By Deacon Philip Franco
“We love our children because they are children, not because they are beautiful, or look, or think as we do, or embody our dreams. A child is a child.” — Pope Francis, “Amoris Laetitia”
With these simple but beautiful words, Pope Francis sums up poetically the value and dignity of every human person but especially the child, who is a precious gift from God.
The child, as our Lord reminds us, is the one whom we are called to emulate. In our childlike innocence, we are asked to embrace God as our Father who will take care of us.
Sadly, human nature does not always choose as God wishes. The result is the tragedy of abuse, especially when that abuse involves innocent children.
Effects of Abuse
Around the nation and the world a frightening percentage of young people, boys and girls, suffer various forms of abuse from adults. This abuse, often sexual, is scarring and the effects of it are never truly extinguished. Rather, they tend to follow the abused child throughout life. But hope never fades.
Only the Lord, in his Mercy and goodness, can help to truly fill the void left by abuse. Similarly, only by recognizing the horror of abuse and directly confronting it can we, as a human family and as the Church, help to root it out and stop it. This effort involves every member of the community.
The Church, while suffering from the terrible moment in her history known as the clerical abuse scandal, is attempting to apply the powerful medicine of prayer and grace to this terrible wound.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a priest, I can tell you firsthand that one who is called Father and seeks, in that role, to be a representative of the Lord, carries a great responsibility.
When he sins to the extent of wounding a child, this sin is made even worse by the fact that he supposedly represents the Father. Such a person acts in a manner so harmful and so very far from what the true Father wants.
A Mass is of Hope and Healing is by no means a way to erase that fact or to avoid it. Rather, it is the most powerful way to confront it and help to correct it. A Mass of Hope and Healing is just that: God’s intervention into the life of one who has been hurt.
That is why a group of survivors have requested that the Church in Brooklyn and Queens sponsor Masses of Hope and Healing. These Masses will give anyone who has been touched in any way by abuse the chance to come forward, the chance to reflect, the chance to begin the journey of healing.
We asked for this Mass as a road to hope; it was not asked of us as a means of damage control. We have asked for the sacrifice of the Mass to be applied to this situation. The Bishop of Brooklyn, along with his ministers, has agreed to walk with us toward this goal.
If you or anyone you know has been hurt by abuse, we invite you to pray with us. If you are a Catholic who wishes to help pray for abused, you too are invited. All are welcome. Counselors will be present and anonymity will be respected.
Join us please in a journey of Hope and Healing. The Mass for this year will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church located on Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills.
Come and pray with childlike confidence for the healing and protection of all of God’s children.