The way I see it, everyone that isn’t wearing rose colored glasses can see things are going South pretty quickly. Catholic schools are on a steady decline, people my age can’t be open about being a serious Christians, many parishes aren’t feeding their flock, the government has slowly squeezed the Church for years, and can we even seriously use the word “marriage” anymore? To me, it’s just a sea of challenges that the Church is barely catching its breath in.
But the one thing that really alarms me is that everyone can agree that these are serious problems—from the parish to the White House—but I don’t see many people carving a path forward. Even in conversations with seminarians, I get a lot of head nods and affirmations about the problems but few resolutions or paths forward or rays of hope. I mean, come on! There’s got to be something out there. Some new idea, some vision forward, something! It may be that I’ve just had conversations with the wrong guys, but I really haven’t received any hope from the future of the Church.
So, after wrestling with it for a while, here’s the answer that gives me the most hope for the future of the Church…
The one and only hope for the Church is and always will be Jesus Christ. And I don’t mean that in a vague, spiritual sort of way, I mean that as concretely as I can. And to illustrate that, let me highlight two things about Jesus that have always stuck out to me and that I think can be useful for the Church today.
- Christ is strong
It seems to me that the answer the Church gives to the world has to be strong like Christ. What do I mean? There’s something to me about Christ’s words that are forceful and, in a way, manly. Jesus meant what he said and didn’t intend for his words to pass away, meaning that he said them definitively, he said them with vigor. I think that’s one of the things that Catholics love about Bishop Barron—he puts the Church’s best foot forward knowing that it’ll stick, not afraid of objection, saying it as if he knows that it’s true and worth saying. Being strong doesn’t mean being untamed; in fact it means the opposite. My point being that if Christ is calling for true conversion, for total reliance on his will, and for something serious and deep, then that voice of the Church calling out to the world needs to be strong, not soft.
- Christ is open
Something that drives me nuts about the Catholic world I think is also its greatest asset. There’s a lot of groups out there, from the Charismatic Renewal, to Focolare, to the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and Opus Dei, along with a ton of popular Marian devotions like St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration, or Our Lady of Fatima, or Medjugorje, and more times than not people in these groups talk about their particular group or devotion as if it were the be-all-and-end-all of Catholicism. As if you can’t be a serious Catholic without doing their thing. I’m sorry, but that’s just not true, and also it’s not the way to go about presenting the Catholic faith—as if it can be put in a box of a particular charism or type of thing. See, it seems to me that the thing that the Church needs to be for the world includes all of those groups and devotions but is not limited by them. And, on the other hand, what is equally important is not to close the Church to the ways in which the Holy Spirit can bring people to Christ. What I really mean when I say that Christ is open is that it doesn’t seem to me that he’s rigid. He goes where he wants, heals who he wants, and it seems to me that that is one of the strengths of Catholicism is that it’s universal and all-encompassing: everyone can find a home here. And isn’t that what Christ came to do? To open up for everyone the divine life, to offer eternity to everybody?
For me, I can hope in Christ. And hopefully we, the Church, can all take courage and be like Christ, and in being like him, bring him to the world.