There have been constant calls for prayer and fasting in this crisis. It is important to engage in such spiritual warfare as one is able. A soldier who attempts an action beyond their means will find themselves gravely injured or dead. I am not a prayer warrior. In the ever humorous words of a priest I know, “I have other gifts.” Some people are called and are now able to engage in great works of prayer and acts of reparation. For my part, I offer a Divine Mercy chaplet in reparation for the sins of bishops and priests, specifically sins of abuse and cover-up, for their taking right action now, and for the renewal of the priesthood. This small prayer offered faithfully is acceptable to God and efficacious. As for fasting, well, I am given to grumbling when I fast on days that I am not under obedience to do so. While that may not be good, I have to accept where I am now. I have responded to the call to fast in this present crisis by abstaining from snacking, which means eating three meals and nothing in between. For me, that is a sacrifice and I do feel it. Offered faithfully it too is acceptable to God and efficacious. I do not say this to boast, and I certainly am by no means perfect in either the practice of prayer or fasting that I have here stated. I say this because all too often people can put more on themselves than they are able to carry. When we do this, all that we take upon ourselves will fall. If I can carry only one brick at a time, it is better to do that than carry a box of bricks only to drop them and break some of them. Know yourself, discern what God calls you to do for He will not call you to do more than you are able, though He may call you to do more than you think you are able.
There is a danger though with such a great emphasis on acts of reparation and offerings of prayers and fasts. The danger is one of a lack of balance, the sacrificing of sure footing for a killing stroke. St. Isaiah the Solitary has much to say that is particularly helpful in this regard. His words should be kept always at the forefront of our minds and hearts.
If you find yourself hating your fellow men and resist this hatred, and you see that it grows weak and withdraws, do not rejoice in your heart; for this withdrawal is a trick of the evil spirits. They are preparing a second attack worse than the first; they have left their troops behind the city and ordered them to remain there. If you go out to attack them, they will flee before you in weakness. But if your heart is then elated because you have driven them away, and you leave the city, some of them will attack you from the rear while the rest will stand their ground in front of you; and your wretched soul will be caught between them with no means of escape. The city is prayer. Resistance is rebuttal through Jesus Christ. The foundation is incensive power.
The city is prayer
Prayers are one of the ways in which we engage in spiritual warfare. Some prayers are weapons in that warfare. Some prayers, however, are not so much weapons as they are buildings, infrastructure, walls, and adornments of a city. The city of prayer of which St. Isaiah speaks is not just any prayer for any reason. It is prayer of the heart; interior prayer. It is the prayer witnessed by the entire mystical tradition of the Church. In all that we do, in good times and in bad, it is of the utmost importance that we are rooted in this prayer, that we live and move in this prayer.
The devil is always on the prowl, not always on the attack. Set watchmen on the walls of your city and enter the quiet of your heart. Rest in the love of God, rest in the Lord and be enveloped and nourished by His mysteries. Encounter Him (not principles, not formulas and proofs) through a holy reading of Scripture. Encounter Him in the prayers of the Church, the writings of the saints, and the works of the magisterium. Let your reading be meditation directed towards contemplation. To every season there is a time: prayer of the heart is the time for silence. Other times silence is not called for, but speech or a lack thereof will be distorted if it is not rooted in the silence of the heart. Prayer of the heart consistently and rightly practiced leads to ceaseless prayer, a prayer which not only remains enthroned in the heart but also daily lived.
Humility and obedience are a lived prayer of the heart. St. John Climacus, in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, returns again and again to humility and obedience. But in our current time of crisis, what does it mean to live in humility and obedience to a bishop? I suppose for a layman it means the same as it would in a time of right governance in the Church. It means giving obedience in regards to those things in which a bishop properly exercises authority. More than this, however, it means participating in the life of the Church, a life which is impossible to divorce from the bishop. One way in which this type of obedience may be exercised is by joining your local bishop in a Holy Hour of Reparation, even if you think that particular bishop should resign. Another way of practicing obedience in the life of the Church is by supporting the good apostolic works and works of mercy exercised through diocesan programs. The crisis, which is embroiling the Church in America and in other parts of the world, does not change the fact that we still need priests and religious vocations. Obedience can be practiced through supporting seminarian programs. Donating to a seminary is not enough. Seminaries do not pay for seminarians’ education; dioceses do! (A young man recently told me that he is discerning a vocation to the priesthood and may enter seminary within a year. I was in awe that he would be willing to enter a lions den. And a lions den it is! He told me which seminary he may be studying at should he enter. He told me what he has heard from others who were there. He told me that he was told by some graduates that it is more about surviving seminary! And yet he is seriously thinking about going. What courage! What integrity! That is the kind of priest we need. He needs to be supported and that comes by donating to diocesan programs for seminarians.)
Calling to account, being persistent, not being silent, not giving an inch – we need this from the Church’s faithful. These do not negate humility and obedience though. In fact, without these two virtues, our efforts will cause more harm to the Body of Christ. Division is unavoidable for there is no place for the dark in the light, but we must be on our guard lest we become dark ourselves. We must be on our guard lest right action becomes an opportunity for the Evil One’s poison.
God love you all and keep you within the most sacred side of our Lord Jesus Christ.