The Renewal Is Under Way
Catholics have suffered through years of bad news in America. According to Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, there is more bad news to come—the results of a clergy sex abuse survey going back more than 50 years will be “startling” to many Catholics this February, he said.
In the face of so much evidence of things gone wrong in the Catholic Church, we may be tempted to lose hope. But to do so, we would have to ignore the very real signs of renewal in the Church.
Families raising children in the Church today have a number of means available to them the last generation didn't have. There are CCC videos, Regina Martyrum tapes, Catholic Kids Net, Heritage kids clubs, boys clubs and girls clubs run by a number of movements and apostolates, new independent schools and a wider acceptance of the home-schooling movement, with all its advantages.
Families sending children to college today now have several universities to choose from that are committed to spreading the faith in its fullness. Looked at one way, that's tragic news—only a handful of America's many Catholic universities are in compliance with canon-law rules about the mandatum. But compared with 10 or 20 years ago, it's a great advantage to today's Catholic families and a great sign of hope.
The culture at large is also filled with things Catholic. Two of the most anticipated movies are a film adaptation of a Catholic novel written by a man devoted to Eucharistic adoration (The Lord of the Rings) and the Gospel story of Christ's death as told by a mystic of the Church (The Passion of Christ). The most celebrated heroes of our day are the mostly Catholic New York firemen who gave their lives on Sept. 11 and the mostly Hispanic Catholic U.S. servicemen risking their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Day in and day out, the poor are fed, clothed and housed in our cities by Catholics. Thanks to Catholic service agencies such as Catholic Charities, it can be said that Catholics are doing more for the poor than any other denomination. And thanks to the Knights of Columbus and its many charitable apostolates, it can even be said that more Catholics loyal to the magisterium volunteer to help the poor than anyone else in the Church.
And, as far as evangelization, today's adult Catholics have more means at their disposal than any in generations. There is the apologetics movement, Theology on Tap, the Catholic publishing boom, new videos, CDs and Web sites devoted to spreading the faith in ever more effective ways. We are committed to promoting the New Evangelization at the Register, and we can barely keep up with a weekly publishing schedule.
As for the future, it is only the seminaries that are most in line with Church pastoral and doctrinal teaching that are attracting vocations. Who knows what these men will do with the generation that has had the benefit of the dynamic new Catholic media?
The largest crowds in the history of the planet have been for Catholics to hear Pope John Paul II speak about Christ at his World Youth Days.
Indeed, there are reasons to hope. Too often, lay people have acted as if they were sent to earth to save the Church. In fact, the Church is on earth in order to save us. It's easy to forget that fact when the Church looks beaten and bruised. But this is God's usual method of operation—he always uses weakness to defeat strength, and he always precedes a resurrection with a crucifixion.
There are indeed many reasons to hope, and hope can give us great peace of mind about the Church today. But hope isn't meant to be merely a psychological balm. It's a virtue. Hope is meant to be acted upon.
Each Advent, the Register provides readers with special guides on our back page. We have reformatted them this year to be easier to photocopy. They respond to the Holy Father's call to promote Sunday Mass, confession, prayer and acts of service. We encourage you to use them to invite friends and family back to the sacraments.
The Church's brightest days are in its future, not in its past. This is our hope, a hope that proves itself with action.