In a recent interview with Spanish religious news weekly Vida Nueva, Cardinal Raymond Burke addressed the challenge the Church faces when seeking to fulfill her missionary call:
“The Pope rightly speaks of the need to go out to the peripheries…(the) people have responded very warmly to this. But we cannot go to the peripheries empty-handed. We go with the Word of God, with the Sacraments, with the virtuous life of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying the Pope does this, but there is a risk of the encounter with culture being misinterpreted. Faith cannot adapt to culture but, must call to it to convert. We are a counter-cultural movement, not a popular one.“
Far too often it has been the faithful, however, who have adapted to the culture instead of the other way around. Following two generations of poor catechesis, banal liturgies and moral relativism the Church is often ill prepared to go in search of the spiritually lost and socially marginalized. Just this past week in the United States 45% of self-identifying Catholics voted for candidates of a political party whose platform unabashedly endorses abortion rights and same-sex marriage, both of which are considered non-negotiable issues by the Catholic Church.
Fr. George Rutler, administrator of Holy Innocents in Manhattan and the West Side church of St. Michael, recently spoke of the challenges facing the Church, and the continued refusal by some to acknowledge the self inflicted wounds which have created these challenges. His comments address head on the reasons why so many of the faithful are anything but counter-cultural:
“I think there’s a great deal of dishonesty and denial on the part of some people who engaged in the fantasy that we were entering a new springtime of the faith. The aggiornamento of Vatican II was supposed to bring in tons more people; it did just the opposite. So long as people refuse to admit there were mistakes made a generation ago — in catechesis, liturgy, addressing the real problems of secularism — they’re never going to make any real reform.
“The primary fact is that most Catholics aren’t practicing the faith. Mass attendance in New York is about 12%. You’ve had about a 50% drop since the Second Vatican Council. Nobody will address that. They’ll acknowledge the fact, but they will not address the fact that there were some serious mistakes made in the last generation.”
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” Albert Einstein is purported to have said. Sadly, this is exactly what we see many proposing. There are those in the Church, including influential prelates, eagerly seeking a return to the “spirit” of the post-conciliar years. The very errors of the past which have led us to this moment, what Bishop Athanasius Schneider has called the fourth great crisis of the Church, are now touted by some as the “new” solutions urgently needed today.
True reform, however, is not moral capitulation packaged and sold as ecclesial Zeitgeist, but rather an orthodox and traditional response to a largely antagonistic world. Unfortunately, a Church that has 88 percent of Catholics missing Sunday Mass in New York, and upwards of 80 percent nationally, is incapable of effectively evangelizing anyone. Thankfully, we do not need to rely upon ourselves. In the end, we must trust that Our Eucharistic Lord will draw all men to himself. (Jn 12:32)
In a world hungry for truth and beauty, we are beginning to see an increasing number of parishes and dioceses reintroduce the Eucharistic procession. Sadly, the generation of priests and bishops who foisted Communion in the hand on the faithful, while stripping churches of high altars and rails, also decided to largely eliminate the procession from the devotional life of the Church. In recent years, however, more priests are returning to such venerable practices as eucharistic adoration, benediction and processions. These priests, many of them ordained during Benedict’s papacy, have displayed their love for the Blessed Sacrament in a very public manner. In just the last few months the faithful have seen large scale eucharistic processions in both Boston and Oklahoma City in direct response to proposed Black Masses by satanists.
We must ask ourselves if we have the conviction to follow Jesus to the peripheries. Take a moment to watch the below video of a eucharistic flash mob posted by the Capuchin Franciscans in Preston, England. This is counter-cultural and it demands a response from those present.
The question is this: Do you have the courage to be that young woman at the 1:13 mark of the video?
Brian Williams is a convert who entered the Catholic Church in 2006. He is a graduate of Long Beach State University with a BA in History. Brian blogs on life, liturgy and the pursuit of holiness at liturgyguy.com. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and five children.