Monday, February 2, 2009
What is on the Horizon?
We were called, by the Second Vatican Council, to be "alert to the signs of the times;" but the difficult question is always, 'how does one interpret those signs?' One man's interpretation is another man's prejudice. St. Vincent of Lerins would tell us a "sure and certain way:" - the "teaching of Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Catholic Church." I have been struck, in recent weeks, how a whole series of "signs" seem to be converging; some distinctly local, some national and some international. On the local stage is the news of the latest Gallup poll which designates Vermont the "least religious State in the Union." For many, that is hardly news. What is interesting is that all the other "least religious States" are in New England. What we are observing, as a "sign of the times," is the rapid secularization of the North-East. The story that is not really being faced by the Church is that this decline is principally because of Catholics leaving the Church. No interpretation so far..... Link this with the number of Catholics - Mass-going and 'former,' - who voted for Obama - the most pro-abortion candidate who has ever stood for the office of President in US history. No interpretation so far.....Link this with the increasingly hostile and vicious attacks on the Holy Father as he tries to reconcile those groups who have been out of communion with the Church for some considerable time. Link this with priests, "prominent Catholics," and even bishops who are openly hostile to the whole papacy of Benedict XVI.......No interpretation so far.......
No interpretation, but some questions: 'ad intra' - are we actually experiencing the long predicted and long gestating schism - which is actually not a schism, because the heretics do not break away, but try and take over the Church - cf: 3rd Century and Arius? 'Ad intra' - in the North-East: while we try and entice people back to Mass (one deanery in a North-Eastern diocese even suggested "more guitar music" - like, far-out, man - circa 1971 - that really worked!) have we any sense of the urgent need to re-evangelize those already IN the pews, long before we bring anyone back. Not only that - but will we bring them all Benedict is really trying to bring - the "reform of the reform" - quality in EVERYTHING - music, preaching, beauty, transcendence? - or do they come back to everything they left in 1996 - or '83, or '77? 'Ad intra' - the Obama vote? -Preaching and teaching office of Bishop, Priest and Deacon - enough said!
'Ad extra' - the growing secular hostility : some words from my friend Hilaire Belloc, in one of his letters to Mrs Raymond Asquith, December 17th, 1927:
"They of the Faith are not supported. We are rare, few and alone. It adds immensely to the difficulty of the defence. For, to have a society about one is to breathe an air. From that air we are cut off, and we lack its sustenance. The more glory. Remember that this holding of the outposts is not only a great task but also by far the most fruitful one."