Even with all the pain and sorrow in the Church currently, I still believe there is joy in our faith. Don’t get me wrong, I’m devastated each time a new accusation arises because it means there are more children and adults who have been abused and failed by this institution. Just a few weeks ago, our local bishop’s retirement was expedited due to an investigation of sexual harassment. As someone who walks with the poor and vulnerable every day, it’s not been easy to pray or attend Mass these last few months. In my work at Nazareth Farm, I find that most homeowners’ stories are filled with hardships and exploitation at the hands of authority or family members. And often, that authority is a political or church leader “preaching” the Good News—yet they don’t recognize their own sins. However, I’m trying to see goodness in the social justice advocates, support groups, openness, and new conversations that are leading the way to accountability.
I believe that those who are speaking out and demanding change are reading the Gospel with an honest, eager heart. They recognize their own sin and work to become better. They speak out against those who concern themselves with greed and wealth. They see that Jesus was preaching about love, unity, growth, right relationships, and so much more than what the world can offer. James warns that the rich and powerful will find themselves full of sorrow and without those things they have stored on earth. The hope in the Church today rests in those willing to work for change and live radically.
Sunday’s psalm sang, “the precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” As we continue to reconcile our own faith with society’s overwhelming desire for wealth, power, and recognition, I pray that we can find that joy which is ever-present.
Allyson Petry is the director of Nazareth Farm, a small, intentional Catholic community living and working in rural West Virginia. When not behind a desk, she enjoys joining her staff on home repair projects and visiting neighbors.