What are we to do?
The country is at a precipice. A great destructive fall is a strong possibility. A profound darkness is growing, deepening, creeping in all directions: a moral darkness that brings only death by cultural suicide. We don’t know how much time we have, but we ought to begin. Even now, at this very late date, we ought to begin to do what we are supposed to do. We ought to do what God formed and sent us to do: we ought to be light. We ought to be light for this darkening world.
The Church today seems impotent in the midst of a cultural collapse: useless, irrelevant, pointless while a once great nation around her is losing all sense of goodness. This can change. The Church can become what she exists to be, but we – her leaders and her members – must be willing, and prudent. We must see the path before us and we must begin, regardless of the costs, to journey one step at a time in one day at a time toward our calling. We must set our sights on what God has called us to do. We must be witnesses of Truth, of Love, of Justice in the midst of a secular godless consumer-driven society. We must be light to reveal the way for this country that has lost its way. We must regain our mission: witnesses of light.
We must be Catholic. We must help form faithful Catholic households. We must be, and raise our children to be, faithful Catholic citizens. We must generously raise many children as many blessings in God’s creation: a generation to bring an electoral presence to be reckoned with, a generation to righten the direction of our nation, a generation to bring righteousness and truth to government, to the marketplace, to the judicial system, to the entire country. The Church must become God’s leaven for good, permeating the whole of the texture of secular America.
First, our parishes must form faithful Catholic adults and marriages, faithful Catholic households. We must as a priority form our Catholic adults as disciples of Christ in the Catholic Faith. We must make it a parish expectation that all our adults, of all ages, are personally and intentionally growing in the Faith – ever learning though Bible studies, Catechism studies, prayer workshops, retreats, and so on. Our Catholic adults must be led to engage the question, and find answers to the question, to the mystery of God’s very personal call to them, and for them. We must all face and answer the question: “What does God want of me, in this moment of human history?” Then, as Catholic adults do grow in the Faith, we will see real strengthening in the Faith, in our Catholic homes and families. We will see authentically Catholic homes emerging, and coming alive, and growing in numbers and in the holy faith.
As the program progresses, faithful Catholic parents will begin to ask for, demand, enable and support authentic faithful Catholic schools for their children. Authentic Catholic schools in parishes across the country will be seen in the light of the great, the central importance they hold for our mission. They must be supported by the parish and by the member families! They must be staffed only by faithful and competent Catholic teachers (whether credentialed by the State or not!), who can and will integrate the Catholic faith into every class and every classroom, into the whole school curriculum. The Catholic Faith inculcated in these children in the school will be reinforced and complemented and embraced in their authentic Catholic family life at home. A new “identity group” will emerge in the country, impossible to ignore by the politicians: Catholic Christian Americans who demand a just and righteous government, and who will actively support, lobby and vote for such a government.
This movement could have other consequences, troubling for some, turning the parish and diocese status quo upside-down. Lukewarm and “cafeteria” Catholics could become very uncomfortable in churches that take the Gospel seriously. Lovers of this world and the things of this world would be deeply conflicted in Catholic parishes alive in Christ, some preferring to leave for churches more open to compromise, than to embrace the full call of Christ to conversion. They would have a hard choice: to change, to grow with God’s grace, or to turn away, to leave.
There would be other challenges as well, of financial insecurity and instability in Catholic parishes. Some pastors may become afraid, wanting to abandon the new program of Catholic fidelity to return to the old and easier program of low expectations and status-quo maintenance. Bishops and local pastors who persevere in trust may be forced to find ways to “downgrade” – smaller church and school buildings, less expensive equipment, staff salary and benefits reductions, and so on. We might become poorer in the goods of this world, but happy becoming richer in the goods of the Kingdom that is coming. Those who persevere, who seek to remain faithful to Christ and His call no matter what, will find the treasure of His great blessings here and now, and in the Kingdom to come, indeed “manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Lk 18:30)
The Church trusting Christ will, with God’s grace, become a new force in the culture, beginning to bring changes for the good. As the Church becomes recognizable, once again, as a truly different and supernatural presence in the world – a presence of Christ among us – seekers from outside the Church will want to “come and see”, as they did years and centuries ago, and membership could begin to grow both in numbers and in participation in the holy life of Jesus Christ.
What will we do?
Godless secularism encountering a Church on fire and alive in Christ can go one of two ways: into hatred, persecution and martyrdom for the Church, or toward conversion, reform, salvation and life in His name. For us, we owe God obedience and trust. For them, we owe them the Truth of the Gospel. In Him we can and must hope that – if we do our part – this country will change. Goodness can begin to grow in America: goodness that God intends to be present in this world: His goodness, alive in His people.
This Program for Church is not a new idea. It is only the Church taking her tradition, her identity and her mission seriously in our time, first within her own membership, and then in outreach to the lost. It is only the Church taking her Lord seriously, following Him with a cross on her back, willing to go where He sends her, in trust. It is only the Church, in faithfulness. Will we as Church do anything differently, as we see the world and those of this country hardening their hearts more and more each decade against God and against the humanity of mankind? Will we stand true in Christ? Or will we merely “maintain” our lukewarm middle ground, and wait until they come for us to take us away?