Charlie's Blog: Burnt Fingers


Burnt Fingers

I reflected on other victims I had met and how they were raped right on the altars of their own churches. Some of them were altar boys, and they were abused before or after mass. An altar boy walked right in front of us as we sat there. I began to shake, sweat, and become very uneasy. I felt frozen in my seat.

I am pessimistic about changing things for the better. I doubt my vote makes a difference in the whole scheme of things. I doubt that the opinions I express on my blog make any larger impact. I have spent ten years in my current job, and we still have the same problems now that we did at the beginning of those ten years. We can offer lots of reasons for this lack of change or improvement. Perhaps it is institutional, and the policies and red tape you have to fight to get things done. But this merely puts the onus on a system instead of on the people within that system. Institutions aren't evil. People are evil.

The Roman Catholic Church is no different in this regard than any other institution or organization. At its worst, the Church is just like the world. But at its best, it is the only place where you can find genuine saints. I wonder about my place in the Church as just a layperson, and I contemplate trying to make things better. I don't even try to work within the Church beyond volunteering with the Knights of Columbus. The reason for this is my suspicion that all my efforts are just a waste of time.

I know I can't change things in the Church to make it better. If I doubted this, I had my pessimism confirmed through a box of matches. At the parish I attend, the votive candles are lit from a box of kitchen matches. The problem with the matches is that they are short, and they burn your fingers long before the candles ever get lit. It is simultaneously sad and comical to watch people try and light these candles. I have burnt my own fingers many times and even accidentally set the used match sticks on fire in the small disposal receptacle with the sand in it. My parish is the only parish where I have encountered this problem because every other parish uses long candle lighter sticks.

I wrote an email to the priest and to the parish council telling them about the problem. I even ordered the long candle ligher sticks from Amazon and had them sent to the Church. To this day, those ridiculous kitchen matches are still there. My personal answer to the problem is to bring my own candle lighter. Invariably, I end up lighting candles for other people, too. People even come up to me in the pew after Mass and ask to borrow it.

In the whole scheme of things, the Kitchen Match Fiasco is a small matter. There are much bigger fish to fry than this minnow. But its smallness is what vexes me because if I can't make any difference on such a small thing, what hope do I have in changing the big things? I can only conclude that there is no hope.

Change does happen, but it happens in spite of human efforts not because of them. Within the Roman Catholic Church, there are holy prelates, priests, and religious faithfully living out the faith. Alongside these saintly people are devils who prey on children, squander the charitable donations of the faithful on lavish lifestyles and gay lovers, and undermine the Magisterium subtly and overtly at every turn. Part of me wants to go on some crusade to clean out this filth from the Church. Then, I pause and consider those kitchen matches. Whether it is right or wrong for a layperson to try and take out this garbage is a moot point. Such an effort will be doomed to failure. The Catholic Church has always been this way.

Only God alone has the power to make things better. I know because it is God alone who has made me better. I add my efforts to what God does, but I can't claim credit for anything. After decades of trying to change myself, I realize my only hope is in God. Likewise, the problem in the Catholic Church is not a failure of the right programs or systems but a lack of faith among those who should be faithful.

My answer to the big problems is essentially my answer to this little problem of the kitchen matches. I bring my candle lighter. I help those who ask. I waste no time on trying to fix the problem. I just fix the problem myself. As they say, be the change you want to see in the world. Sometimes the greatest acts of courage and defiance are doing the small things in fidelity to our Lord and Savior. So, I do the small things, and I will leave the windmills to Don Quixote. I may be wrong in this viewpoint, but it is where I am today. I will see where I am tomorrow.