Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.
Jesus Christ, speaking to Peter
Pope Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary today.
I’m a self-confessed bad Catholic, just about as imperfect as a member of the “faithful” can be. Some days, I question whether I, or anyone like me, even belongs in this Church.
Each time I approach Christ in the Eucharist it is with feelings of unworthiness and dread, and every time — every single time — I am healed. My anger over what feels like a betrayal of everything I once believed about the Church by political priests and bishops burns hot. I no longer trust them, and I don’t believe that they believe what they preach.
But, bad Catholic that I am, I do believe that Pope Francis is a sincere and good man who is doing his best to follow Jesus and lead us in the Way. I don’t think he’s perfect. I know he has had his sins and failures in his long life, some of them committed in the harsh and unforgiving course of great government evil visited on ordinary people.
I believe that he is the pope he has become — the man who will not back down and can not be bullied or attacked into failing to do what he knows is right — precisely because of these sins in his past. I’ve had my own experiences with facing what I really am and what I am capable of doing. I know what remorse, grief, shame and the deeply humiliating realization that I can be a monster to other people feels like.
That is repentance, and repentance, when it’s real, is not cheap. Repentance that changes your heart, that forces you to plumb the depths of your own depravity and make a sharp turn in your life — real repentance — hurts. It is an amputation, and when you do it, it is full of loss that rips at what you were and tears it down to nothing. Your old illusions about yourself as someone who “would never” do horrible things is cut out of you and you are left with the bleeding knowledge that yes, you would, you did, and worse, you cannot undo it.
I believe that Pope Francis experienced something like that because he did not react perfectly to the horrors of a vicious dictator, ravaging the people of his land. He didn’t react ignobly. He tried. That is a substantiated fact. He succeeded in doing the right thing in many ways. But he failed in others.
I think — have thought for a long time — that God got hold of Jorge Bergoglio in the way He does when He really wants to use a person for His purpose. I think Archbishop Jorge experienced the remorse, shame, grief and guilt of knowing his failures to the marrow of his soul. That is the second conversion, the preparation, either for heaven or for work on this earth.
Conversion is always based on repentance. For it to matter, for it to be strong enough to change us and redirect our steps, conversion must begin with the abject misery of facing up to what we are, what we do, have done and will continue to do without God. We have to stop lying to ourselves about who we are and what we do. We have to stop listening to the comforting lies that our friends and our fellow travelers in sin tell us and themselves. We have to see, know and experience what we truly are, what we have done, and how much pain we have given to other people.
God burns the corruption out of us with these reveals, these reckonings with our sins. I think that this is probably a foretaste of what we will experience when we stand before Him. I think the grief, shame, guilt, remorse and acute suffering this knowledge brings down on us is a foretaste of Purgatory. God gives some of us a piece of our Purgatory now and this burns — not just the sin we have committed, but the love of it — out of us.
I think God showed Jorge Bergoglio his failures as a priest and a man. It was a time of great danger and peril for everyone in Argentina. Satan walked in on two feet and took control of their government. He was rampaging through their country, practicing the satanic arts of greed, corruption, violence, cruelty and death. No one, not even an archbishop, was exempt from being disappeared. No one was safe. No one who stood for good had a future longer than it takes a murdering soldier to put his finger on the trigger and squeeze.
Bergoglio tried. And he saved lives. But he also failed. He was much better than most people, but still less than the ideal of Christ. For an honest man, a genuine priest, every failure would be like the whip cutting into Jesus’ back.
I think the man Jorge Bergoglio suffered his own Gethsemane after all the political dust settled. He was a chrysalis and from that chrysalis the humble and good man who would become Pope Francis emerged.
We have a pope who suffers attacks from monied interests both inside the Church and from outside it for standing up for the poor. He tells us the truth that we are destroying the natural world and bears the outraged flogging by those who are getting rich and richer from the destruction. For money, a thing we made ourselves, a thing with no life in it, they are salting the earth that feeds all of us, including themselves.
Pope Francis is hated by monied interests. Their little foot soldiers in the blogosphere and Catholic media attack the Holy Father all day, every day. They are political, and politics and money are of the same substance and order. They are both created by us, just like the wooden gods people sit on a shelf in their houses.
Since these minions attack everything Pope Francis does, I expected that they would attack this Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I could claim to be a prophet because I was right about this. But there was no insight necessary. Expecting these people to attack Pope Francis is like expecting the laws of gravity to work.
I know if I jump off the roof of my house, I will fall to the ground. In the same way that I know I will fall to the ground, I know that these people will attack the Pope, no matter what he does. I will fall because gravity literally sucks. They will attack the Pope because money talks, and this kind of talking is how they get paid.
It didn’t disturb me when they started their verbal sniping about the Consecration of Russia and Ukraine. That’s how they make their money.
I didn’t and I won’t pay attention to such obvious payday rectitude.
That would also be my advice to you. Don’t let niggling professional schismatics lead you around like a steer with a ring through its nose. Just remember that if they didn’t do this, they’d have to go get a real job and that is what motivates them. Brush them away the way you would a fly, buzzing around your head on a summer’s day.
Today, I watched Pope Francis consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I prayed his prayer along with him. I’ve prayed the Rosary every day for nine days because I support what he is doing with all my heart.
I am a bad Catholic who is fiercely angry with the American bishops and priests who have sold their ministry and themselves to be political operatives for a money worshipping, racist, misogynist, seditionist, insane right wing. I do not believe that these priests believe the things they teach us. I think they’re pretending, to themselves as well as us, about following Jesus. I think their god is power and money.
But I do believe in Jesus. I believe every word of the Apostle’s Creed. I believe the Eucharist is real. I believe what the Church teaches when it’s teaching Christ.
I also believe that Pope Francis is trying his human best to be the Vicar of Christ that God asks him to be. I think He was shaken apart, sifted like wheat, just as the first Peter was, and result is that now, he is Peter.