What will 2008 be known for? Predictions are already being made. Some say it will be remembered as the year a new set of modern-day baseball heroes fell. A better bet says it will be known as the year Barack Obama galvanized the Democratic Party around a new leader.
But we know that another figure will eclipse Roger Clemens and Obama. The year 2008 will be the year of Pope Benedict XVI.
At first, that sounds counterintuitive. After all, the Holy Father is just going to visit and make some remarks. And besides, he’s mostly of interest to Catholics — while these other events are of interest to all.
But we know better. As inspiring as even we find Barack Obama’s story and speeches, the future is not his. History has seen the rise and fall of many ideologies of exploitation. The abortion industry is ascendant now, and Obama is a close ally of the abortion industry. But in years to come his adamant opposition to the right to life, up to and including babies in the last stages of pregnancy, will be seen as shameful rather than inspirational. Obama’s embrace of the abortion industry is so extreme, he even voted against a bill that would protect babies accidentally born alive during abortions.
If history has taught us anything, it is that the truth endures despite the intellectual fads (and abuses) that rise and fall. And defending truth, in season and out of season, is what Pope Benedict has devoted his life to. But don’t take our word for it. When Pope John Paul II visited Toronto in 2002, the media made the mistake of expecting the visit to be no big deal. How wrong they were.
“John Paul, we have a confession to make,” went one Toronto Sun editorial. “We underestimated you. Thanks. Thank you for reminding us, regardless of our religion, about the importance of duty and determination. About the power of faith and the power of God. Thank you for bringing to Toronto those hundreds of thousands of wonderful and sincere young people.”
Later, they explained that the Pope towers above politicians: “The irony is that what critics see as the Pope’s weakness is his greatest strength. John Paul has proven what politicians say but don’t mean: If you are true to yourself, and if your heart is pure, people will respect you, even if they disagree with you. ... And because John Paul, throughout his papacy, has been true to himself, he towers above politicians when it comes to public respect. ... May God bless him and keep him with us for many years to come.”
Regular political columnist Christina Blizzard wrote in the Toronto Sun: “As a non-Catholic, I found the event quite inspirational. ... The reason the Pope maintains his moral authority is that he doesn’t take political sides. He takes on all sides, right or left, for what he sees is right, is moral.”
Then there were the words of pro-abortion columnist Linda McQuaig from the Toronto Star: “As the papal coverage built to a deafening crescendo over the past week, until it was difficult to distinguish some of our main media outlets from the Vatican press office, I started to ponder a different question: ‘How can one keep any sort of secular perspective in a world awash in faith?’”
Onlookers didn’t only learn from the Pope. They also learned from the pilgrims who turned out in droves to see him. Wrote pro-abortion columnist Peter Worthington in the Toronto Sun: “The groups of young Catholics brandishing flags of their countries, singing, cheerful, polite and friendly, marching through Toronto, have had a stunning effect. ... They put cynics to shame.”
The National Post quoted Toronto Police Sgt. Jim Muscat, who called the World Youth Day in Toronto “the most unbelievable experience I’ve had in 31 years of policing. ... All these people and no trouble; it was breathtaking, out of this world.”
And, finally, regular columnist Connie Woodcock in the Toronto Sun: “All right. I give up. ... I have a lot of problems with the Catholic Church, all the usual ones like abortion, contraception, divorce ... but the hordes at World Youth Day knocked me out. It is a joy to see the crowds of youthful believers out there singing songs on the subway and behaving angelically.”
Catholics can follow the example of the Toronto young people by using the Year of Pope Benedict to remind people what we are.
Catholics have suffered through years of bad news in America. But let’s all remember — and remind our contemporaries — of the very real signs of renewal in the Church.
Pope Benedict’s most recent encyclical was about hope, and we have seen a lot of signs of hope. Families can choose from several new Catholic kids clubs, boys clubs and girls clubs run by a number of movements. For students, there are new independent schools and a wider acceptance of the home-schooling movement, with all its advantages. Students have a variety of new universities to choose from that are committed to spreading the faith in its fullness. Moviegoers enjoyed a number of pro-life themed movies in 2007 and are looking forward to the new Narnia movie in 2008, based on a story by Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.
Pope Benedict’s first encyclical was about love, and the Church’s charitable activities. We can list those for anyone who has forgotten, too. Day in and day out, the poor are fed, clothed and housed by Catholic agencies, particularly Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities. Thanks to the Knights of Columbus and its many charitable apostolates, along with groups like Catholic World Mission, it can even be said that more Catholics loyal to the magisterium volunteer to help the poor than anyone else in the Church.
As for the evangelization, today’s adult Catholics have more tools at their disposal than any in generations. There is the apologetics movement, Theology on Tap, the Catholic publishing boom, new videos, CDs and websites devoted to spreading the faith in ever more effective ways.
As for the future, the seminaries that are most in line with Church pastoral and doctrinal teaching are attracting the most vocations.
The Register has set up a website, Pope2008.com, to help Catholics make the most of these important events. Let’s make the Year of Benedict have as big an impact as possible.