Think Where We Were 10 Years Ago

Think Where We Were 10 Years Ago January 16, 2014

Now read this remark from a reader, echoing lots of similar remarks:

I thought you might be interested in the following anecdotes. I have a number of friends who are non-catholic, and indeed a number of friends who are openly skeptical of the church. A number of these folks have been expressing admiration for the pope and how he has been living the gospel. In conversations with these folks nearly all of them have agreed that the pope has quickly established himself as the moral leader of the world. I have no illusions that these folks will suddenly convert (formally) to Catholicism. However, the mere idea that the holy father’s simple example is inspiring people and causing them to see the pope and the church as a major moral force in the world is inspiring. I give thanks every day that the Holy Spirit inspired the conclave to give us this leader at a time when the world so clearly needs a moral leader.

A decade ago the Church was on the mat, bloodied and beaten down by the horrors of the priest scandal, never to rise again. Now, this amazing renewal of interest in the Church! This is what speakers of English call an “opportunity” for the Church to bear witness to Christ with fresh vigor and power. Carpe diem! Don’t waste time navel-gazing, or fretting about the “true motivations” of the people who are listening. Jesus didn’t have the crowds who followed him take a Purity Oath or a Myers Briggs eval or a theological exam or a motivational quiz before he preached to them. He just preached and let the chips fall where they may. This is a Catholic Moment. Grab it and make use of it. The dumbest thing we can do is fret about whether the “right” or “wrong” people are listening to Francis. We are *all* Wrong People, especially those who think they are the Right People. That’s why Christ died for us. Get going!

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  • Andy, Bad Person

    Jesus didn’t have the crowds who followed him take a Purity Oath or a
    Myers Briggs eval or a theological exam or a motivational quiz before he
    preached to them. He just preached and let the chips fall where they

    This. We need to be reminded of the Parable of the Sower frequently (or at least I do). The fertile ground isn’t the only ground that gets seeds. God positively carpet-bombs the world with seeds, and so should we.

    • guest

      God positively carpet-bombs the world with seeds, and so should we.

      Love this.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    “We are all the wrong people.” Amen, Mark.

  • L. Legault

    I don’t mind about the ‘wrong’ people listening to Francis, and in general I agree with your sentiments. What bothers me about some people’s new embrace of this Pope, however, is their implicit, and sometimes explicit, snub offered to his two immediate predecessors, both of whom also lived the Gospel, if in somewhat different ways.

    Of course, what this Pope clearly has is a capacity for making the kinds of gestures that people today understand. I believe that these are more than mere ‘gestures,’ but I think there is something about them that suggests this Pope is a multi-layered, complex man with a nature as shrewd and canny as it is, or may be, saintly. In that, he reminds me not of St Francis (Assisi or Xavier) but the equally shrewd and canny Vincent de Paul.

    • irena mangone

      So agree with you we cannot snub the previous Popes. Both were there for the time in which we lived . after all the Holy Spirit leads and blows where he will. as the hymn says

  • Stu

    Don’t waste time navel-gazing, or fretting about the “true motivations” of the people who are listening.

    And don’t cast aside those among us all who are challenged by some of the things he says because they too are listening to him. We need to get them fully into the “Barque” as well and berating them after they have fallen overboard doesn’t help.

  • Let’s get going indeed. We are trying the Dynamic Catholic book program at our parish on Ash Wednesday. We’ll pass out a book called Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly to, literally, every person that comes for ashes. We then will offer a follow-up study in lent based on the book. It will be interesting to see the response compared to other Lenten programs we have offered. I’m hoping for a “Francis Effect”.
    If any of you have experience with this book program, let me know your thoughts.

    • I led a discussion on Kelly’s book at my parish. The group and I found it quite accessible. He makes a decent diagnosis of the particular vices that beset western culture, and his prescription is pretty solid New Evangelization material. The theological insights aren’t exactly on par with B16’s Jesus of Nazareth, but then again what is?
      I certainly think you’re playing to the book’s strengths by getting it into the hands of as many laypeople as possible.

      • capaxdei

        For my money (my parish gave out free copies of both last Lent), I think Kelly’s The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic is a much better book. Rediscovering Catholicism read too much like a self-help, how-to-succeed-in-business book.

        But my tastes aren’t normal, and if you do get something out of Rediscovering Catholicism, I would encourage you to consider following up with 4 Signs as a sort of mystagogical, where-do-we-go-from-Easter program.

  • AquinasMan

    I would humbly submit that much of what is driving the “Francis-effect” is the perception that things are “changing”. Society is largely “progressive” and is titillated by perpetual change — a kind of addiction to “revolution”, in every sense of the word. Attention Deficit Disorder is a kind of cultural epidemic that makes-and-breaks individuals with amazing efficiency these days. As quickly as the media could break Benedict XVI with the “Nazi youth” meme, they’ve “made” Francis with the “who am I to judge?” soundbyte. As quickly as they anointed Obama at the 2004 Democratic convention, they destroyed Sarah Palin over the view from her front porch.

    What sets the Church apart from the rest of civilization is one thing: Constancy. The Church has remained “constant” in its teaching, “constant” in its sense of what is right and just. Yet, it’s this same constancy that has painted a bullseye on Holy Mother Church for 2000 years, even with regard to internecine feuding. It’s this constancy that caused the secular culture to despise Paul Vi for Human Vitae, John Paul II for Evangelium Vitae, and Benedict XVI for being such an effective guardian of this constancy before he ascended to the papacy.

    But Francis is different — not because he is inconstant with Church teaching — but because he creates the perception of change. Progressives, by definition of their very identity, are all about change. Ergo, the upswell of interest in “the Church”. Or is it just interest in Francis, the bringer of “change”?

    If the Church finds its strength in constancy — and we all (I hope) believe that Francis, like all other popes before him, is guided by the Holy Spirit in matters of faith and morals — how long before the terminally fickle public cheering this “change” realizes there is no “change”? Perhaps some will respond to grace and embrace the Church’s steadfast teachings, but I imagine most will discover they are chasing after a progressive mirage, and summarily go back to hating the pope, hating the Church, and hating Catholics because we ultimately will not dance to their tune. They will discover that this “kinder, gentler” Church is still their kinder, gentler “enemy”.

    Whatever the outcome, it’s obviously good to attract people — the Holy Spirit can perform amazing miracles when the door is opened — but are most of these individuals attracted to the faith, or the idea of a “revolutionary” pope that doesn’t exist in reality? Food for thought.

    • Stu

      I think this analysis is correct and there have already been signs of people discovering, after further reflection, that indeed, the Pope is Catholic. I think we should expect more of that and unfortunately see people lose interest.

      But in the meantime, take the opportunity because some who decided to take a look at the Church because of the Pope, just might stay. God willing.

      • AquinasMan

        Let’s just say there are individuals in my life who are huge fans of Pope Francis and absolutely, clinically fixated on “change”. I’ve tried to gently encourage the positives while trying to convey that “change” is hard to come by in the terms they’re expecting. I get follow ups like, “My opinion of Francis is really hinging on his trip to Israel,” etc., or “I’m waiting to see what he does about gay marriage”, which to say the least, is not encouraging in terms of keeping the honeymoon going. But like Ben said above, we work with what’s in front of us and let the Holy Spirit do His job.

        • Stu

          I concur.

    • “..much of what is driving the “Francis-effect” is the perception that things are “changing”.
      Could be, but it if a so called “Francis Effect” can bring some people to stop, and take a closer look at Catholicism at our parish, we’ll work with what is given to us.

    • You’ve reminded us that some seed falls on thin soil. I’m glad you don’t let that keep you from sowing.

  • Jenny Cook

    Speaking as one of those non-Catholics who started to seriously research the church shortly before Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced that he was stepping down, I have been most appreciative of and inspired by Pope Francis. My husband and I are planning to join RCIA this fall. I see news articles about him shared and lauded on FB by Catholics, Protestants, and non-religious alike. Also, the fact that he’s drawing criticism from both sides of the political/theological aisles assures me that he is following the straight and narrow: people from both sides loved and hated Jesus, too. Mark, thanks for your book on Sacred Tradition…it’s been eye-opening. I have your book on the Real Presence coming on interlibrary loan!

    • chezami

      Wonderful! Welcome!

    • Welcome. Thanks be to God.

  • irena mangone

    Love hat last paragraph most especially last few sentences so true every where