EPPC reports, from 26 August 2015, a rather upbeat article from George Weigel, entitled Catacomb Time? George does some very important things in the article which deserve attention and reflection. While the "wind" could change at any moment, I guess I am of the opinion that liberalism is in the process of pressing home its "advantage" and in short order all those who are nominal Catholics or lukewarm will deny knowing us out of fear of persecution by the "beasties" of political correctness. Whether in that sense we are destined to become a pusillus grex, a little flock of modest means, is anybody's guess.
One of the things which puzzled me in my years stationed in Germany 1996-2004 was the gargantuan size of all the German dioceses except for one. I can remember thinking a lot about whether making more dioceses wouldn't improve pastoral care, finally coming to the conclusion that, sort of like Egypt, the system worked for both the fat and the lean years. I am sure this was not the sense of the Ratzinger quote at the heart of the Weigel article.
My own reflection, a bit differently, was more attuned to the challenges facing Catholicism in Ukraine today and for some reason reminded me of a much enjoyed book which I read years ago thanks to the recommendation of a kind parishioner and friend. I may just read it again and so have made it mine with one click (terrible!). The linkage I made was between Ukraine and Archbishop Lamy's Santa Fe. To think that in 1884, the archbishop went begging funds for the construction of his poor cathedral in rich Mexico:
"WITH SALPOINTE, HIS COADJUTOR, to share his duties, and to be ready to succeed him if sudden need arose, Lamy was lighter in spirit and more energetic than he had been for some time. His main local concern now was to see the cathedral completed. It stood covered, services were regularly held there, but the towers rose slowly, the sanctuary was still the old tapering, coffin-headed, adobe enclosure which he had found in 1851; and funds were slow to come.
He worked every possibility to bring in more; but it was still an astonishment, given his recent serious illnesses, when he left Santa Fe in 21 July 1884, for another trip of many months in Mexico, to raise money by donation, loan, and the little fees which would come to him in giving confirmations. The prospect of a long journey and hard work in the great land of which his diocese was a physical extension seemed to bring him zest and a return of strength." [Horgan, Paul (2012-05-01). Lamy of Santa Fe (p. 435). Wesleyan University Press. Kindle Edition.]
I had never quite thought of the Church here in Ukraine in terms of late 19th Century New Mexico, which is to say that youth, vitality, promise, faith, ... don't necessarily allay poverty and provide for the monuments in brick and mortar, and for their decoration, which might in turn hover over this brood like a dove and foster further growth. The debate here is a rather forthright one about how best to invest the means at our disposal for the sake of the proclamation of the Gospel. That is what makes initiatives like the pastoral assembly of the Greek-Catholic Church just concluded in Ivano-Frankivsk so very important. They talked about what constitutes a vibrant parish and what that can mean for the life of the Church. In a world of appearances, focusing on the essential is terribly important.
Talking about appearances, the indications that the liberal press has finally opted to abandon Pope Francis seem to be increasing; in the last couple of days there have been some very unkind remarks, especially in the Italian press, about decreasing numbers at Wednesday Audiences with the Pope in St. Peter's Square. We knew it had to come and well, just like not having enough money to complete a building project, it does not necessarily mean the end of the world. My personal hope is that without the constant chatter of a secular and secularizing liberal press we might find the space necessary to enable the faith again at the grass roots level, where it really counts. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Wednesday's in Rome there were fewer traffic problems and St. Peter's Square lost the air of a stage set ever in the remaking.
In this part of the world, Potemkin villages (Merriam-Webster: an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition) are and long have been the order of the day. It is part of what makes for unrest in a given neighborhood when the sign goes up about a new church coming soon to a vacant lot where everybody and his friend used to walk the dog. The alternative is not a social gospel regime, which ultimately and at length does no better job of feeding what fails and healing what ails a society. Paul Horgen goes to great lengths to insist that as best he knew how, Archbishop Lamy wanted something with fullness for the flock entrusted to his care.
I wish and pray especially for Ukraine, but most insistently for the Catholic Church throughout the world, that fullness of Gospel which says, "Lord, it is good that we are here!" but then draws conclusions both profound and unbounded, instructed by God, Who speaks to His people from the midst of the cloud and directs their eyes to the vision of His Beloved, Only-Begotten Son.
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI