It’s no secret that Catholics in the 21st century are often confused and frustrated by the dismal situation in their Church.
With the clergy sexual abuse scandal, high-ranking prelates participating in drug-fueled orgies, mortal sin and sacrilege being normalized, and now the apparent selling out of faithful Chinese Catholics to their atheistic, mass-murdering persecutors by the Vatican itself, it’s no wonder that good Catholics are asking themselves what they can do to maintain their faith in such a world turned upside down.
While I’m admittedly not a priest or a member of any religious order and therefore am not trained to dispense spiritual advice, I can say what has helped me to weather this storm so far, and that is prayer.
Fourteen years ago when I was heading off to my freshman year of college at a non-Catholic institution, my dad gave me some sage advice that has proven very effective ever since that time. “Say your Catholic prayers every day,” he told me, “or you will lose your faith.”
Prayer seems like such a simple thing, but I really do think it is the key to why I’m still a practicing Catholic today. Over the years I’ve certainly had my share of struggles, but prayer—especially the praying of the Rosary—has served as a refuge for me, even when it didn’t always feel helpful at the time.
By contrast, the Catholics I know who’ve lost their faith have all begun by neglecting their Catholic prayers. I’ve had several conversations with people who claimed they were once “devout Catholics,” by which the majority of them mean that they went to Mass most Sundays and to confession at least once a year.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but doing these things doesn’t make you a “devout Catholic.” Rather these checklist items are the bare minimum you must do in order for you to be able to call yourself Catholic at all. If you want to grow in your faith and maintain your faith through these tumultuous times, you need to do a little more than squeak by. You need to fast. You need to make sacrifices. Most of all, you need to pray.
When Our Lord was suffering His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, He knew that the apostles would soon be scandalized by His passion and ignominious death. He knew that they would be tempted to lose their faith in Him. What did He tell them to do? “Watch ye, and pray,” he admonished them, “that ye enter not into temptation.”
Satan knows that prayer serves both as an offensive weapon and as our armor in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. He would like nothing more than to see us gradually become discouraged and lay aside our martial accoutrements. He knows that if he can get us to begin neglecting our prayers, he will later be able to exploit the weak points we create in our armor and neutralize us as an effective fighting force.
What then is the answer to the difficulties we face as individuals and as a Church? The answer is to pray. And if we are tempted to despair and to give up the fight, the answer is to pray even harder, remembering what St. Padre Pio once said: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
It’s all but impossible to deny that we live in very troubling times, but we should always keep in mind that it’s out of such times that the greatest saints arise. While it can perhaps be tempting to give up the fight, give up on the Church, and give up on society in general, we need to keep in mind that it’s our job—with the grace of God—to be those saints.