The 7 Keys to Putting Out the Fire: Priest Who Wrote Viral Post Offers His Best Crack at a Solution

by -
Ivan Dimitrov, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

I recently posted how the Church is on fire and some of the telltale signs of such a fire.

I purposely did not give solutions. That would be done after a few days reaction time. I did not think the post would garner anywhere near the attention it did. I am hoping this post gets a greater response.

I would like to say I have great solutions. As a pastor, I realize that priests and bishops have a greater ability to afford change. For example, as a pastor, having acknowledged the poor state of catechesis for decades affords me the opportunity to examine various series and change what is used in my schools and other venues of education in the parish. I have the freedom to bring back a sense of transcendence to Mass by actually doing what the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says. These fall under the responsibilities of the pastor or bishop.

I know that the laity feel many times helpless in their response to what they see. I know it is easy to become frustrated, angry, or even give in to lukewarmness in the face of such things. But as with the clergy, we must persevere to do what is right. Our collective job is put out the fire, not pour fuel on it.

The best I can do (not in lieu of something greater) is beg for the use of virtue of our collective response. It is easy to get caught up in the visceral emotions of the moment. It is easier to diagnose than cure. The lack of virtue on another person’s part cannot become justification for our own lack of virtue. The sin of another cannot become justification for our own sin.

Use prudence in how we respond! Prudence helps us see long term effects and keeps us from adding fuel to the flames. It tells us to seek truth and not speculation. Prudence moves us beyond the nefarious details and into a place to find virtue based solutions.

Use justice in how we respond! Great evil has been done. But the antidote is found in giving the parties what is needed. To those who have suffered, we must reach out in compassion. To those responsible for the suffering, we must make sure our response is not driven by vengeance. Vengeance only serves to poison all parties involved.

Use temperance in how respond! Much of what we suffer in the Church comes from a lack of temperance; that is, self-control. Temperance helps us to moderate our anger and to develop solutions that bring conversion.

Use fortitude in how we respond! Courage will be necessary as many solutions will not be well liked. The world is quite happy when we look like them, act like them, and teach like them. It will not like a change of heart. We fight against demonic powers as well. Standing tall in obedience , not jumping on a torch and pitchfork bandwagon, and not letting things get brushed under the rug or perpetuated will take great stamina and perseverance.

Use hope in how we respond! If we act as if all is lost, we lose. If we act as if the power of God is not enough, we lose. If we act as if our willingness to stand tall is useless, we lose. We must understand that in the end, God triumphs. Compromise with the world is a sign of surrender, a spiritual white flag, in the face of what seeks our destruction. WE might lose battles, but we win the war. We have to go into this reform with that I mind.

Use faith in how we respond! In the face of the fire that rages, we cannot abandon the teachings of Christ in how we answer. The Body of Christ is bigger than any one person or group of persons. The truth of the Gospel is the truth of the Gospel regardless of the faults of her ministers. We must hold fast to the teachings of Christ and His Church as we forge ahead.

Finally, we must use love in how we respond! Love seeks the good of the other. It seeks the good of the victim, it seeks the redemption of the perpetrator. It does not condone evil, but does not rejoice in another person’s downfall. Whatever lies on the other side of the fire being put out, we can be assured that it will rage again furiously if the love of God and our brothers and sisters is not at the core of the response.

Rage and anger are not enough. Left their own devices, they can and will lead us into mortal sin. Diagnosis of the fire and putting out the fire go hand and hand. Prayer is our jumping off point, but it must followed through in our actions.

The Church is on fire and has been most of her existence. We either are holding the matches to that fire or have a water hose ready to put it out.

What side do we want to be on?

Originally posted on Facebook

[See also: The American Church Is on Fire and Has Been for Decades: A Priest Writes What He Really Thinks]

[See also: This Powerful Meme Tells the Hard Truth About Mistreatment of the Eucharist in Our Parishes]

Fr. Bill Peckman
Fr. Bill Peckman is the pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Boonville, MO and St. Joseph Parish in Fayette, MO.