The other day I came into my office at the Pastoral Center and announced, “Stop the merry go round, I want to get off for a while!”  

This statement, meant very much as a lighthearted comment, was prompted by the latest “surprise” news from our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis, concerning changes being made in the process for seeking a declaration of nullity for marriage in the Church. The last year or so has been quite a ride for the Church, both locally and on the international level. There is a lot going on!

Consider all of this:

We are in the middle of a Year for Consecrated Life, celebrating this precious form of life in the Church with the theme “Wake Up the World.”

We are in-between two synods of the world’s bishops dedicated to the theme of Marriage and Family life, with the second synod scheduled for this October. This initiative of the Church has generated much discussion, and even some controversy.

We are preparing for Pope Francis’ first apostolic visit to the United States later this month.

The World Meeting of Families will take place later this month in Philadelphia and will include a pilgrim group from the Archdiocese of Portland.

The Holy Father has announced a “Jubilee Year of Mercy” beginning on December 8 which will include many significant and dramatic initiatives on the local and universal level of the Church.

Pope Francis has issued his first encyclical letter, now part of Catholic social teaching, on the care of our common home (the earth), entitled “Laudato Si’”. We will need to mine the riches of this teaching.

The Holy Father recently extended faculties to all priests throughout the universal Church to absolve from the sin of abortion during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, wherever this faculty is not already granted (it already has been granted here in the Archdiocese of Portland).

Pope Francis has announced simplifications in the Church’s process for petitioning for a declaration of nullity for a marriage that will most likely radically change that process and which will require time to study and implement.

All of that is on the level of the universal Church. Here locally we have experienced our own news, both good, bad and challenging, to say the least:

We are near completing the hiring of many new staff positions in the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center, along with the establishment of new offices. Here there is much excitement and tremendous energy to move forward with joy and enthusiasm for the mission entrusted to us by our Lord.

We have locally experienced the trauma of one of our priests being criminally charged in the wake of very disturbing facts that have come to light.

A major controversy at one of the Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese has erupted over a change in hiring policy that presents challenges to maintaining a Catholic identity while respecting the dignity of human persons.

You can see how I might make the comment above! But in the midst of exciting news and initiatives, challenges and sadness, we must keep our eyes on what really matters. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and all that he has entrusted to us. Someone recently asked me how I was doing personally in the midst of all of this. The words came naturally off my lips, “In the end, we must not forget that Jesus rose from the dead. In the end, that’s what matters.”

So, my brothers and sisters, let’s stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Remember that this is Christ’s Church, and he has promised to be with us until the end of the world. Jesus cannot be separated from his spotless Bride, the Church. It is a fatal error so say something like, “Well, I know that’s what the Church teaches, but Jesus…” (fill in the blank). Jesus and his Church are one, according to his own promise and witness.

Let us pray, united in the Holy Spirit, for our holy mother, the Church. Let us pray for our Holy Father. Let us pray for our local Archdiocese. Let us stop, take a deep breath, fix our eyes on Jesus, and move forward in confidence, hope and the joy of the Gospel.