By: Caitlin Bootsma

The scandals hit this summer. Again. “What can the Church do to fix this?”, we thought.

We, along with the rest of the world’s Catholics, as well as non-Catholics, opined about how the institutional Church could be more transparent, be more accountable, and live up to Her own teachings.

All of these things are true. And yet.

If we truly want to see a renewal in our Church, an end to corruption, crimes perpetrated against children, and self-serving cover-ups, then it’s not just the institutional Church that needs to change. It’s us.

No, most of us have had little to nothing to do with the abuse and it’s subsequent cover-up. However, we know from Church history that it is not always (or even usually) the hierarchy of the Church that inspires a true reinvigoration of the Church, it’s the saints:

St. Benedict
St. Teresa of Avila
St. John of the Cross
St. Maximilian Kolbe
St. Therese of the Little Flower
St. Gianna Molla
Insert your favorite saint here

Christ tells us in the Gospel of Luke “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49). What a call!

What can we do to restore the Church in the face of corruption and scandal? We can actively pursue sainthood. And the more I thought about how to go about this, the more I realized that I actually didn’t need to think that hard about trying to holy. I didn’t need to come up with a new meme, start a group on Facebook, or come up with an entirely novel way of approaching the faith.

What I feel confident that the Holy Spirit would approve as a game plan is this: return to the basics.

The secret to imbuing the Church with holiness isn’t really that secret at all. Some preliminary ideas I had for my own life included:

  • Cut down on distractions so I have more time for prayer (for me, that meant saying sayonara to Facebook for the time being)
  • Find a regular time for spiritual reading (for me, that’s first thing in the morning, a few chapters of the Bible with my cup of coffee)
  • Anchor the day in prayer. We can’t all spend hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament each day, but we can consecrate our day by saying a prayer in the morning before starting work/school/family responsibilities; pray the Angelus at noon; say grace before meals, and examine our conscience before sleeping.
  • Pray the Rosary. In my case, this means praying it more with my young kids. Sometimes that’s just a decade, but that’s okay.
  • Practice Friday penance. Contrary to common belief, as Catholics we are still asked to give up meat on Friday or choose another penitential practice. What better way to unite our suffering Church to Christ, than to remember His Passion?
  • Almsgiving/charity. I’ve never heard of a saint that isn’t generous. Some of us have more financial means than others to give a lot of money, but we all have something to give. Perhaps it means giving up luxuries to give to others or perhaps we can give in the form of a meal for someone who is sick, clothing for a family in need, or time spent with the sick or lonely.
  • Recommit to Church community. Yes, our Church is broken. She is also the Bride of Christ. How can we draw closer to our Church community? Perhaps you can ask your pastor if there is a ministry that particularly needs assistance. Maybe you can commit to staying after Mass for 15 minutes each week to lend a listening ear to fellow parishioners. We can all definitely (as I recently was reminded at a conference) decide to pray for our priests more than we criticize them.
  • And (saving the best for last) we can increase our participation in the Sacraments. Sunday Mass is not just an obligation, it’s a privilege. If there is a way for you to make it to daily Mass, you won’t regret it. The Sacrament of Penance can be, admittedly, intimidating, but this is what all of us are called to — to humbly recognize our failings and resolve to avoid temptation in the future.

One thing we can know with certainty is that “the gates of hell will not prevail” against the Church, as Christ Himself told us. We may certainly be called to be St. Catherine of Sienas and raise our voices against sin the hierarchical Church. But we are also most definitely called, this year and our entire lives, to unite ourselves with Christ.

It can be easy to sit and wonder what we could possibly do. Lucky for us, the Church has given us many, many ways to grow in our spiritual lives including, and expanding well beyond, my list above.

Let’s get started.

All you holy men and women, pray for us.


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  1. You put the onus of renewal all on the parishioners and adherents of the faith.

    I suggest renewal is rightly placed on the institution — clean out the hierarchical house, defrock, condemn, open files to the public, admit wrong doing and poor leadership, rewrite canon law, stop hoarding money that serves only to increase the wealth of the institution, subsidize inner-city schools and parishes with the wealth, hand over financial controls to the laity, move bishops out of their manses so they live with and like their sheep, etc, etc, etc …

    The only onus on the laity is to demand the above and refuse monetary support until accomplished.


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