?serve, judge, act." That has been a mant?r?a - at best suffus?ed with prayer, trust, and humility - but also aw???a?re of Newman's adage  that ?"whatev?e?r is worth doing is worth doing poorly." We must take? our place in the mandala....
Maggie Watson | 6/19/2012 - 11:57am
Dear Friend in Christ, Thank you for sharing your frustrations and helping to put them in perspective for the rest of us. The words helped this week when , after 45 years as an adult Christain , and working as part of a hospital chaplaincy team  , a priest in his first church tells me that I need to wait longer before   I'm ready to become a eucharistic minister! I came home and read Ephesians 4 v 1 -5,  'I urge you to live a life worthy of the caling you have recieved. Be completely humble and and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one Body and one Spirit.'
 I do make an effort, but it is difficult sometimes.
Anne Chapman | 6/8/2012 - 12:03pm
Dave P, #21- ''I know that having a placid and trusting and faith-filled spirit are truly blessings and I desire them also. But if they somehow mitigate against action for change - and sometimes confrontational, non-violent civil and religious disobedience - then these sentiments descend into something else, I think.''

That is the danger in the passive ''obedience'' of so many Catholics. Jesus went into the temple and overturned tables. He didn't stand by because he owed ''obedience'' to the men, the religious leaders of the temple, who had betrayed God. Those who think that many in the leadership of the church are guilty of betraying the gospels and Christ MUST speak out, must work for change, must sometimes be ''disobedient'' to the human beings who run the church - this disobedience to men is sometimes necessary in order to be obedient to God. Discernment is admittedly difficult - but turning away from the challenge in the name of ''obedience'' alone is an abdication of moral responsibility.  And this concept of ''obedience'' to men presents another potential moral danger - that of substituting men and an institution for God, a violation of the first commandment.
6466379 | 6/8/2012 - 7:05pm
35 – Jim, The Holy Spirit works in the Church ONLY within its competency. The Church’s competency resides within the   universe of Faith and Morals and all that evolves therefrom in precise and practical   application, instructive to human conduct and is intrinsically  rooted in Revelation. If the Church dabbles in anything outside its competency, such as it did in the Galileo debacle, there was as may be easily discerned,   no guidance from the Holy Spirit! Generally speaking and paraphrasing St. Augustine, the business of the Church isn’t to tell how the heavens “Go” but how to “Go” to heaven!
However, secular scholarship can and has broadened the Church’s competency, providing the Church with excelling  secular wisdom, contributory to greater clarity in explaining objective truth according to the authority of Christ and always in fulfillment of the mandates of Faith and Morals universally applicable to all humanity. The Church is obligated to this and in this has the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Dave, as I understand it it’s that simple! How is all of this energized? It’s energized through vibrant Faith which according to St. Paul  is “the evidence of things not seen.” Could it be that the big reason why so many don’t “see” is because they lack the vibrant “evidence” called “Faith?”
 
   
Anne Chapman | 6/8/2012 - 4:03pm
Jim, #35. Perhaps the Holy Spirit DOES guide the church. But, who is ''the church''? Is the church limited to those in Rome who seem to believe that they are the church instead of the 1.1 billion people of God?  Is there any arrogance in claiming that only they - a handful of male human beings -  ''channel'' the Holy Spirit? Does some form of the sin of pride operate in those who claim that they - human beings - literally speak for God?  What role does pride play among those who refuse to hear the Spirit - if they don't like the message, or refuse to ''hear'' when the Spirit speaks through the people of God instead of through themselves?  The Sensus Fidelium - Rome chooses to ignore this. Perhaps that is why it may appear that the Holy Spirit's guidance is missing. A casual review of Roman Catholic church history clearly demonstrates that either the institutional leadership's self-promoting and self-aggrandizing definition of church is wrong, or the Spirit is indeed absent. There is nothing of God in many church actions, decisions, teachings, and politics, including such historic blackmarks as having three popes at once, the scandals of the renaissance popes, the scandal of the crusades, of the Inquisition, the witch and heretic burnings etc, and including the scandal of a pope daring to claim that popes can possibly be infallible. Infallibility is reserved to God alone - not to one man or a collection of men. Vatican I all by itself is sufficient evidence that too often prideful and ambitious human beings try to take God's place, and refuse to hear the Spirit. Even when the Spirit is shouting.

Is the Holy Spirit absent? Or do fallible,prideful and ambitious men simply turn away and refuse to hear?  Jesus never promised the Spirit would guide the Curia or  a conclave or a bunch of bishops in a council. Jesus never mentioned a ''magisterium''.  Jesus promised that his spirit would guide THE church - not a small group of men who occupy an institutution's corporate offices in Rome.
JIM MCCREA | 6/8/2012 - 2:39pm
s/b "her/his form OF guidance."
JIM MCCREA | 6/8/2012 - 2:35pm
"I am working on a new blog about the Church's claim that the Holy Spirit guides the Church throughout history, even today."

If you believe that, I have a nice bridge over the Golden Gate to sell you very cheaply.

If that is true, then the HS is very cruel in her/his form guidance.

If what we have is the result of the HS's guidance, then it's definitely time to decamp for greener pastures - which hundreds of thousands of us have already done and continue to do on a daily basis.

Stop visiting that river in Egypt as part of your day dreaming.
David Pasinski | 6/8/2012 - 1:26pm
Anne C

I think you summarized and advanced well what I am struggling with and attempting to say. The parallels are not exact, but I know that Martin Luther King, Jr. did not just pray for change thugh he believed "the arc of thh moral univese is long and bends towards justice." That doesn't mean we're exempt from doing our part to influence the arc - and that goes for the "a (ark?)rc of the Church" as well.
David Pasinski | 6/8/2012 - 11:01am
Thanks, Pat, for addressing my post.

All I can say at this point though is... maybe.

I'm not into posting a 95 theses or simply going quietly, but I will admit that this sense of discouragement gets heavy. I am extremely grateful for my own pastor and parish and his courage in the face of much and there are perhaps two other such priests in our diocese, but if they are censured or whatever, it will be very, very bleak...

Fr. Martin's reflection on the Paschal mystery of what must die for new life to grow may involve much more than any of us can imagine.
 
To quote Bob Dylan - "It ain't dark yet, but it's gettin' there."
Edmund Campion House | 6/8/2012 - 8:05am
Just what I needed. Thanks.
John Swanson | 6/7/2012 - 7:11pm
Like so many others have said—thank you.
I believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, but I am not sure that I know what that means.  Just because the Spirit is trying to guide us, doesn’t mean that we are following the guidance. Just because the Spirit is there doesn’t mean we are going in the right direction, does it? Wasn’t the Spirit guiding the Church in the Middle Ages when the Church had 3 popes? Anyone with thoughts on this?
Patricia Bergeron | 6/7/2012 - 6:22pm
Dear Anne M., Ask Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia (and the first female president of an African nation), what she thinks of the Jesuits and their work for impoverished people in Liberia, among other places. I was privileged to hear Sirleaf speak last year when my niece graduated from Georgetown. She had nothing but praise for the Society of Jesus...And I don't think that well-respected lady is alone in her appreciation of the Jesuits and their work.

To Dave, maybe we don't need to take drastic action. Just being honest  (to clergy and lay people alike) about who we are as thinking, commited, and open-minded Catholics may be sufficient witness.
6466379 | 6/7/2012 - 5:45pm
Thanks, Fr. Martin, for your inspired and inspiring prayer, which I’m copying and intend to pass  on  to others which I’m sure you won’t mind.  Right?
 G.K. Chesterton once said, “The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of men!” The word “riddle” is defined as, “an enigma, a mystery.” Your prayer addressed very well the enigmatic and mysterious riddles of God impregnated in Faith an impregnation  affecting the lives of all, especially Believers. Once understood, which your prayer helped to do, Faith in God, in the Church, not only  enlightens, but also satisfies.
The Italian writer, Carlo Carretto who despite admitting of “much scandal” in the Church prayed nightly that he “might die in (the Church’s) warm, loving arms” even though countless times “he felt like leaving (the) Church!” Everyone knows Carretto’s full message so I won’t tire anyone repetitiously.  Anyway your originality  said it BETTER! Again, thanks.
David Pasinski | 6/7/2012 - 4:41pm
Thanks, Anne C. I am aware of that and was trying to reference other opinions and that kind of information for Anne M. His biography does not lend to credibility.
Anne Chapman | 6/7/2012 - 4:13pm
Re #25 - google Malachi Martin.  He has a complex biography reflecting both highly questionable personal behavior and equally questionable ability to judge anyone. Accepting what he says without question or validation seems a risky proposition.
David Pasinski | 6/7/2012 - 4:03pm
A Jesuit and a historian would be far better to respond to Ann Martin's post, but I found ths book years ago to be quite iat variance with what I thought I knew of the Jesuits and an interpretation that was distinctly that of the author of Hostage to the Devil. Perhaps some reviews from America and other trusted sources would be worthwhile to read.
Anne Martin | 6/7/2012 - 3:38pm
I just finished a great book by Malachi Martin, The Jesuits. It reveals volumes about what has gone wrong in the modern and post-modern Church. The last chapter is especially helpful in re-orienting one's point of view to what really matters in this matter.
CLAIRE BANGASSER MS | 6/7/2012 - 12:19pm
How healing your prayer feels... Thank you.
Gerald Faulkner | 6/7/2012 - 8:07am
Fr, Jim,

I am indeed grateful to you for composing this prayer.  It ''covered'' everything I feel, fret, hope and pray about. 

You made today a new and better day for me. Many thanks.

David Pasinski | 6/7/2012 - 7:37am
Re-reading this prayer and the many fine comments is consoling...in some ways.

I know that having a placid and trusting and faith-filled spirit are truly blessings and I desire them also. But if they somehow mitigate against action for change - and sometimes confrontational, non-violent civil and religious disobedience - then these sentiments descend into something else, I think.

I surely believe and have -in various places in heart, home, work. and car -Julian of Norwich's consolation of  "All shall be well," but I also beleive that I have sometimes an uncomfortable role in attempting to do my own little part to make it well with as little ego and self-righteousness and awareness of my own pride and sinfulness as possible... but we must act also and not simply let things go...
Craig McKee | 6/7/2012 - 4:46am
Far from frustrated, I am excited! Excited because the real world issues behind the renewal of Vatican II are finally coming to the forefront with both sides openly lining up to do battle for the heart and soul of roman Catholicism - and it only took FIFTY years. In ''church time'' that's simply amazing. We are all blessed and highly favored to be living in such times!
Michael Schlacter | 6/6/2012 - 10:45pm
Thank you!
I have tried to focus on the journey being to God, not to Rome. 
F & P BAUMER | 6/6/2012 - 10:09pm
Fr. Jim,
     The late, beloved Bishop Ken Untener used to say, ''Never speak of 'the Church' without using the pronoun 'WE.''' This is almost becoming an exercise in wishful thinking.
     When gifted, discerning theologians are censured for their writings not replicating the teachings of the institution, how, as non-ordained women, do they have the privileged opportinity and responsibility to help shape the teachings of the Church, the tradition of the church, so that it may remain alive and consonant with human experience? Women are sinfully excluded from the decision-making processes of the institution.  May our faithful God keep prophets strong, and renew in all the grace of Baptism.
     Thank you for your honest prayer.  You will never know how it resonates within so many hearts.  I join my voice to yours, confident that we are more than two or three.
Marsha West | 6/6/2012 - 9:41pm
I am so grateful for this prayer. Thank you, Fr. Jim. I know all of this, but it's so hard to hold onto in the midst of all the conflict, all the different voices, even all the different voices within myself.
Mary Castronuovo | 6/6/2012 - 9:25pm
I am working on a new blog about the Church's claim that the Holy Spirit guides the Church throughout history, even today. I believe that! Where I part with the hierarchy is with whom the Holy Spirit actually stands in that guiding role. The Spirit stands with Truth, not lies; with courage, not cowardly deflection of responsibility; and with integrity, not scapegoating.  You make the call.
CHERIE GAISER | 6/6/2012 - 9:00pm
I think I need to incorporate this into my evening prayers.  It reminds me that those to whom I look for guidance are human, like me.  It makes me remember to pray for them. 
Sara Damewood | 6/6/2012 - 8:47pm
Amen.   Thank you so much!
MARIA GUERRERO MS | 6/6/2012 - 8:32pm
This is a perfect prayer at this time, Fr. Jim! I'm very sure that the Holy Spirit who guided you in writing it, will surely enlighten those who pray it with a sincere heart!
Carol Giunta | 6/6/2012 - 8:27pm
Thank you!
Bonnie Weissman | 6/6/2012 - 8:04pm
Thank you Father, for this prayer. I really need it these days with all the finger pointing going on and everybody judging each other, both in our church and the world at large. So I do my best, try not to judge others (and when I start to do so, I force myself to think of several things that could make them do what they do, reminding myself that I'm very flawed as well), and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. When I think of what the earliest Christians went through for the faith, it helps keep things in perspective, much like this prayer. Thanks for the references to the saints and Jesus after the resurrection, which are so encouraging to me. We are all the walking wounded in some way or another, in this life.
Joan Bartolomei | 6/6/2012 - 7:23pm
Thank you  for this Father Jim.  I too am a frustrated Catholic.  Much of my frustration lies with how divided we are.  With all its brokeness and woundedness I love my Church.  I love Eucharist, I love the rich and varied spiritual traditions - Ignatian, Franciscan, Carmelite, Benedictine, just to name a few.  I feel pain when people point fingers at those they deem to be bad Catholics.  I feel pain when people assign the most sinister motives to those with whom they disagree - conservatives are a bunch of women hating blind fools, liberals are a bunch of relativist who bend the truth to suit their needs.  If you hold a view opposite of mine, you are bad, and obiviously don't get the Gospel. 
As an American, I feel the same frustration with our country - which is also very divided.
There is nothing new under the sun.  There has been friction from day one, but I did't live then, I live now.  I get afraid that we may see schism again.  But I will not let my hope die, no matter how frustrated I get.  Thanks for the prayer that so well puts into words what I am feeling.
Theresa Maccarone | 6/6/2012 - 7:09pm
AMEN!

I'm going to share this prayer with my family and friends!
Chuck Hendricks | 6/6/2012 - 6:50pm
I love this so much. 
Chris Sullivan | 6/6/2012 - 6:32pm
Thanks Jr James for an encouraging prayer.

It's often helpful to look up from our own preoccupations and see the bigger picture.

God Bless
Katie Davis | 6/6/2012 - 6:26pm
Amen, Amen, Amen!
David Pasinski | 6/6/2012 - 5:45pm
Appreciate this prayer but the angst, anger, frustration, disillusion and hurt go sooooo deep...For some, it is better to walk away rather be consumed by these currents and find a community where they are less pre-occupied by this pain and dysfunction... where they can serve and love and be loved... It's always a choice of where one chooses to tremble...with trust.. My favorite Spanish adage "Caminante, no hay camno; se hace camino al andar," loosley, "Pilgrim/Walker, there is no path; you make the path in walkng." I can believe in the Spirit's guidance and comrades and the Chrsit on this path, but still it each of ours to discover and walk...  
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn | 6/6/2012 - 5:42pm
Amen.
Beth Nicol | 6/6/2012 - 5:42pm
I so needed this prayer today. Especially when I got to the parts about being told I don't belong, that I am not welcome. I've gotten past most of that, but, at times the sting is still there.

I so needed to hear this today as I have been struggling with the notion that the times I find myself "in trouble" with the Church are those times when I hear the Gospel, and feel called to follow it closely... and my following doesn't sit well with the "authorities."

I so needed to be reminded that his love and his grace are enough for me.

Thank you.
Stephen Murray | 6/6/2012 - 5:38pm
What are you talking about? Could you be more specific?
Rick Fueyo | 6/6/2012 - 5:09pm
Thank you, Fr. Martin