Something awesome this way comes! Can you feel it? Can you sense it?
We so often see the downward spiral of statistics showing the Catholic Church of the Western world in decline. We’ve seen here in Jackson over the last 40 years a dramatic down-shifting in the numbers of parishes, schools, vocations, and participating members. All of that was true long before the Coronavirus pandemic struck. When I first became Catholic in the 90s, I recall hearing a talk where many Church leaders were calling for genuine renewal, bemoaning modern Catholicism where “the bland were leading the bland!” (Ha! That still makes me laugh out loud!) It certainly can appear dismal: downward trends, corruption at high levels, decades of perversion, scandal after scandal, confusion, and division… Yet, God is still God. The Church is still the Bride of Christ. We are still the Body. There are many signs of renewal and hope.
When Pope Benedict XI was still a local priest in Germany named Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, he gave a radio address to German Catholics that aired in 1969. This is prophetic:
“From the crisis of today, the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. …As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. … The Church will be a more spiritual Church … a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. …The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints…”
Christianity arose in a time of upheaval in the Jewish and Roman East. Bringing light into the darkness, changing lives with a heaven-bound view; THAT is what Christ is all about. The Church thrived in eras of persecution and outright terror. We saw most of our holiest Saints and greatest spiritual moments arise out of conflict, heresy, and revolution. The signs of the times seem to be telling us that we are in such an era of deception NOW. This should not bring us fear—but tremendous resolve and excitement. “For such a time as this” we were born. For this era, we were chosen to be Catholics in THIS place and THIS time.
God has been preparing us. The visionaries of Fatima gave us a dire warning 104 years ago. St. Faustina and St. Pope John Paul II both prophesied an era of Divine Mercy before a darker time to come. The messages to return to prayer and seek the Blessed Mother first came to six children of Medjugorje exactly 40 years ago. The preparation has also been much closer to home, and much more personal: as many of you recall, Bishop Boyea penned a Pastoral Letter back in 2012: Go and Make Disciples. He called us to “engage our Catholics more deeply” with retreats, essential moments, small groups, formation opportunities, formation events and discipleship training. He has held three large assemblies in hopes of reinvigorating the people of the Lansing Diocese. You may know that our Pastor, Fr. Chas, focused many years of study on the renewal of the Church flowing from lay movements that brought new life and a fresh breath to Mother Church. We are being prepared.
We are seeing around us in the Church an awakening to what our recent Popes have called “apostolic zeal” and “joy of the Gospel”; what Scott Hahn calls a “newness and freshness reminiscent of the first Christians.” Matthew Kelly calls Catholics who live this way “dynamic” and that they live lives that are “contagious.” Sherry Weddell calls them “intentional Disciples”; we could say alive, genuine, radical, or authentic. Here in Jackson, we are seeing this movement.
I truly believe we are on the cusp of experiencing a huge surge of holy disciples on mission to grow and go reach critical mass so that it is NORMAL to be a dynamic, intentional, contagious, joyful, radiant disciple of Jesus Christ. It starts with us. And the plan involves the holiness of every one of us. Imagine if all of us reading this were to give Jesus our all! Hold back nothing. Give Him our sins, our plans, our time, our will, our everything.
Many of us are already engaged. Some of us can do more. What if we gave Jesus a blank check? What if we were all in? Sign our name to it? Let him fill in the amount of time and talent and treasure that he wants us to give? What if we radically trusted? This is the challenge of our time. Will we be saints and meet the call to awesomeness?
Director of Faith Formation