For the second half of the first session, I caught the tail end of a presentation by noted author and publisher Michael Leach based upon his book by the same title: Why Stay Catholic? Here’s a summary of this session, which was kindly sponsored by Loyola Press:
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is beautiful”, says Michael Leach, while acknowledging that anger over scandals and frustration with church politics lead many Catholics to question their faith. He shines a light on the good stuff in our faith, the things that last because they are spiritual. He talks about ideas from the spiritual deposit of faith which have been neglected for too long, such as the Sacramental Imagination, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Seamless Garment of Life, and the Church’s best kept secret: Catholic Social Teaching. Michael presents religious educators with a refreshing agenda of Catholic ideas that will keep Catholics engaged, enthused, and inspired.
Unfortunately I arrived late for this particular session (since I attended two in this time period), but not too late to hear Michael Leach respond in compelling fashion to some very difficult questions posed by his audience. This topic is of tremendous relevance for so many Catholic parents whose adult children have turned their backs on the faith after a lifetime of having been raised Catholic. Mr. Leach responded to these queries with compassion and hope, but also with practicality.
Now that our new Pope Francis has been installed, I’ve been pondering what — if anything — Michael Leach might have said differently in this session had it happened this week, after we’d met and come to know Pope Francis. I feel certain that given Michael’s emphasis on the foundational importance of Catholic social teaching, this is a time of great hope in his mind.
As we look lovingly back at the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and now forward at what the future will hold for our Church with Pope Francis at her helm, we read statistics such as those recently released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life which show a remarkable 73% of US Catholics stating that they are happy with our new Holy Father. Will happiness translate into commitment, into action, into service? This remains to be seen…