May 2020 Print

The Millstone and the Scandal of the Cross

By a Benedictine monk

When we think of the word “child,” we think of someone in the process of growth and transition from a fragile state to the state of an adult. The atmosphere in which God desires the child to grow is one of security and confidence. St. Benedict says in his Rule that human nature itself is drawn to pity towards old men and children. He asks that the rigor of the Rule not be applied to them and to have compassionate consideration for them (Ch. 37). Orphans have been the concern of religious orders for centuries. We will never know how many religious men and women have given their lives in order to care for abandoned children in this valley of tears. These religious men and women and the children they cared for, are certainly the intimate friends of God. They were worthy of the confidence manifested to them by the children they cared for. May they also receive the eternal reward promised by Our Lord to those that show charity to the least of His children.

The Innocence of Children

Our Lord praised the innocence of children by teaching us that if we do not imitate their purity of heart, we will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. “ …Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” … “Suffer the little children to come to Me and forbid them not.” The child also shows us the beautiful example of confidence towards those that represent God’s authority in their life, such as their parents, teachers and priests.


Our Lord is extremely severe with those in a position of authority that abuse this confidence. According to the divine plan, God has chosen certain religious men and women to help the child grow in grace and virtue. Since the child’s soul was created to be able to receive God Himself, its value is infinite before God. The Precious Blood of Christ is poured out for the salvation of these little ones. When the priest or religious loses sight of God and his vocation, he is capable of seeing the child as an object that he can abuse and not as a soul reflecting God’s beauty. Our Lord says that it would be better for those that cause this horrible scandal to have a millstone attached to their necks and to be thrown into the sea. How many millstones would be necessary for the scandals of the past several decades?

Our Lord also speaks about another type of scandal, the scandal of the Cross. It would seem that our Lord causes a type of scandal to those that refuse to follow His example. The Pharisees and the scribes, those of His own village, and many of the Jews were all scandalized because of His miracles on the Sabbath, His humble and poor origin and especially because of His passion and death on the cross. All those that refused to take up their cross daily and follow Him were scandalized.

Today’s Scandals

Perhaps we can draw a type of parallel with today’s terrible scandals that are causing such an upheaval in the Church. The priests and religious that were called by God to protect and instruct the souls confided to them unfortunately wounded them, becoming a major obstacle for their souls. “But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men, for you yourselves do not enter in; and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter” (Mt. 23; 13). Some prelates seem to suggest that a type of “clericalism” causes scandal. The priest have too much authority and control over these souls. Others seem to accuse the parents for not keeping a close watch over their children. These positions seem to suggest that the problem is outside of the priest. The real root of the problem is the priest who is scandalized by the Cross.

The idea of sacrifice in the New Mass has been greatly diminished. The logical consequence is that the priest has lost the notion of his personal sacrifice. The sacrifice of a perfectly chaste life flows from the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which the priest celebrates everyday at Mass. Chastity, in the eyes of modern man, is identical to the scandal of the cross. Our Lord says to the disciples of St. John the Baptist: “…blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me.” If the cross of Christ does not scandalize him, the priest, at his daily Mass, is capable of offering the sacrifice of a chaste life united to Christ’s sacrifice of the cross.

Money and lawsuits will never heal the souls of the victims, nor will they remove the millstone of sin from the neck of the guilty. When all seem to be useless, the words of St. Benedict often shed light. When all other corrections seemed to have failed concerning a rebellious brother, he tells us to have recourse to the most powerful of all weapons… prayer. Let us pray for the shattered lives of the victims and for the conversion of the souls of the priests, scandalized by a life of sacrifice, which is ultimately the scandal of the cross.