July 2021 Allocutio
“Blessed is she who believed!”
Fr. Paul Churchill
The tide comes in and the tide goes out. But it will come in again. And when the tide is out on one side of the planet it is in elsewhere. This image comes to my mind as I think how in certain parts of the world faith and religion seem to have vanished while in others there seems to be a flourishing. And with it there is another image that Christ used of people: sheep. So many just go with the flow of the moment.
But if I may come back to the image of the coast. Have you ever seen the rocks and cluster of rocks that are scattered along coasts? They have a great value. They withstand storms and tides but also act as markers for those who have been swept out by the tide or just followed it out. They also help you know whether the tide is coming in or out.
We legionaries are called to have a faith that is firm and immovable as a rock. I have been struck by so many who, in parts of the world, have gone with the tide of disaffection with religion and no longer practice but who will still say, “Will you pray for me?” Or the Anglican vicar who once said to me that they needed the Catholic Church to stay up, almost as if their church depended on its strength. And I have sensed that in many of the other churches not in communion with Rome that they still look to Rome, to the See of Peter, for clarity on issues for at least reassurance.
But even at a more local level people need those who stay faithful and provide an outstanding example. They may drift off with an outgoing tide but deep down they know they need God and the values and hope of the Church. So those who remain faithful, not in a loud demonstrative way but in a gentle quiet but persevering solid way, are reassurances to those others who may have lost some confidence or are afraid of losing face with friends, or who may just be like that man who once said to me, “To be honest father, I’m lazy!”
We use the phrase, “a faith, firm and immovable as a rock”. And now I come to our leader in faith, no not Peter, but Our Lady. “Blessed is she who believed!” She stayed to that bitter end when her Son drew his last breadth on the Cross and expired. Many at that execution went home beating their breasts (Lk 23:48). Perhaps some were saying, “Pity. He seemed a good man. Ah well, we just have to move on.” Or what of those disheartened disciples who said to the One they did not recognise, “Our hope had been that he was the one who would redeem us” (Lk 24:21). But Mary’s faith told her that God was in charge and that her Son had done his will and that therefore all would be well, that all manner of things would be well. So while all the signs around her were negative, not just with her son dead but his disciples scattered and shattered, she just knew that God was God.
St. Paul could see what would happen down the road and he speaks of a time when people will abandon sound teaching and accumulate teachers to suit their own likings and will wander into myths rather than the truth (2 Tim 4). It is in that context that he spoke of witnessing “in season and out of season”. In some parts of the world today we seem to be out of season. But we must still witness and be bright lights in a seemingly growing darkness. And not just because God wants it, or because we are counter cultural, or just love swimming against the tide, but because we do good for those who are drifting out on the tide.
Recently in Ireland we had the case of a young teenager who went adrift on a small inflatable raft. A massive search was launched. But as time wore on and hoped faded one fisherman, having gauged the winds and tides, felt that if she was anywhere she might be found near a certain buoy. That is where she was found, clinging to it. When people are adrift they need firm anchors to hold them. That is our task. To be firm and reliable and waiting to help that lost soul.
I don’t think Our Lord or St. Peter will be too aggrieved if I return to Our Lady whose faith is our anchor, if I may so put it, and apply to her as the paradigm example that phrase “A faith, firm and immovable as a rock”. Let us ask her help so that no matter what storms, nor the subtlety of an outgoing tide, we will stay like a rock which neither storms or wind can demolish (Mt 7:25).
Let me end with this thought. The going out of the tide always ends. There is a period in which it is hard to see if the tide is still going out or on the turn or coming back it. This is particularly hard for those down at sea level and can catch people out. But those perched on a rock are in a better position to note the change and make provision. Another reason to stay close to Mary and build our faith up with her help.