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May 11, 2014

After a Sunday Mass, a young boy suddenly announced to his mother, “Mom, I’ve decided to become a priest when I grow up.” The mother was very glad to hear it for she always worried about the shortage of priests and her parish always prayed for vocations.  “That’s good, but what made you decide that?”

The boy answered: “Mom, I have two reasons for that.  First, I don’t have to pay my due.  I have never seen the ushers pass the basket to the priest.  Second, I have to go to church on Sunday anyway; and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell at the people, than to sit and listen.”

Last Tuesday the Medicine Hat News had an article “UN panel compares Vatican’s global abuse scandal to torture.” That reminds me not too long ago one of the popular magazines had an image of the Pope holding his head in his hands, along with the words, “Can the Catholic Church Save Itself?” Obviously it referred to the terrible scandals that have filled the media the past few years. The question, “Can the Catholic Church Save Itself” remained in my mind for a long time.  My faith told me, “of course, NO.” Why? Because the Catholic Church belongs to Christ, not to itself. It’s up to Jesus to save his Church.  In this Sunday Gospel Jesus uses a comparison which makes that crystal clear. His Church is like a flock of sheep and he is the Shepherd.  Among farm animals sheep are the most helpless, on their own.Farm sheep cannot survive by themselves and the Church cannot exist without its shepherd, the Lord Jesus.

 Some told me the recent scandals have tried their faith that they were thinking of leaving the church. In one case I knew the person well enough to say, “Come on, girl, you weren’t doing so great before the scandals broke out, were you?” But most of the time I have limited myself to pointing out that Jesus chose human beings, not angels, to visibly shepherd his Church. We can – and should – install the best safeguards possible, especially to protect children and teenagers. But ultimately it depends on the human shepherds who oversee the flock. What a heavy responsibility they have!

The first person to shepherd the Church in Jesus' name had this to say: “Repent…every one of you.” (Acts 2:38) The only way we can pass through the gate and enter the sheepfold is not by denouncing others, but by humbly acknowledging our own offenses.

This weekend, the Church sets aside to pray for vocations, especially vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life.  We pray for vocations every Sunday before Mass.   Some of you have known that prayer by heart now.  Amidst scandals, can anyone have the courage to join the priesthood and religious life?  Can any priest have the strength to promote vocations?  Did Jesus make a mistake when he chose humans to carry on his mission?  The Church of Jesus has gone through the dark age before; and nothing can assure that the Church will not go through it again; but one thing we should keep in mind: the word of the Risen Lord to his Church’s first human shepherd: “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build MY Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Mt: 16: 18).