The practice of religion is falling according to the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. Experience tells us by looking at the Mass attendance and participation in religious education programs that many people no longer consider official religious practices essential to their life of “faith.” Sherry Weddell, as other researchers have said, has said that the fastest growing religious denomination is the USA are the “nones” –those people who check the box saying they are spiritual but not religious.
While Pew research is interesting, it does not cover the entire story of a person’s journey in faith. The caution I would propose is whether a person believes in the need of having a savior. Many people, I contend, don’t think they need to be saved. Their conception of salvation, heaven, sin, grace, sanctity is now very much a private affair, these people isolate themselves from other members of the Church. In the USA, as in other countries, the need and desire fora religious community is waning.
On one level I can see why people don’t want to be a part of a religious community: their priest/minister no longer really cares for them and their spiritual life, the priest/minister is a gossip, the priest/minister doesn’t preach well, know the ritual well, and the sacred music is poor, the priest/minister has little concern for the poor, the needy, sick, etc. The teaching of the faith is grossly watered down with no ideal to strive for and to live within (the journey of faith is flat).
In short, our pastoral ministers have become very narcissistic and self-serving. I know several priests who are in trouble in their ministry: they do not attend to their spiritual life, they do not read literature or spiritual topics, they are lazy and watch tons of TV. One can see why over the centuries many of the saints have proposed a new way of living, acting and working for the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the administration of the sacraments. The Latin phrase comes comes to mind: the Church always needs reform. Our ecclesiastical reform movements have generated great beauty and intense of love for the Church and for humanity. We’ve had saints like Benedict, Ambrose, Augustine, Bernard, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Francis, Angela Merici, Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Paul II, Luigi Giussani and countless others who have pointed a new way.
But all the blame can’t be placed on the ministers. Our Christian Faith requires a personal engagement, a personal bringing together of faith, reason, and living concretely in the community of the family and the secular world. You have to show up, you have engage your heart, mind and body. You have to be willing to be honest, and to be with others and to allow our spiritual life to be changed by Christ Jesus.
The Pew report is here.
Pray for the Church and ALL her members.
Today is the birthday of Father Georges Lemaître, born in 1894 in Charleroi, Belgium.
Father Lemaître studied civil engineering at the Catholic University of Louvain before serving in the Belgian army during World War I. After the war he trained to become a priest and a cosmologist. He succeeded in both endeavors. He is a great witness to work of faith and reason and faith and science.
In 1923, he was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Malines. He was a secular a priest and not a Jesuit as some assume. Father received his PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1960 Saint John XXIII bestowed the title of Monsignor on Lemaître. Also in 1960, Lemaître became the presidentof the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences.
A biographer writes: In 1927 he published his most famous paper, “A Homogeneous Universe of Constant Mass and Growing Radius Accounting for the Radial Velocity of Extragalactic Nebulae,” in which he applied Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity to the entire universe. According to Lemaître’s analysis, the universe was in a state of constant expansion, having begun at a specific point in time. Two years later, Edwin Hubble published his observations of distant galaxies that supported the idea. Although Lemaître remained a devout Catholic, he opposed efforts to link the creation and expansion of the universe to divine action.”
“He successfully persuaded Pope Pius XII to refrain from making proclamations about cosmology. Lemaître died on 20 June 1966, two years after the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation provided experimental evidence in favor of his bold idea.”
Monsignor died at the age of 71 on June 20, 1966 in Leuven, Belgium.
In a week’s time many people will be baptized, received into full communion with the Catholic Church or receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Truly an process of discernment on the parts of the persons and the parish staff who take the time to teach the faith, propose a new way of seeing life, and being a good example that it is possible to be a Catholic. The process we use is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults –the RCIA (and there is another process for children of catechetical age but not yet in regular Christian education).
What I have found is that the RCIA not only forms persons in accepting Jesus Christ into their hearts for the first time, but the RCIA also challenges me to live differently and to recommit myself to the salvation offered to me by the Lord. The RCIA has helped me to love the Church, myself, and others in a deeper way. From experience, I can I say with certainty, that a properly organized RCIA process will show the contours of faith and reason by demonstrating a Catholic faith is not decrepit but rooted in Jesus Christ showing the to world how to become authentic apostles. A properly organized RCIA program will give the fullness of the revealed faith and the faith, not chain of opinions or sentimental moralisms.
I think some of the key questions before all of us this Lent is: In what ways has the content of the Catholic faith changed me? Am I familiar with the Lord? Have I developed the capacity with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to share the good news with others? Am I willing to say that Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior and a priority in my life, today and forever?
A recent article by Catherine Quinn, “I Was a Pagan, Hedonistic, Man-hating Feminist. But Now I am Catholic. This is My Story: How I found happiness in the place I least expected.” Ms Quinn will open a new door for you.
Earlier today I read a very insightful essay on the First Things blog by William Doino, Jr, “John XXIII’s Prophetic Encyclical.”
I have to say in the effort of full disclosure, I’ve never read Blessed John’s Ad Petri Cathedram (1959); neither have I read anything about it. No surprise, really, given that so many have overlooked John XXIII as a nice, rotund pope who was not much more than a jolly, inviting person. John’s teaching is not to be obscured, it needs our firm attention and implication. So, this is a great find on my part.
May I suggest that you read Mr. Doino’s essay and the pontiff’s encyclical. It is clear that the blessed pope is dealing with the hard issues of faith and reason, especially the clarity objectivity of Truth. As Doino points out Good Pope John was not a relativist on truth and good order of the proclaiming gospel. Among the contents of this obscure papal treatise are the topics of Christian unity under the guidance of the Pope, Vatican II’s preparation, the role of bishops in the Church, the mission of consecrated men and women, the value of theology, world peace, and social justice.