If you didn't know, this past week was my first full week of teaching; Monday through Friday spent with the funniest, most inquisitive group of sixth through 8th graders you've ever met. They are going to be a joy to educate and learn from this year! (You can read my first week reflection here.)
One student asked me this thought provoking question, after sitting and thinking for moment:
"We're Christians, right? And because we're Christians we're not supposed to call people bad names, right? So... is it okay if we call the Devil bad names?"
What a question...
I would like to preface my answer by saying that in retrospect, this would have been a good question to send the student home with. Our school is Catholic but not all of our students are (including my questioner). But I cannot resist a good question, so after a little thought, this is what I told the student...
"The Devil is corporal, real being, just like God. But the Devil's goal is to interfere with our life and relationship with God as much as possible. All Satan wants is to be invited in to get in between us and our God. So, I don't think it's a good idea to tempt the Devil. It's probably best to not address him at all."
The Evil One is crafty. Just look at Genesis, where he prays on Adam and Eve's pride and love for one another. He takes our best pieces and uses them against, slowly and surely. He took a good piece of my student, someone who wants to condemn Satan and all his evil promises, and use it as a way into his little life.
But we don't have to call the Devil names to address him. We invite him into our lives when we willfully choose to do anything counter to the life Christ has called us to leave. Trashy TV, crude music, gossip with coworkers... those small sins build up making it easier and easier the Evil One to interfere. One more drink, snoozing for an extra hour on Sunday. It's the little things that create space for temptation and failure to resist.
Sometimes we forget that the Devil isn't just another boogieman. The Devil is a real, corporal being who wants to tempt us away from our loving God each and every day. Which is why we shouldn't call him names. He wrecks enough havoc on our lives without our taunting. The only thing we need to be saying to him is "not today."
Not today Satan. Not today.
The Catholic community was rocked last week by greater numbers and more details into the lingering scandals surrounding the Pennsylvania area over 70 years. And the people are (rightly so) angry, hurt, and demanding change, explanation, and most importantly, condemnation of the actions of those who covered up the abuse, thus allowing it to continue.
The Catholic Church is one of the most prominent organized religions of the modern world. Unlike other Christian denominations, we have clear leadership and a clear name. There are many churches that fall under the umbrella of Methodist or Baptist, but they don't have a clear association and organization of leaders that the Catholic faith does.
Why is this important to note? Because the Catholic Church is not the only organization that has predators using it as a cover; it is just the only faith organization of its kind that has leadership like this, answerable to only a few, which makes it easier to lump the entire Church together when the acts of a some evil individuals rock the world.
But I am not Catholic for the bishops. Nor am I Catholic because of the clergy. I am certainly not Catholic because it is ran by a bunch of men.
I am Catholic because I believe in the seven sacraments and want to receive the grace they offer me. I am Catholic because I believe in the True Presence of the Eucharist; not just a symbol but the literal Body and Blood of Christ, offered for the sins of all. I am Catholic because I love the tradition, the space for memorized meditative prayer and the space for spontaneous prayer from the heart. I am Catholic because I am part of the Body of Christ; I am Catholic because I believe in the living, breathing Church.
The Church is not the men who joined seeking access to young, impressionable individuals. We've come a long way scientifically and psychologically in the last twenty to thirty years and know that pedophiles are not the stranger-danger men in trench-coats. They are family friends, people parents love and trust. They are smart, charismatic individuals looking for access to children by gaining the child and their family's respect and trust. They seek their victims not because of a vow of chastity (there are many, many married individuals who are also predators), not because of a same-sex attraction (more often than not, those evil people would not identify as gay but still prey on children of the same sex), and they did not start working for their organization with good intentions. They were never part of the living Church.
I am Catholic because I love the Communion of Saints and the inspiration and support they offer me in my faith. I am Catholic because I find beauty in the celebration of the Mass; it feeds me spiritually in a way that other denominations do not. I am Catholic because it was Peter, the Rock, on whom Christ built His Church.
The corrupt, sinful people who hurt innocents and those who helped by not putting a stop to it are not our Church. It is time for us to remember why we have chosen our faith and not allow the Evil One and his servants steal the Church, the Sacraments, and our faith from us. Remain firm in your faith and remember, we, the greater community that pursues God daily in our loves, are the Church.
Please join in me keeping the innocents, their families, and all others affected by these heinous crimes in our prayers in the coming months.