Only the Saints Can Save Us
This week I was invited to contribute a brief reflection to the Patheos web site on the topic “The Future of Catholicism.” Patheos bills itself as the “premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs.” This week’s symposium featured contributions from, among others, Fr. Robert Barron, Fr. James Martin SJ, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB, and Kate Dugan and Jennifer Owens, authors of From the Pews in the Back. The series was coordinated by Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs at First Things under the nom de plume of The Anchoress.
The problem goes deeper than difficult doctrines or antiquated structures, problematic though these may sometimes be. Our children and grandchildren are abandoning the faith because they perceive — rightly — that its demands are at fundamental variance with the lives we have prepared them to lead. We have raised them to seek lives characterized by material comfort, sexual fulfillment, and freedom from any obligations that they have not personally chosen. Should it surprise us that they fail to take seriously our claims to follow one who embraced poverty, chastity, and obedience to the will of God?
A revival of the Church in our time will require believers who are willing to take risks on behalf of the Gospel. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Cardinal Law, rather than retiring to his sinecure in Rome, had instead made a penitential journey to Haiti and lived out his days in a hospital cleaning toilets and picking maggots from the wounds of street people. Some might have seen such a penance as inadequate to the offense, but it could not have been dismissed as an empty gesture. To renounce everything he had achieved for the sake of the Gospel would have been an act worthy of a follower of Jesus Christ.