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BALANCING MESSAGES ABOUT THE CHURCH AND ITS BISHOPS

As our Church gets a new bearing, we have two strong directives in recent days. One was given by Pope Francis during his remarkable visit to Brazil, where in an impromptu meeting at the Cathedral of San Sebastian, and then elsewhere, he said, ďWhat is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! . . . I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools, or structures. Because these need to get out!

"We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel! It's not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people."

It was a fascinating, sobering, and at the same time electrifying call to change the way dioceses function at their most basic level -- calling them to dismantle the bureaucratic barriers, the focus on secular structure and social stature. Clericalism is used to denote the divisions between ordained clergy and laymen in a closed-in world. Here is his true message to our bishops, to our pastors, to us all: don't become entwined with the worldly. Live the Gospel message (not the Gospel of the local eleven o'clock news). It was a very necessary admonition in a Church where aloofness in the clergy has caused it to be seen as distant, ceremonial, and in need of less starch. (A diocese does itself no favor when it resembles a school board.)

The Pope called on the flock to make its concerns known, "even at the expense of confrontation with their bishops and priests." It was a call to shake things up -- but in a right, respectful way, to let local hierarchy know of the needs, to send the Church into every "nook and cranny." But always: there must be respect. There must be obedience. Bishops and pastors must be approached with new persistence and vigor but with no less respect, for their hands are consecrated; their mission is anointed. We are not to focus on their personalities, which are human ones. Instead, a direct but prayerful approach to any diocese where clericalism prevails is what the Pope requests -- a prayerful and yet energetic one, that we may all be involved in the process of reform.

The Church has every tool it needs to ascend above -- far above -- recent setbacks. It simply needs to exercise them, particularly gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Simply put: act as Jesus would.

Minister as did He.

Be simple.

Praying for priests is crucial, and so is remaining loyal to them, as emphasized at Medjugorje in former Yugoslavia, where Mary -- much quoted these days, if not directly, by pontiffs -- allegedly said on September 2, 2013, in the second directive, "Dear children; I love you all. All of you, all of my children, all of you are in my heart. All of you have my motherly love and I desire to lead all of you to come to know Godís joy. This is why I am calling you. I need humble apostles who, with an open heart, will accept the Word of God and help others to comprehend the meaning of their life along side Godís word. To be able to do this, my children, through prayer and fasting you must learn to listen with the heart and to learn to keep submitting yourselves. You must learn to keep rejecting everything that distances you from Godís word and to yearn only for that which draws you closer to it. Do not be afraid. I am here. You are not alone. I am imploring the Holy Spirit to renew and strengthen you. I am imploring the Holy Spirit that, as you help others, you too may be healed. I am imploring Him that, through Him, you may be Godís children and my apostles." Then with great concern Our Lady said: "For the sake of Jesus, for the sake of my Son, love those whom He has called and long for the blessing only from the hands which He has consecrated. Do not permit evil to come to reign. Anew I repeat Ė only along side your shepherds will my heart triumph. Do not permit evil to separate you from your shepherds.Ē

[resources: Our Memories of Sister Lucia]

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