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A Leaven In The World… The Swamp And The Church: Souls In The Balance

July 30, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

There is a marsh or swamp extending north from Mill Creek which, together with the Patuxent River, forms a sort of peninsula around our village of Benedict, at the head of which is situated our little parish church of St. Francis de Sales. One might never think the swamp lurks because, for the most part, it is invisible unless one were to make an effort to go back into the woods and search among the trees and weeds.
Before long, no doubt, one would step into its muck, which in our area is very soft and quickly forms a suction around the feet. It can be dangerous if one falls into it. Swimming is ineffective to save one, no matter how much water, if one is decisively stuck in the muck which is very much like quicksand. This is an ever-present threat hidden, dirty and dangerous, beneath a beguilingly and beautiful placid body of water.
The Mill Creek, separated from our church yard on the west by a road named for it, and its surrounding marshy wasteland populated with trees and shrubs, came very much to the fore of our thoughts last week as record rainfall saturated the ground and began to rise above the usual tideline. For a second time in one week the waters rose above the marsh and flooded the road, completely submerging it.
The first sign of trouble was the failure of one of the rectory sump pumps. Water began to spill out overnight on the basement floor, as I groggily discovered before Mass one morning. A seminarian and our parish liturgy director helped me as we attempted to remove the water at first with a vacuum. More powerful means of help came soon after through the loan of an electric portable pump by the kindness of a parishioner.
After the others left I manned my “damage control station” singlehandedly, pumping the water accumulated in the sump every few minutes for most of the day, after breaking a pane of glass in a basement window in order to hose the water out of the building and onto the lawn. In the evening help came on in the form of a parishioner-plumber and we replaced both sump pumps. As water continues to seep in through the walls and drain over the floor toward the sumps, we pray the pumps will keep up with the surge.
Next up for inspection was the church basement where it appeared the pump had failed. Water had begun accumulating over the floor. A couple of turns with the hand-held pump and a wait to clean out the sump and test the permanent pump again was the plan for the following day. Parishioners discovered the next day that over a foot of water had accumulated in the stairwell outside the basement by afternoon. The swamp waters on one side of the church were threatening to join the river less than a mile away on the other side. The age-old struggle against nature’s powerful forces had brought its latest iteration to our little town.
I galvanized the available forces from the parish over long distance through text communications, as I was away on an overnight. I am truly thankful to these parishioners who showed up in force that night with energy, ingenuity, and auxiliary equipment to pump over a foot of water out of the church basement and install a new sump pump. We are blessed with a parish family that truly loves the Lord and one another.
Our story is that of the Church in microcosm. Water is good, created by God to sustain our lives, wash us, and confer Baptism. But water can become brackish and even poisonous under certain conditions. Not flowing free and clear, but turgid and still, the life sustainer goes bad, harboring organisms and germs that are harmful. Water can also overwhelm, as it threatens our parish buildings in these days, to overcome the limited powers of the sump pumps which attempt to keep up with the increasing storm surge.
But, as I reminded our stalwart parishioners who came to the rescue, a human life is of infinitely greater value than a boiler unit which warms us in winter. Just as they had to observe safety considerations and proceed cautiously, even being willing to sacrifice property in defense of life, so must we do in our journey of faith. The Church exists to save souls, and no matter how sullied her members or even bishops become, no matter how the treacherous muck and flood threatens, our faith must remain strong.
Children and young people, including seminarians and priests, were subjected to dangerous and evil sins and crimes by men charged with protecting them and their salvation. The muck of the swamp had risen very high in the Church to the chancery halls and living quarters of prelates, fed by the waters of denial, cover-up, and mutual protection.
As continued denial of any knowledge of the cardinal sins of Theodore McCarrick on the part of his brother bishops and cardinals meets unceasing calls for honest appraisal and investigation, the floodwaters threatening souls will continue to rise around the temporal structure of the Church. Many dioceses have already declared bankruptcy. If an honest and forthcoming spirit does not take over within the U.S. episcopacy, the beautiful apartments for personal use of prelates, hidden on the upper stories of downtown buildings and other places, among other structures, may be next. It can all be taken away.
Michael Brendan Dougherty in National Review and Matthew Schmitz in First Things are among the prominent voices calling for a change in business as usual. They are among increasing numbers of Catholics in public life who are demanding a thorough investigation of everyone who knew Cardinal McCarrick, served as his auxiliaries in D.C., or shared living quarters with him in the apartment over Our Lady of the Americas in the District.
They are tracking down information and people who may have known him where he lived in seminary buildings after his retirement. These efforts have so far met with denials from Kevin Cardinal Farrell in Rome and Sean Cardinal O’Malley, the Pope’s point man for cleaning the homosexual/pedophilia.
If the mutual protection society within the USCCB does not return quickly to a priority for the faith and the salvation of souls — instead of distractions like Mass on the border of Catholic Mexico which already has the Mass and the Church — more worldly structures and assets will be swept away in the floodwaters of anger.
Structures and the money that supports them come and go. Souls are forever.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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