Sometimes I think we know not of what spirit are...
Mahony has never been a hero for me, but in his 'disgrace', he has helped me understand the depths of my own disgrace. Some time ago now, I did things in my life that were very wrong. I'm a big sinner.
I returned to the Church and the sacraments, and received many graces - some extraordinary.
My soul, once cleaned and tidy, became besieged by temptations, more terrible than before my conversion.
I fell and got up - helped by the sacraments and prayer.
I continued to struggle, falling and rising.
Sometimes the struggle was so intense, I compromised my faith.
I lived faithful to the Church but didn't remain faithful to prayer, and though I continued to 'practice' my faith, go to Mass and frequent the sacraments, there was set aside in my heart a reserve, if you will. I wasn't growing in virtue or love of God and neighbor. I wasn't as vigilant about the occasion of sin, and I was more than tolerant of the sinful lifestyles of others.
When your secret is all found out...
Eventually, Our Lady grasped me - once again, she is Mother of Mercy and Refuge of Sinners you know - and little by little I continue to recover.
However, with every sin there is some chastisement.
Old friends fell away, some scoffed at me. Enemies I had made pointed out my sins, my dissolute life, and my dishonesty. They called me a hypocrite. I am.
Yet remarkably, all along I believed I was doing God's will. Especially after my last 'recovery' - yet people still called me out. While deep down, I am fairly certain I expected to be received like the prodigal son - esteemed for 'coming to my senses'... embracing a faithful Catholic life.
I thought to myself, "They mocked Christ. They rejected the woman caught in adultery. And they call me out." I pondered the narratives of the Suffering Servant, finding some comfort, imagining I was 'meritoriously' sharing in Christ's sufferings. Not yet understanding that it was He who took on my sufferings - not I his. It was an almost impossible lesson to learn - then and now - since self-love is so blinding, so relentlessly fixated on justifying ourselves.
Nevertheless, it was in and through pondering the rejected, wounded, Suffering Servant - who first identified himself with me, even while I imagined I was identifying with him - it was in and through that prayer, deluded though I had been, that I came to understand something of what the good thief may have finally understood. I was getting what I deserved. Christ though innocent, suffered all the same things, and much worse - before me and for me - and he deserved it not.
Repentance and conversion is a process... 'long and as hard as life.'
Christ was mocked and scorned and condemned - and died. Even upon the cross 'he was made a fool of before all whom he loved.' That in our repentance we may acquire humility and not lose hope in his mercy. Angela of Foligno said the book of Christ Crucified is the only book we need study for our complete conversion. Even in the depths of our sin, we can see Christ, already descended there, waiting for us right there.
I can't help but wonder, even hope, that this is what Cardinal Mahony is doing now... Charity hopes all things. The Cardinal expressed the need to forgive those who attack him. Wrong or right, when attacked, our human nature is angered - we all need to forgive as much as we hope to be forgiven.
That said, the Cardinal answers to God and the Pope in religious matters, and civil court in legal matters. The fact is, the Cardinal continues to teach, and I suspect he continues to learn as well.
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.- Psalm 139