Let’s face it, 2018 was a mess.
In an excellent editorial at the end of that awful year, Record Editor Marnie McAllister recounted the litany of disaster, human malfeasance and other causes that taxed humanity throughout those dreadful twelve months. But the sun doesn’t come out simply because we turn a page of the calendar; things don’t automatically improve with the mere passage of time.
We’re left to deal with wackadoodle leadership in some parts of government; cowardly performance by those who are supposed to stand up to that mindless incompetence; and problems — environmental and otherwise — that won’t go away without some effort on our part.
The year was like one long walk through a forest surrounded by leaden clouds slowly dripping a cold rain, a walk accompanied by a vague, inexplicable feeling that we were in a place where we didn’t belong.
Much as we’d like to put the year’s anomalies, tragedies and embarrassments behind us, they hang on. Just as we feel we might have reached some nexus in the never-ending sexual abuse crisis — a crisis that extends well beyond the church, by the way — something else happens or is revealed that brings it to our attention again.
In just the first week off 2019, for instance, a group of citizens in Illinois sued the Catholic Church in the state asking that the names of 500 priests involved in the abuse scandal be released to the public.
Though the church locally has taken every step called for by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and though it has passed every audit by church authorities since the first hint of the abuse scandal broke into our collective consciousness in 2002, every so often news agencies bring it to our attention again. As if we need reminding.
The never-ending abuse crisis seems to be forever draped around the neck of the church both here, in the nation, and around the world. But there is another side to this story, though no one is running from the failings of people and institutions revealed by the abuse crisis.
In case you missed it, Shannon Shaughnessy Age, herself a victim of abuse at the hands of a priest, brought some light onto the dark face of this never-ending story.
In “A Time to Speak” article in the Dec. 20 issue of The Record, she noted that as a victim of abuse, she once felt that Dr. Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer for the archdiocese, “was my arch-enemy.” Now she calls him “my dear friend.”
How did such a dramatic change occur? Through dialogue. Through hours of conversation that led to understanding.
The change occurred because both Ms. Age and the archdiocese reached out to one another. Ms. Age described a meeting that she and her husband had with Reynolds and her pastor, Father Scott Wimsett.
Reynolds “wanted to help me heal, starting by addressing the great anger I had against him.”
“Brian decided to make himself vulnerable to whatever I could throw at him,” she wrote. “He decided that my healing was more important than his comfort level.”
During the meeting, Age wrote, Reynolds “humbly listened for hours … he offered no excuse or comments, unless I asked him a specific question. A new type of healing started for me that day, because, as Father Scott later told me, those moments were holy. What happened (in that meeting) was holy.”
There is a lesson here for all of us. In the middle of the confusion, depression and even anger that the world seems resolved to throw at us, we can look for — and experience — moments of holiness.
They are available to all of us. Every time we lend a hand to someone who needs our help; every time we do a good deed for someone without being asked to do it, we experience a moment of holiness.
We don’t have to jump up and down and call attention to ourselves every time we do something good, when we do what we should do every day. But we can be aware of the opportunities that taking part in even small acts of kindness present to us.
In the middle of life’s maelstrom, we always have the chance to do something good, to do the right thing. We should remember that in this new year. We should never forget to avail ourselves of the holiness that surrounds us.
Record Editor Emeritus