“Who’s that baby?” my eldest asked.
I glanced over at my parents’ photo album. It was me, four months old, immersed in a baptismal font. The young priest smiled through his mustache, frozen in the posture of pouring water over my head.
The picture has always been bittersweet for me because I was baptized, made a daughter of God, brought into the life of the Trinity, by a man who eventually gave up the ministerial priesthood and left the Church over disagreements on sexual ethics.
As Catholics, we are very familiar with the weak humanity of our priests. But God works through them despite their failings, and through the Sacrament of Holy Orders offers them the unique grace to live as holy priests.
Today’s Gospel tells of Christ choosing Saint Peter, a man with many failings, as the first pope, giving him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven (see Matthew 16:19). Jesus chose to build His Church on the man whom He knew would often fail Him—sleeping instead of praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:43), denying the Lord three times during His Passion (see Matthew 26:69-75), wavering on his own papal decision from the Council of Jerusalem (see Galatians 2:11-14).
This weak man, who self-acclaimed his sinfulness at his own calling at Lake Galilee (see Luke 5:8), was chosen to carry the keys of the Kingdom. And his weakness gives me hope. If God can build His Church on a man like Saint Peter who loved deeply, failed often, and always repented, we can be certain that after 2000 years God will continue to be true to His promise.
Even though priests sin, and bishops sometimes fail to say the right thing, or popes do not live saintly lives (as history shows us: quite often has been the case), our Church will still stand in Truth. Not because of human strength, but through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
So, dear sister, if you are struggling, confused, unsure of our Church, remember Christ’s promise that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:19).