Category Archives: Protection of Youth

“My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds With the Help of the Saints” by Dawn Eden (Goldstein), Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, © 2012

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I am reading the above book – surprise.  Powerful.  Profound.  Truthful. Wrenching.  Joyful.  Hopeful.  Haunting.

Dawn Eden, raised Jewish, describes how in her own journey the lives of the saints have given her hope and aided her spiritual healing after childhood sexual abuse. According to the CDC, one in four American women and one in six American men report having been sexually abused during childhood.  “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints” is a wonderful resource.  Dawn is studying for her doctorate in theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.  The world is a small place.  This book provides a much-needed resource for spiritual healing from the isolating effects of these wounds. Dawn gives an excellent account of the understanding of Christian suffering.

In my too rare and too few privileged moments with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, I have struggled to come to terms with their personal tragedy and the continuing communal tragedy within the Church.  I realize I will never understand their suffering in the way they do.  They lived and live it.

Pope Benedict XVI in his “Letter to the Catholics of Ireland”, 3/19/10, stated “…(we) have obscured the light of Gospel to a degree not even centuries of persecution have succeeded in doing.”  How true.  We continue to do so.  Kyrie Eleison.

“This failure to protect a child’s innocence reverberates throughout a victim’s entire life. In my knowledge, a victim of sexual abuse often struggles, even as an adult, to conquer the relentless temptations of self-condemnation.”
-Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, S.V., Sisters of Life, Psychololgist & Author of the Forward for the book. Christe Eleison.

Dawn writes, truly, “I share the anger and grief (ed: and outrage and shame and humiliation and disorientation and profound, painful doubts & fresh disillusionment, cynicism budding anew, the deceptive whispers of the Enemy) of my fellow Catholics over those who have betrayed their sacred office.”  Just like Judas, with a “kiss”, betraying the Body of Christ.

I found Dawn’s reflections on St Ignatius of Loyola particularly poignant. Anyone familiar with Jesuit spirituality will have encountered the Suscipe.

“Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem. Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud Quidquam ultra posco.  Amen.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own, You have given to me; to you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only Your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”

In her book, Dawn poses the “taking of one’s memory” not as a surrender of something good and valuable as a sacrifice or oblation, but, rather, the taking of memory by God as a balm, a salve, a healing compassion for those who have suffered trauma.

And of St Sebastian, Dawn writes, “Artists typically depict him shot through with arrows. The image is deceptive, for the assault on him by the Emperor Diocletian’s archers is not the most interesting part of his story. The most interesting part is that he survived.”

Dawn does an excellent job of comparing the stigmata, even “invisible stigmata”, experienced by some of the saints to the ongoing trauma suffered by survivors of childhood sexual abuse at their most vulnerable and innocent stage of life.  Heart of Jesus, be the comfort of those afflicted and suffering.  Kyrie Eleison.

I highly recommend this book.  Please pray for those who have suffered, do suffer, and will suffer.  Be there for them.  Believe them.

As “eloquent icons of innocence”, as so described by the Fathers of the Early Church, and recall Heaven can see all our actions through eyes of an icon, “maxima debetur puero reverentia”. (Mt 19:14/Mk 10:14)

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
-Frederick Douglas

“God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with.”
-Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 39, quoting the ancient maxim.

Love,
Matthew
Awardee, John Paul the Great Scholarship, (not normally given to 1st yr graduate students!) Ave Maria University.

Father’s Day – acts of love & grace…

Germany, Bavaria, Munich, Son (2-3 Years) kissing his father, smiling

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-by Br. Joseph-Anthony Kress, O.P.

“The summer before I entered religious life my cousin gave birth to her first child, Owen. Later that summer the proud mother hosted a party at which the main pastime was holding baby Owen. As everyone took his or her turn with the newborn, I noticed something astonishing: all of the men held him in precisely the same way, and all of the women in another.

As my sisters, my aunt, and my cousin held Owen, I noticed that each held him in both of her arms, allowing him to lie horizontally on his back. When it came time for the men to hold him, we took a different approach: we each held Owen in a vertical posture, with his body parallel to our own and having him rest on our chest. Without exception, each of the men instinctively held Owen in this position.

As I reflected on this event, I realized that the manner in which a man holds a child manifests something about his role as a father. A man holds an infant in a way that raises the child up to his own perspective. A father does this as if to say, “Son, you are now a part of this world. I will teach you how to navigate its paths.”

A father is responsible for much more than providing food and shelter, for he also has a vital role in educating children in the faith and how to live uprightly in the world.  The Second Vatican council states explicitly that “the active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation” (Gaudium et Spes 52:1).  This “active presence” of the father begins with his leading of the family. If the father is a leader in the home, then the Catechism’s statement, “the home is the first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment,” has particular import for men (CCC 1657).

In order to navigate the paths of human life one has to address the
totality of the human person. Human flourishing is accomplished only when the body and soul are integrated, and not separated. A man is not more authentically masculine when he focuses only on the physical things of the world. Rather, he denies part of his masculinity because he ignores part of his humanity. A man neglects one of his primary roles as a father if he fails to teach his children the importance of the spiritual life. This does not mean that he must be a spiritual master and write brilliant theological treatises. But what he is called to do is to witness to the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ, and love as Christ loves (cf. Ephesians 5:25).

Even if a man tries to distract himself from this task it still remains as an intrinsic part of who he is. It is so innate in him that the very
manner in which he holds a child testifies to it. The task of leading the family, or the domestic church as the Catechism calls it (CCC 1655), has been entrusted to men. Again, the home is the “first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment.” In other words, it is the foundation on which society is built. If a father desires to have an effect on the world and make it a better place for his family, he must be a man devoted to the spiritual and human development of each member of his “domestic church.” He cannot give what he does not have, and he cannot teach what he does not know. Thus, he must be a man who is firm in his own faith in Jesus Christ.

We learn from the Divine Teacher how to teach those around us. The greatest act of teaching was the crucifixion on Mount Calvary, when He taught us what an act of love looks like. Christ gave His life for us so that we may have life eternal, and our efforts to imitate His act of love can be manifest in the most menial of our daily tasks. The constant changing of diapers, driving the kids to soccer practice, cooking dinner, working long hours at the office, setting time aside for prayer, or even simply laying an infant tenderly in his bed, can be transformed by grace into acts of love.

Acts of love are not reserved to things that are difficult; they may also be the joyous things in our life: playing catch, attending Mass, family vacations, or a well-executed surprise anniversary party. The love that animates these acts is the same that was poured forth from the cross. Our faith is not empty and it surely is not the mere uttering of creedal statements. When the spiritual is joined with the physical, the fullness of the human person is engaged, and faith is shown to be authentic. As the Letter to James says, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:17).”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 15 – St Germaine Cousin of Pibrac, France (1579-1601), Patroness of the Disabled & Abused

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Daughter of Laurent Cousin, a farm worker, and Marie Laroche, who died while Germaine was an infant. A sickly child, Germaine suffered from scrofula, which is tuberculosis of the skin.  She was afflicted with unsightly inflammation of the lymph nodes in her neck usually contracted from unpasteurized milk from infected cows, and her right hand was deformed.

Ignored by her father and abused by her step-family, she was often forced to sleep in the stable or in a cupboard under the stairs, was fed on scraps, beaten or scalded with hot water for misdeeds, real or imagined.

At age nine Germaine was put to work as a shepherdess, where she spent much time praying, sometimes using a rosary she made from a knotted string. She refused to miss Mass, and if she heard the bell announcing services, she set her crook and her distaff in the ground, declared her flock to be under the care of her guardian angel , and went to church; her sheep were unharmed during her absences. It is reported that once she crossed the raging Courbet River by walking over the waters so she could get to church.

st__germaine_cousin_icon_by_theophilia-da1e8j9

Germaine was so poor it is hard to imagine she would be able to help
others, but she was always ready to try, especially children whom she gathered in the fields to teach a simple catechism and share the little food she had. The locals laughed at her religious devotion, and called her ‘the little bigot’.

Once in winter, her stepmother, Hortense, accused her of stealing bread by hiding it in her apron, and threatened to beat her with a stick. Germaine opened her apron, and summer flowers tumbled out. Her parents and neighbors were awed by the obvious miracle, and began to treat her as a holy person. Her parents invited her to rejoin the household, but Germaine chose to live as she had.

La Mort de Sainte-Germaine ( Comte Raoul. de Pibrac ) 1910 (Salon de Paris)
La Mort de Sainte-Germaine ( Comte Raoul. de Pibrac ) 1910 (Salon de Paris)

The-Death-Of-Germaine-Cousin-1579-1601-The-Virgin-Of-Pibrac
-“The Death of Germaine Cousin, 1579-1601, the Virgin of Pibrac”, by Alexandre Grellet

In 1601 she was found dead on her straw pallet under the stairs, and she was buried in the Church of Pibrac opposite the pulpit. When accidentally exhumed in 1644 during a renovation, her body was found incorrupt. In 1793 the casket was desecrated by an anti-Catholic tinsmith named Toulza, who with three accomplices took out the remains and buried them in the sacristy, throwing quick-lime and water on them. After the French Revolution, her body was found to be still intact save where the quick-lime had done its work.

Documents attest to more than 400 miracles or extraordinary graces received through the intervention of Saint Germain. They include cures of every kind (of blindness, both congenital and resulting from disease, of hip and of spinal disease), and the multiplication of food for the distressed community of the Good Shepherd at Bourges, France in 1845.

Eglise Sainte-Germaine Statue par Alexandre Falguière 1877
Eglise Sainte-Germaine Statue par Alexandre Falguière 1877

“Dear God, please don’t let me be too hungry or too thirsty. Help me to please my mother. And help me to please You.” – prayer of Saint Germaine

Chasse_de_Sainte-Germaine
-reliquary of St Germaine

O Saint Germaine, look down from Heaven and intercede for the many abused children in our world. Help them to sanctify these sufferings. Strengthen children who suffer the effects of living in broken families. Protect those children who have been abandoned by their parents and live in the streets. Beg God’s mercy on the parents and adults who abuse children.  Intercede for handicapped children and their parents.

Saint Germaine, you who suffered neglect and abuse so patiently, pray for us. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Vatican’s sex abuse prosecutor says church must amputate to heal

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by John L Allen Jr on May. 29, 2010
NCR Today

When the innocence of children is “trampled upon, broken, sullied, abused, and destroyed,” then “the earth becomes arid and the whole world sad,” the Vatican’s top sexual abuse prosecutor said this morning in Rome.

Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna indirectly critiqued the clerical culture in which abuser priests were routinely given second chances.

Christian friendship, Scicluna said, is “submitted to the law of God,” so if a member of the church is an “occasion of sin,” then a believer “has no other choice … but to cut this tie.”

Weeding out abusers, Scicluna implied, is a form of “divine surgery” intended to save the body by amputating a diseased part.

Scicluna, a Maltese priest who serves as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke as part of a service of reparation for abuse committed by priests and for healing within the church organized by students at Rome’s pontifical institutions. The service took place this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Altar of the Chair of Peter.

Scicluna delivered a homily for the service. Widely considered the Vatican’s top expert on the sexual abuse crisis, Scicluna rarely speaks in public – making his comments this morning all the more significant.

Tapped by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, today Pope Benedict XVI, to handle the canonical response to charges of sexual abuse against priests, Scicluna is widely seen as the architect of the more aggressive approach to the crisis which emerged in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after 2001.

This morning, Scicluna delivered a largely spiritual meditation on the relationship between Jesus and children, saying that “the church, the spouse of Jesus, has always had a special care and solicitude for children and the weak.”

According to the fathers of the church, Scicluna said, a child was “the eloquent icon of innocence.”

In that light, Scicluna argued, destroying the innocence of a child makes the entire earth “arid” and “sad.”

Quoting St. Gregory the Great, Scicluna suggested that such sins are especially heinous when committed by priests.

“After having taken a profession of holiness, anyone who destroys others through words or deed would have been better off if their misdeeds had caused them to die in secular dress, rather than, through their holy office, being imposed as an example for others in their sins. Without doubt, if they had fallen all by themselves, their suffering in Hell would be easier to bear.”

Scicluna contrasted the innocence of children with arrogance and careerism in the church.

“How many sins in the church [have happened] because of arrogance, insatiable ambition, abuse of power and injustices committed by those who abuse their ministry to advance their career?”, Scicluna asked.

He denounced the “futile and wretched motives of vainglory.”

The remedy to such scandals offered by God as the “Divine Surgeon,” according to Scicluna, is to “cut out [disease] in order to heal,” and to “amputate in order to restore health.”

Beyond such drastic measures, Scicluna also proposed the “preventive medicine” of solid formation for future priests, calling on them to be on fire with the faith, making them salt and light for the world.

This morning’s service of reparation included an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a period of guided prayer meditation led by Scicluna, and concluded with a solemn benediction. Students who organized the event said they decided to do so “in the wake of the media attention given in recent months to abuses perpetrated by priests, and in response to the Holy Father’s call to penance in his Letter to Ireland (http://www.zenit.org/article-28701?l=english).”

Jul 17, 2011 – Homily of the Most Rev Diarmud Martin, Archbishop of Dublin & Primate of Ireland

As an activist for the protection of children, I have spent the last three years reading and hearing the unreadable and the un-hearable.  I will wish I had not read it, or heard it until I die.  I can understand how someone unfamiliar with the subject would not understand.  Tragically, ignorance does not heal the afflicted.  I have observed how different countries have responded.  Archbishop Martin, it is my strong opinion, has responded in a more open, honest and healthy way than the Church in the US continues to do so.

I still meet and speak with the ordained here in the US who “don’t get it”.  They should spend more time with the survivors of clerical sexual abuse, if those survivors could tolerate their presence.  I can tell you from much personal experience, those survivors are a blessing to me.  They reflect God to me, more than defensive denial or minimization ever could.

We must relearn the words and the meaning of the words as Catholic Christians, “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”.  Every one of us.  And beg the mercy of God and the forgiveness of survivors of offenses by the Church.  The Lord is a just judge. (Psalm 7, etc.)  We must also remember the judgment of the Lord will be harsher upon those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders, therefore a sacrament most grave.

I strongly encourage you to read the article in its entirety:

 
“Only a few months ago, here in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral, we celebrated a liturgy of lament and repentance reflecting on the shattering facts regarding the wide-ranging abuse of children by priests and religious in this diocese and about the manner in which the Church in this diocese responded to that abuse.It was for me a moment of hope. The liturgy had been prepared by survivors of abuse and survivors took part in the carrying out of the liturgy. Courageously, men and women who had been abused spoke out about their hurt and their hopes.

It was a moment which I know brought healing to many and gave them renewed strength in themselves and some sense of renewed hope in the Church which had not believed them or had even betrayed them. At that liturgy I saw many faces that I knew in tears; I watched others whose names I will never know sit alone in silence and sadness.My first thoughts on reading the Cloyne report went back to that liturgy and to those who organized it and took part in it. I asked myself: what are they thinking today? Are they asking themselves if that entire liturgy was just an empty show? Were they being used just to boost the image of the Church? Were their renewed hopes just another illusion about a Church which seems unable to reform itself? Was their hurt just being further compounded?

As I reflected, the first emotion that came to me was one of anger:

• anger at what had happened in the diocese of Cloyne and at response – or non-response – that was made to children whose lives had been ruptured by abuse;
• anger at the fact that children had been put at risk well after agreed guidelines were in place which were approved by all the Irish bishops;
• anger at how thousands of men and women in this diocese of Dublin must feel, who have invested time and training to ensure that the Church they love and hope can be different would truly be a safe place for children;
• anger at the fact that there were in Cloyne – and perhaps elsewhere – individuals who placed their own views above the safeguarding of children, and seemingly without any second thought placed themselves outside and above the regime of safeguarding to which their diocese and the Irish bishops had committed themselves.

Paradoxically, appealing somehow to their own interpretation of Canon Law they had put themselves even above and beyond the norms which the current Pope himself has promulgated for the entire Church.

Some years ago I was criticized in some Church circles for speaking of strong forces still present in the Church which “would prefer that the truth did not emerge”. “There are signs”, I said, “of subconscious denial on the part of many about the extent of the abuse which occurred within the Church of Jesus Christ in Ireland and how it was covered up. There are other signs of rejection of a sense of responsibility for what had happened. There are worrying signs that despite solid regulations and norms these are not being followed with the rigour required”.

Much has, thank God, been undertaken within the Catholic Church to address the facts of the past and to improve safeguarding procedures. The Catholic Church in Ireland is a much safer place today than it was even in the recent past.

Much is being said, on the other hand, that despite words the Church has not learned the lessons. Both statements are true. At our liturgy of lament and reconciliation I stressed that that event was only a first step. “It would be easy for all of us”, I said, ”to go away this afternoon somehow feeling good but feeling also ‘that is that now’, ‘it’s over’, ‘now we can get back to normal’”. I repeat once again what I said on that occasion “The Church can never rest until the day in which the last victim has found his or her peace and he or she can rejoice in being fully the person that God in his plan wants them to be”.

That is a challenge not just for bishops and Church leaders. It is a challenge for all. Obviously in this diocese it is a challenge to me personally. I know my own inadequacies and I do not wish to present myself as being better or more expert than anyone else. Like all of us, I need to have the courage to address my responsibilities with the utmost honesty day by day.

All of us need to have in place systems of verification and review which help us to identify mistakes made or areas where more can be done or things can be done better. We need to continue to build a cooperative climate where all the institutions of the Church work in a constructive way together and with the institutions of the State, which bears the primary responsibility for child safeguarding in the country.

I thank the priests and lay persons in this diocese who have committed themselves to implementing our child safeguarding policies and I appeal to them not to be become frustrated or indifferent. The Church needs you.

The children who frequent our Churches need you. Parents need to be reassured by your presence. Public recognition is due to the mobilisation within the Church of so many volunteers who are in the front line in our parishes and organizations in child safeguarding.Those priests who have ministered untarnished and generously over years – indeed for an entire lifetime – should not be made scapegoats and objects of hate. Priests deserve recognition for the good they do and they need the support of their people. I appeal to those priests who have become demoralised and half-hearted not to give in to cynicism but to heed the Lord’s call to renewal and conversion.

However, those in Church and State who have acted wrongly or inadequately should assume accountability.

What is at stake here is not just the past, but the future of our children and our young people and the need to foster a healthy environment across the board in which our upcoming generations are cherished and can grow to maturity. This is a huge challenge and cannot be addressed in a patchwork manner. The early results of the most recent census indicate that there will be a significant growth in the numbers and the proportion of children and young people in our population in the coming years. This will inevitably require significant investment.

While recognising the challenges of our current economic crisis, our long-term economic planning cannot overlook the need to provide not just protection but also vision, hope and opportunity for this future generation.

The Proclamation of 1916 contained a vision of solidarity and inclusivity which dreamt not just of the freedom for Ireland’s people, but also of their welfare; it hoped for “equal rights and equal opportunities for all its citizens”; it dreamt of a society “where all the children of the nation would be cherished”. These are perennial goals for our nation which must at all times be a clear focal point for future economic and social planning.The same proclamation and vision of those who founded our republic recognised that religious and civil liberty of all was to be fostered.

A republic is not indifferent to the faith of its citizens. A republic respects the specific rights of believers. It recognises the role of believers in contributing to the common good as they journey with others in search of that hope to which we are all called as human beings and believers.Great damage has been done to the credibility of the Church in Ireland. Credibility will only be regained by the Church being more truly what the Church is. Renewal will not be the work of sleek public relations moves.

Irish religious culture has radically changed and has changed irreversibly. There will be no true renewal in the Church until that fact is recognised.The Church cannot continue to be present in society as it was in the past. That is not to say that the Church will be renewed by that changed culture or should simply adapt itself to the vision of that new culture. The Gospel reading reminds us that the Church lives its life in the midst of different cultures and indeed with the presence of sin in its own midst.

As believers we know that in the long-term Christ who sows the good seed in our midst will work tirelessly to see that those forces “that provoke offence and who do evil” will not prevail but will face judgement on their lives.

It would however be false to interpret the Gospel reading as if we should simply sit back and allow good and evil to grow together in the hope that in the end the good will win out. It is reminding us that fidelity to the message of Jesus is the way in which we will ensure the victory of the good.The Gospel reading cries out: “Listen”, anyone who has ears”. Rarely more often than in our day are we as believers called to listen, to take note, to be alert and on our guard, so that the virtuous life will shine through us in our world.

To do that we must renew ourselves and, as the second reading reminds us, allow the spirit of God to put into our lives a goodness and a love that cannot be summed up in our words. It is only then if we love good that we will drive evil away from us.” 

 


Litany for the Healing of the Church

Litany for the Healing of the Church

Sorrowful Mother, pray for us.
Lover of Justice, obedient to the Father’s will, pray for us.
Intercessor of Cana, compassionate toward the unfortunate, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart, pierced by a sword, pray for us.
Patient Mother, doer of God’s will despite atrocity, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, at the foot of the cross, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, unashamed of your Son, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, faithful to the innocent, pray for us.
Healing Mother, guardian and nurse of the Body of Christ, pray for us.
Loving Mother, fierce lover of the Body of Christ, pray for us.
Loving Mother, unvengeful despite disaster, pray for us.
Trusting Mother, helping us to do whatever He tells us, pray for us.
Prayerful Mother, believing despite corruption, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, unwilling to abandon your Son, pray for us.
Faithful Mother, peaceful in the face of calumny heaped upon your Son, pray for us.
Peaceful Mother, faithful in the face of scandal, injustice, and humiliation, pray for us.
Model of Fidelity, caressing your Son’s tortured and bloodied body, pray for us.
Rewarded Mother, witness to the Resurrection, keep us faithful to the end that we too may receive our reward.
Christ, warner of Pharisees and scribes, hear our prayer.
Christ, bringer of the sword, hear our prayer.
Christ, unbelieved though though truthful, hear our prayer.
Christ. betrayed with a kiss, hear our prayer.
Christ, tried though innocent, hear our prayer.
Christ, found guilty though innocent, hear our prayer.
Christ, condemned though innocent, hear our prayer.
Christ Reviled, hear our prayer.
Christ Scourged, hear our prayer.
Christ Wounded, hear our prayer.
Christ Mocked & Humiliated, hear our prayer.
Christ Spat Upon, hear our prayer.
Christ Crowned with Thorns, hear our prayer.
Body of Christ Suffering, hear our prayer.
Christ Carrying Your Cross, hear our prayer.
Christ Fallen Three Times, hear our prayer.
Christ Crucified, hear our prayer.
Christ Abandoned, hear our prayer.
Christ, forgiving from the cross, help us to love and forgive one another as you love and forgive us.
Christ Expired, hear our prayer.
Christ in the tomb, hear our prayer.
Christ Risen, turn our mourning into joy, for all things are possible with You and You make all things new.
Christ Risen, make us one, as You and the Father and the Paraclete are One.
Christ Risen, heal our wounds and call us to new life.
Christ Triumphant, Alpha & Omega, Beginning & End, First & Last, resolve all things according to Your Holy Will.
Christ Final Judge, have mercy on us, and welcome us into the Heavenly Banquet.
Christ True High Priest, keep us faithful to our baptismal promises.
Amen.

© 2009, Matthew P. McCormick.  All rights reserved.

 

Let us pray for the Church.  Let us pray for each other.
Love,
Matthew