Sunday, August 5, 2018

Feelings Deserve To Be Felt

Hard day, hard topic. It's never going to be easy to preach about imperfections in the Church. It's also hard to talk about scandalous things when the details are unclear. I choose then to preach in such a way that the details don't make a difference to the content; in fact you could basically use it as a message to anyone with any hurt connected to the Church, its clergy, and its hierarchy. And yet, it think it was a good fit for our parish which knows one of the accused very very well, even though I realized afterward that it never even mentions a name or a claim made. That was unintentional, and yet maybe providential. 

If you already heard the Bishop's letter at you Mass, you can skip from 1:20 to 6:15 which is just me reading it to our people.

18th Sunday, Year B

Feelings Deserve to Be Felt

One of the basic principles of human psychology is:
“Feelings deserve to be felt”.

Feelings deserve to be felt. 

This is a place where Catholic theology and modern psychology lovely nicely; they totally agree. 

It means that, ultimately, feelings are neither or bad. 

Even anger and sadness, fear or desire...even hate, are not bad as feelings

It’s what we do with the feelings that can be good or bad—the things we choose with our will. 

Like, when your spouse tells you not to get angry about you neighbor messing up your lawn, they really shouldn’t say “Now, honey, don’t get angry.” Because that’s not reasonable: anger is the natural reaction to injustice. What they probably really mean isn’t about the feelings. She is probably really telling you not to choose to dump a truck full of manure on the neighbor’s yard in revenge. 

Now as I read to you what I’m about to read to you I want to remember that feelings deserve to be felt. 

As you heard that, and as perhaps you have heard other reports earlier this week—and I think it has been 3 weeks now that we have heard reports from the east coast about in appropriate things by a Cardinal (now former cardinal) Theodore McCarrick—as we hear all these things in the last few weeks, it is reasonable that you might feel angry.

And feelings deserve to be felt.

It’s reasonable to frustrated or sad.

And feelings deserve to be felt.

If a person feels 
Guilt—and sometimes that happens—a person asks what else would’ve been done?

Feelings deserve to be felt. 

That is a thing we have to do. 

We have to honest with feelings, when we get not just bad news, but painful news. Personal news. Hurtful news. Frustrating, even betrayal-like news.

Again we have to choose what we will do with that, but feelings, first of all, deserve to be felt. 

Now having said that I’m going to bounce slightly in the opposite direction for a second and say that:

Sometimes there is a temptation to, when we hear things like that, we want to know more and more.

We want to know what happened. 

Whats the details? 

That kind of thing.

And that could be a trap in the other direction as well. 

Some of you might remember—it was 7+ years ago, when I was an assistant here—we had a horrible tragedy.

A family was killed in a fire, set by a family member.

It was a murder-suicide. 

I taught Ardena, the 7th grade girl who was killed in that fire.

I remember going to the funeral. It was at Blessed Sacrament in Lincoln.

And we were all wondering: What happened??

What happened in the fire? 

What happened in the family? 

What happened that made a family member do this to their family, a murder-suicide?

What, what happened inside?

and Fr. John Sullivan, pastor of Blessed Sacrament started his beautiful homily with a great point.

He said: You know, we all want to know. We’re aching to know. We just want to know what happened, what was going on?

We have our guesses and we want to have them satisfied. 

He said: Be careful. Don’t forget that in Genesis 3 that was what the serpent used to get us into trouble. 

We wanted to know more.

We wanted to have our curiosity satisfied.

We thought that we had a right to know all the workings of the world.

And that was what lead Adam and Eve to be tricked and cease to be receptive hearers of God.

So I suggest: find a balance there. 

It’s ok, in our feelings’ deserving to be felt, that we say “ I do want to know”. I have a right to know. The Bishop said we need transparency.”

But at the same time, we shouldn’t let knowledge of details become our sole goal.

That can become a dangerous thing for our emotional and spiritual health as we seek healing and closure. 

Try to find a balance.

And also I want to say that of any number of stories and reports going around, having talked to multiple people at the Diocese I am certain now that many of those stories are not accurate to the testimony the Bishop received and then reported on to other authorities. So take everything you hear with a grain of salt. 

So what do when we get news like this?

What did we do in 2002 when we heard about it all over country, starting with Boston?

And let’s be honest, one of the things that might hurt right now is that we thought we were in good shape, right?

You know in 2002, Lincoln was one of the very few places that really didn’t have cases for the news to report on.

I was in school in Philadelphia when 40 priests would get taken off the job on one Friday afternoon. 

They were put on administrative leave while their cases were investigated and only some got to go back. 

You know, as a seminarian that was crushing.

The Archdiocese of Boston had to sell their college seminary to afford to cover their legal settlements.

Horrible things happened, and we in Lincoln kind of thought <phew> “We escaped.”

But then we find out now that, No, no place is perfect.

No place is without its wounds.

We didn’t see them then. 

Now they come out and we maybe even feel even worse because maybe have a sense of: Were there cover-ups for us back then? Were things hidden? 

And that is fair thing to feel and wonder about.  And even be angry about.

We have a right to that.

And if you feel anger or suspicion at priests now, even other priests <point to me> , I grant you that.

And if you feel suspicion and anger against bishops and others in the hierarchy, I think that is a fair thing to do.

Again, we have to choose what we do with those feelings, but those feelings deserve to be felt.

So what do we do?

I think the first thing, well maybe not the first, but the most important thing we ultimately do is we come to the Cross.

Because that’s where Jesus died for every sin.

And that’s where Jesus’ own heart broke in sadness.

And that’a where Jesus is right now with those who experience the cross as victims.

Those who hurt physically, spiritually, emotionally, throughout the world and right even in our parishes.

He is with them.

And so when our hearts are breaking, we are with them too. 

St. Augustine says that we pray the psalms, which are sometimes joyful and sometimes they are sad, so that we can be with the Church when it is joyful and when it is sad. 

You might be feeling great but then you read a psalm and it’s a lament psalm and it’s full of pain and despair, and you’re like “I don’t feel like that!”

But somebody does that day.

Somebody in the Church somewhere is hurting and aching.

And when we enter into that sadness, when we go to Jesus’ torn open heart and say “I’m there with you too,” we are with Jesus being with those people. 

And it also does something for us in that moment.

It assuages some of our pain to know that Jesus knew about, hurt about, and now desires healing about the things that people have done wrong—priests have done wrong—in this world.

So we go to the Cross and we say “Jesus let we stand there beside you. And let us be a part of the healing.”

And with this then I want to point out that a person can sometimes lose faith in the Church.

Many people did that initially back in 2002.

Many people—sometimes for other things that have happened in their life; things that aren’t national news—someone hurt someone in their family, or maybe they just think the Church wasn’t there for them—they feel “I’m done.” And they walk away. 

Feelings deserve to be felt. 

I might counsel though that that is not the best thing to choose to do about that feeling.

Someone might say “I’m hurting and I’m mad at God. I’m not going to God anymore.”

I understand the feeling, and it deserves to be felt, but that person might actually be giving up on the Person most likely to help with the hurt.

But I do want to ask you and have you think through this:

Even if everything fell apart,

Even if the Church fell apart,

If lawsuits and scandal everywhere ripped the Church apart, and even things like the confusion this week over the Church’s stance on capital punishment, led to breakdown and schism, and it collapsed so badly worldwide that we wouldn’t even recognize it as a functioning church (and we as Catholics really do expect some kind of visible church) 

Even if that happened, you would still know what to do.


You’d still say: “But I believe in Jesus. Even if everyone around me has given up. The one I follow is Jesus.”

And you know the Gospel. You know what to do. You know the Sermon on the Mount and the parables. You would say “That’s still my guiding light in this world.”

And you know what the Church has taught for the 2,000 years before that moment, so that even if we were living in like a post-apocalyptic wilderness you would still know what to hand on to your kids. 

And if you’re thinking, “No, I don’t” then maybe it’s time to spend some more time with or maybe read a book or sign up for RCIA . 

Because at the end of the day, the Church is you. Not just the bishop and priests and sisters.

Maybe some of the mistakes of the last hundred years came from us saying “Priests will do it. Nuns will do it.”

And we said “Priests are supposed to be holy. Nuns will be holy. We’ll just do the basic stuff. “

We’re all called to be holy and maybe all the more when we see failings in our Church.

Do you know the story of the Japanese Catholics?

From 1587 to 1873, very nearly 300 years, they had no priests.

They had all been killed, along with many lay people, and then the shoguns barred all foreign entry for three centuries. 

Literally when priests could come back again with the western ships in the 1870s people saw them an said “Are you…are you a Catholic priest?” And they would say yes, and the people would say, “We are Catholics. We have never had Confession or the Eucharist in our lives. We only have two sacraments, baptism and marriage. But we received the Catholic faith from our parents and pass it on to our children. Our ancestors died dreaming of this day when we could go to a Mass.”

And they did it with just and their own determination to not fail in passing on their faith.

That is the heroic laity.

And know that you are called to be part of that too.

Hey, Father. Can you stop with the doom and gloom for a bit, Father?

Can you bring us back up just to end?


Because the beauty is that where there are hurts, <point at Cross> there also is hope.

Maybe I should to point to that side too. <point to resurrected Jesus statue>

With the Cross comes the resurrection.

With pain comes healing.

When the dirty bandages are ripped off, yeah, there’s intense pain and there is blood and pus, but that’s also how healing begins to get in there.

I am certain that the best thing that happened to the Church in my lifetime was 2002, even as scandal stories spread like wildfire across the country. 

Because it was also a healing wash for the Church in America.

My own home diocese: I didn’t study to be a priest there because it was so messed up there when I was a kid.  

I couldn’t fathom attending a seminary there. 

But now, I could. 

2002 changed them. And it healed them. 

If I were born 10 years later I’d probably be a priest there.

But I came here because it seemed like the safe place to be.

Lincoln had its stuff together. 

And maybe this is good for us.

Maybe this takes away some of the arrogance of “We’re Lincoln; we don’t have those problems.”

Maybe some of that has to be washed away for our own healing. 

Especially for our priests. 

Maybe this allows people who have been hurt before to say “I can finally come forward, and I never felt I could because everyone assumed everything is just fine.”

But now they’re like; “Ok cool, I can be honest. I can have my #MeToo moment.”

After bad things, we actually can have the most hope, because that’s when we get the most help from others, and the most healing.

I believe the Bishop when he says that he is doing all this so that we can heal.

And that he will do what it takes to get people help.

Maybe you’re looking at all this and thinking “Wow, this is really broken. 

These people who hurt people are really broken.”

But, man, we’re all broken!

We just come in different flavors of broken.

The priests mentioned here? They’re not the only broken people.

We all have our brokenness.

It just comes in different forms.

These things can be a chance for all of us to say:
“I need healing. 
I know I’m broken. 
I need to tell my story.
There’s something that happened to me 20 years and I never feel like I can talk about it.”
Or “I need to get help for my struggles.”

When you rip off those bandages as a community, shame can go away, and people can become honest about what they’ve been through.

When we priests on retreat last week were talking about these allegations, stories came out from when we were in the seminary that nobody had ever heard before. 

Things we had been through; that we had experienced.

And that can be very healing, but sometimes you need someone else to open that up.

So we look to the Cross and the Resurrection with hope.

And we look even at the woundedness and say “But that’s what God heals.”

Jesus said “Healthy people don’t need doctors, sick people do. AND I came not to call the righteous but sinners.”


He said he couldn’t heal some of those Pharisees because they didn’t realize they were blind…

but that poor leper, that repentant tax-collector, that woman caught in adultery…he could help them.

Because they were broken and they showed it, and he’s like “Ok, I can work here.”

And if you need to talk to someone after all that you’ve heard today,

Fr. Rowan and I are here.

We’ve actually both had special training in this kind of brokenness,

regarding sins that come a toxic heart,

both for those who have been traumatized by them 

and for those who can’t break free from doing them.

And if you don’t feel like you can talk to us we can also pass you on and refer you to someone else to talk to.

So today, in conclusion, as we let our feelings be felt, 

and we are honest about our own wounds,

we turn to Jesus and say “I share my broken heart with you. 

I ask you to heal all those who need help,

and maybe I need it too.”

Healing is what we need,

hope is what we have to have;

let us do that together as a united family as a parish

and in union with the suffering Christ. 


  1. Thank you for your good words at this hard time,I too was broken and you brought me back to God and I will never forget that, this helps me cope with the Bishops letter.To anyone angry with God over this situation,please don't be , talk to him directly, talk with Mary , talk with your priest , remember ,we each have our own failings to deal with too .Pray the Rosary ,heal your own heart!I have struggled with many issues over the years , believe me, God will answer you BUT YOU MUST LISTEN QUIETLY AND OPEN YOUR HEART FULLY TO HIM!

  2. Thank you and God Bless you Father. My prayers are with you and Bishop Conley and all the wonderful Priests of the Lincoln Diocese...

  3. So Beautiful. Thank you, Father, for showing us the way forward.

  4. Fr. F, thank you for this homily. Prayers and love for all of you in Lincoln.