Recently, in the past few years, I lost four priests who were near and dear to me: my uncle and Godfather (the inspiration for my priesthood), my spiritual director, my bishop, and my best friend. These four priests were more than just brothers in Christ, they were my lifeblood. During the many challenges of life, especially those unique to priesthood, these men were kindred spirits to me. Not only did we recognize together, the M.O. (Method of Operation) of Satan in today's world, but we were all in agreement as to the ways God was calling all of us, especially priests, to engage in a counter-offensive against the tactics of the devil.
By and large, we all knew it was incumbent upon us to do all we could to speak the truth, open and honestly, but to do so in the most loving way possible. The devil is trying to devour the faithful with his lies, and we all knew it, and we were all passionate about calling the devil out and leading the faithful to truth. More than anything, as shepherds, we all knew we were called, especially during the time we now live, to do all we could to assist the flock in coming to the place where they cry out, "My Lord and my God!"
Of course, the devil hates, more than anything, truth and reverence. Therefore, Satan works especially hard to destroy anyone who dares to thwart the devil's plan to mislead and confuse souls, as he works diligently to deaden the hearts of the faithful. If we get in his way, he will get busy to take us out. In many respects, this is the reason religious leaders recoil in their call to administer truth and reverence. They have come to understand just how vicious the devil can be, if we dare "go there."
I recall when Bishop Morlino first arrived in our diocese with his passion for "truth and reverence." The assaults on him, especially from those who held the levers of power and influence, were ferociously vicious. This did not deter this courageous bishop in any way. During this time, or whenever the attacks were turned on me, we stuck together in brotherly love.
So many times, I have been tempted to lose trust in God's providence. I mean, here I am, alone on the battlefield, I felt. My four closest "battle buddies" are no longer here. Not only do I miss them, but I feel like I could now be "easy pickins" for the devil to swoop in and take me out, without the security of knowing my battle buddies are right there, ready to in essence, call out, "I got your six" (I got your back).
I share this just to say that I can relate to all those who face devastating challenges in their lives. Yes, I can relate to those who are tempted to lose their trust in God's providence. Sometimes, we want to just say, "What the heck, God?!"
But I didn't say that. Instead, by God's grace, my hope has deepened during this challenging time. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit" (CCC 1817).
In my case, having lost my battle buddies, I'm thinking about the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness more than ever before. While my battle buddies are no longer here to support me in the flesh, my relationship with them has only deepened as I know they've "got my six" in an even more powerful way. They are my prayer warriors now! For example, I know we received an amazing new bishop, when it seemed inevitable we would not, only because Bishop Morlino interceded for us.
As we all know, we are facing challenges that are historic. How easy, and seemingly justifiable, it would be for all of us to despair as we lose our trust in God's providence. I choose not to, and I pray it is the same with you. Instead, my prayer has become even more fervent, my resolve to enter the fray against the devil's schemes has become more intensified, and my confidence in the power of God, versus my own power, has become stronger than ever.
I've come to understand that sticking with God and believing and trusting in His providence in challenging times is a lot like resistance training (lifting weights). With the power of God's grace, we "press against" these challenges, and our faith, hope, and love become even stronger. We must trust in God's providence during these storms of our lives and know He will carry us safely to shore. And know that, ultimately, heaven is going to be amazing!