Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 22, 2010
Holy Spirit keeps the Church alive and thriving
It is easy to be bleak about the Church today. Mass attendance is a far cry from what it was 50 years ago, the numbers of priests and especially religious have plummeted, and family breakdowns are at a high level.
As well, a secular culture grows evermore hostile to the Catholic Church. That culture has become increasingly effective at blocking the passing on of the faith to the next generation. Even among those who do continue to practise the faith there is dissent over Church moral teachings that would have been unimagined in say, 1960.
Toronto priest Father Mark Goring noted some of these phenomena in his Feb. 5-6 talks at a Catholic men's conference in Spruce Grove-Stony Plain. Goring concluded that the Church is in ruins.
Goring's comments should be a wakeup call to any who are complacent about the state of the Church today. His analysis would certainly not be out of synch with the picture sometimes presented by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became pope.
Ratzinger was often outspoken about the Church - perhaps mainly the Church in his native Germany - which had many employees, many institutions, lots of money and not much vigour. He also spoke of "filth" in the Church and the negative effect "the dictatorship of relativism" was having.
Yet Pope Benedict proclaimed repeatedly in his inauguration homily, "The Church is alive." It is he who upheld the virtue of hope with the raised hands of a papal encyclical. It is he who pointed to new movements in the Church that are giving it the sort of new life that comes more from holiness than from large numbers.
In a 2007 talk to the Roman Curia, the pope said the fruits of the Second Vatican Council are slowly becoming apparent. "Today we see that, although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the council is likewise growing."
The positive spin on today's challenges is that the Church is confronting those challenges with ever-greater openness and courage. It is overcoming complacency. Confronting those problems enables each of us to see that we are not standing alone and that the Church is not in ruins.
One "lesson" of history is that if the Church appears crushed and diminished in one part of the world, it is invariably growing more vibrant in some other region.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is real. It is the basic reality of human existence that cannot be extinguished. When the Church appears to be on the ropes, there is more than a vacuous hope.
The human spirit - that dynamism ignited by the Holy Spirit - will not allow the Church to fall in ruins. Many are seeking the kingdom of God and the kingdom is inevitably coming to fruition.
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