Q&A: How to maintain your faith during these challenging times

Dr. Janet Smith to give talk at St. John Paul II Lecture Series March 10

Denver Catholic Staff

The challenges the Church faces today come not only from the surrounding culture that is increasingly hostile to it, but also from within. The sexual abuse crisis and the present confusion and disagreement about doctrine has made it hard for many Catholics to retain or strengthen their faith.

Dr. Janet Smith, recently retired professor from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and A Right to Privacy, will speak about this topic at the St. John Paul II Lecture Series in Denver March 10. Her talk will seek to bolster the determination of Catholics to remain in the Church and even encourage others to join it.

The Denver Catholic spoke with her regarding this topic ahead of her talk.

Denver Catholic: We live in an increasingly post-Christian society. What can we as Christians and Catholics do to help turn the tide?
Dr. Janet Smith: The obvious answer is that we need to become as thorough Christians and Catholics as possible and that means praying a lot, reading Scripture regularly, receiving the sacraments, becoming knowledgeable about the faith, and discerning how God wants each of us individually to work to bring about the Kingdom. Some will be called to turn their attentions largely to forming their own family in the faith, others to serve the poor, others to be activists for NFP, pro-life, etc. We need to make sure that our young people know the dangers of socialism, seductive for its calls for social equality but extremely threatening for its hostility to religion and tendencies to totalitarianism.

DC: Besides the scandals within the Church, there are a myriad of other cultural issues Christians have to contend with (i.e. same-sex marriage, transgenderism, etc.). How can Christians better navigate these complex issues?
DJS: Again, we must become very informed about these issues. There is an abundance of good materials easily found on the internet. Parents should homeschool if at all possible to protect their children from indoctrination. And even there they need to address these issues with their children by explaining the principles that inform Church teaching on these topics. Parents whose children attend public or even diocesan schools need to be vigilant about how advocacy of these issues may be being promoted in the schools. They need to be sensitive to how “unloving” opposition to same-sex relationships and transgenderism seems to young people and learn how to present information to them that will help them see the harms intrinsic to both.

DC: How can Humanae Vitae help the Church to defend the truths of the faith when it comes to human sexuality?
DJS: Humanae Vitae remains an indispensable document for the truths about marriage and sexuality it contains and for its prophetic power. And, of course, St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, an extended defense of Humanae Vitae, provides an in-depth, biblical explanation of God’s plan for sexuality based on the claim that our very bodies demonstrate that we are meant to love and to be loved and to live lives of complete self-giving. Sexual intercourse belongs only within marriage because only within marriage can sexuality express true affirmation of one’s spouse – an affirmation which includes unconditional faithful lifetime love that embraces the tremendous shared project of cooperating with God in bringing forth new human life.

DC: In what ways can Catholics and other Christian denominations better cooperate to become a stronger united front against the persecution of Christians?
DJS: First, the bishops and leaders of other congregations need to alert the laity to the amount and kinds of persecution happening in foreign countries and the increasing threats within our own. Clearly they need to meet with each other and devise some plans – likely co-authored statements and jointly sponsored conferences that hopefully will lead to a more informed public that will lead to more galvanized public officials and providing help for refugees from religious persecution. We should be prepared to become fearless opponents to evil and even martyrs. Watching movies such as A Man for All Seasons, A Hidden Life and The White Rose should help. We should become very familiar with the message of Fatima.

DC: Do you have any words for discouraged Catholics who are considering abandoning the faith?
DJS: I believe the Church is in one of its worst crises ever: news of sexual abuse of minors, priests leading double lives, embezzlement and luxurious living, cover-up of crimes and doctrinal confusion — among other forms of corruption — are overwhelming Catholics. We need to be honest and not refuse to acknowledge the extent of corruption. It is natural to wonder what kind of Church we belong to. But surely Christ knew His Church would experience such corruption. Our job now is to do what we can to purify the Church, not to leave the Church. We need to double down on our own faith life — we need to increase our dedication to prayer, both for good priests and bad priests, sacrifice, and reception of the sacraments. We need to see this time as a very curious blessing — even as a time to be more zealous evangelists. We need to make it clear to ourselves and others that we are committed to this Church because nowhere else can we find the sacraments and the richness and soundness of doctrine taught by the Church.

St. John Paul II Lecture Series
“How to Maintain your Faith During These Challenging Times”
By Dr. Janet E. Smith
March 10, 2020
7 p.m.
RSVP at archden.org/lecture

COMING UP: Despite no Masses, you won’t believe what parishes are doing

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Despite no Masses, you won’t believe what parishes are doing

Livestreamed Masses, drive-through confession and more are sustaining the faithful during quarantine

Aaron Lambert

Nothing like creativity and some humor to make a tough situation a little easier to endure.

“It took generations, but they have succeeded where the rest of us have failed. Children, of all ages throughout the world, have successfully given up school for Lent,” St. John the Baptist Parish in Longmont posted on its Facebook page April 1. Quite a few “Haha” reactions ensued.

The post, of course, refers to the fact that because of the coronavirus pandemic, students are not attending classes in-person and are instead learning from home. This homebound engagement is true for pretty much every other public institution, including Catholic churches. Parishes across the Archdiocese of Denver are having to adapt to a temporary reality where Masses are empty.

Thankfully, that aforementioned creativity, strong communities and a little help from the internet are making it possible for parishes to still serve the faithful in plenty of ways. For many parishes, this means something as simple as livestreaming Masses for the faithful to participate in from home.

While it’s impossible to replace being physically present in the Mass, many seem appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to still engage with the sacred liturgy from afar.

“So grateful to have a Parish Staff that has responded to the current situation and found ways to continue offering sacraments and ministry,” wrote Jodee Hinton on Our Lady of the Valley’s Facebook page. “It was very special and much needed for my family to watch Mass today. My kids loved being able to see what actually happens on the altar.”

“Thank you Father, miss you and sharing Christ with you in person, but we will be with you soon with the help of Jesus Christ. Stay strong and safe,” wrote Judith Ann Aerne on Holy Cross in Thornton’s Facebook page.

Parishioners in their cars line up in the parking lot of Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora to have their confessions heard. Parishes are finding creative ways to offer the sacraments to the faithful while stay-at-home and social distancing orders are in place. (Photo provided by Queen of Peace)

Other parishes are also finding ways to continue providing other sacraments to the faithful. Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora, for example, has launched drive-through confessions on Saturdays to ensure people still have the chance to receive to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and they’re not the only parish to do so. It’s just one of the ways that they’re able to stay connected to their parishioners while their doors are closed.

“Since they can no longer gather here, we’ve tried to go to them,” said Queen of Peace pastor Father Felix Medina. “We’ve stayed busy. We livestream at least three liturgies a day: Morning Prayer and Adoration in the morning, English Mass at noon and Spanish Mass in the evening.

“I think it’s important for people to know that the Church is still open and it’s more present than ever before, that we will not be silenced, that we won’t stop reaching out to people now,” Father Medina said.

And by reaching out, Father Medina doesn’t mean that figuratively. Queen of Peace and other parishes such as Assumption in Welby and St. John the Baptist in Longmont have been calling their parishioners one-by-one to check in on them and see if they can help with anything.

“We’re essentially asking three basic questions: one, how are you doing; two, do you need anything; and three, can we pray with you?” Father Daniel Ciucci of St. John the Baptist said in an interview with Fox 31.

Volunteers at St. John the Baptist make phone calls to check in on parishioners. Outreach from parishes has taken on a whole new meaning during the coronavirus outbreak, and they’re finding ways to rise to the occasion. (Photo provided by St. John the Baptist)

“As priests, we’ve maintained a life of prayer, but we’ve also been calling our parishioners,” Father Medina said. “We each try to call 50 or 100 a day. They’re very happy to hear us checking in on how they’re doing and how their family’s doing and whether they need anything – especially because we know some of them are lonely and are having a hard time.”

Of course, there’s a whole lot more that parishes do besides offer Mass, and they’re finding ways to keep those things going too. Nativity of Our Lord in Broomfield is offering assistance to parishioners who need it, whether it be delivering groceries or seeing a priest; Risen Christ in Denver is continuing its partnership with Food Bank of the Rockies and doing drive-up food distribution; youth ministers across the archdiocese are doing virtual youth group nights via Zoom. And that’s just scratching the surface.

The parishes of the Archdiocese of Denver will continue to find innovative and creative ways to serve the faithful through all of this. However, they need the vital support of their communities to do so. Many parishes have online giving portals set up through their own website, but you can also visit passthebasket.org to give to any parish in the Archdiocese of Denver.

Vladimir Mauricio-Perez contributed to this report.