My spiritual father wrote again. I so cherish his letters; it takes a great deal of physical effort on his part to write due to health considerations. The content is always rich and deep, speckled with humor, as well.
He wonders about what it is that priests have done or not done, for he grieves the people leaving the Catholic Church. He takes this upon himself, being a priest--and a holy one at that.
I have pondered his comments and concerns, and I responded to his letter the other day.
It is not on the priests, although many have not been screened by bishops, perhaps, so well before entering seminary. The decline in membership and also those attending Mass is also not a new sorrow for the Church, yet it does seem to be increasingly so.
Much has to do with all of us Catholics, whether those of us in the consecrated life of the Church or those who are in married or single vocations.
The problem seems to be within ourselves, and it has to do with following and immersing ourselves in the laws of mind or the law of God: the law of love. Love God above all things and love others as God loves. This is the law of God, Jesus' greatest commandment, and it is verily how Jesus taught and more so, how He lived His earthly life as an example for us all.
Another way to view the dispersion of people to other faiths or no faith at all, has to do perhaps with the externals. It does seem to me--this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit who is old, worn from suffering but praying while doing a great deal of manual labor and learning a bit to remain in Christ's love--that some are drawn to the Church and exist in the Church due to a need or attraction to externals.
Someone wrote to me recently with an article attached, about a US bishop who was convinced the decline in Catholics is due to not receiving Communion properly. He had a call for Catholics to receive Communion on the tongue and not in the hand, and in a kneeling position.
The person who sent me the article found this to be just the answer to our Catholic Church's membership woes and why such persons as our Vice President and newest Supreme Court justice left the Catholic Church and attend other--such as evangelical or Episcopalian. Well, we all known those who have left the Catholic Church over the years, and there are many factors involved in the persons' reasons and choice.
Even trying to figure it out can bring us to dwell upon the externals. Yet there is a reality occurring, and whether in the time of John of the Cross or of the early Church or of our time period now, it seems to come down to love. Love in His Love, or not so much love in His Love.
We are in love of Christ or not so much, and we love God in Himself or love a bit more the temporal aspects of the Church, and in some cases love the temporal aspects of the world. And there are gradations of these aspects of love.
But love of God in Himself, loving God above all else and loving others as God loves--remaining in His love: this is the command of Jesus, given to us to follow and live, always, in all circumstances.
We do love aspects of the world, but it is through the love of God that this is possible and keeps the love as outflow of God's love, not our notion or expression of love--but a love that flows from God. We are in God, and He is in us. Jesus says in so many ways: Remain in My love.
Remaining in His love includes remaining in His Living Word. It includes remaining in His Real Presence, also, and this includes receiving His Body and Blood. Yet there is the grace of God involved and our own choosing, to love God above all things and to love others as God loves.
We must get ourselves out of the way and cease our desire to live in and place our minds and hearts and bodies into other considerations, the laws of minds which tend to be rooted in the externals.
I suppose some personalities are more inclined to the externals, or it can be a habit or was instilled in childhood or such. To love God above all things and to love others as God loves is not on the same trajectory as loving laws of minds and being caught up in externals. Remaining in Christ's love alters a soul's life and existence, here and eternally.
Pray to remain in His Love. Desire to love God above all things and to love others as God loves. God loves in and through and with us, thus. Quite the process, but there is a turning point of grace that He provides once we begin to let go of ourselves.
I suppose, of course, that loving God above all things includes the things that we people have deemed as necessary, such as the early Church began deeming certain rituals or trends as necessary. Laws of minds develop from minds. The law of God is of God Who Is Love.
"Remain in My Love" Jesus tells us in His Word and life example. There are mystics and saints who learned obedience through suffering, to love, to love to learn to love in His love. We do have many examples, thus.