Sunday, November 24, 2019

Getting Your Bearings in a Troubled World

Robert Cardinal Sarah. The Day Is Now Far Spent. Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition. 

Schneider, Bishop Athanasius. Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age. Angelico Press. Kindle Edition. 

For a long while now, I have been encountering good people, Catholics, both priests and lay faithful, who suffer immensely from the incertitude which seems to have the Church in our day in its grasp. 

The simplest way to elaborate or translate what I mean by that statement is to say that within the last couple of years we have lost that authority which is or was the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A text which is supposed to summarize and lay out for our time what has always and everywhere been believed in the Catholic Church is getting modified or called into question to the extent that it has been deprived of its authority and we of our surety when it comes to the broad strokes, laying out the Creed, the Commandments, the Sacraments and the pillars of a truly Catholic life of prayer. 

Old folks, like myself, remember the great relief which came subsequent to the signing by Pope St. John Paul II, on 11 October 1992, of the Apostolic Constitution „Fidei Depositum“ with which the Catechism was promulgated. Our respite from confusion seems to be foundering in a little less than a generation.

Granted, we could be talking about hysteria or an overreaction in part to all sorts of stuff floated out there in the social media, but to the extent that I can no longer appeal to the Catechism (seemingly at least), I understand the sick feeling in the gut of more than one parish priest, who simply wants to help the people entrusted to his care by reassuring them through his teaching of what the Church always and everywhere believes and teaches.

My response to this malaise would be that we have not to abandon the Catechism as somehow discounted, compromised or spoiled, but rather buttress its authority by appealing to the approved authors, not only of the past, but also of our day and time. Hence, my lighting upon these two new books, which cover similar ground in terms of our present crisis of faith in the Church. They are book interviews with two great men, of impeccable reputation, and whom I know personally and profoundly respect, Cardinal Robert Sarah and Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

After reading them both, I would just encourage troubled lay people and priests to turn to them not only for reassurance concerning the Catechism and its enduring value and authority, in the older edition which you have in your personal library, but also for guidance on matters where these prelates teach, serenely and masterfully.

Each of them is unique. Both stress continuity in teaching and strike a constructive and Catholic, non polemical, tone. Cardinal Sarah quotes heavily in his book from the writings and teaching of all the recent popes, starting with Paul VI. You might say that he stands behind the magisterium of the popes of the contemporary era.

Truth to be told, I personally found reading Bishop Schneider's book more rewarding for me. Through the witness of his own family he offers an eminent blueprint for Catholics, both priests and laity, to remain faithful in the face of present day persecution, which I would rate even more lethal than Stalin's gulag.

Saturday, I took part in a podium discussion here in Switzerland, which was rather wide ranging. One lady asked me my single greatest concern for the life of the Church. Rather spontaneously I said that it is the same as St. Justin Martyr confessed before his pagan judge: without Sunday (which means the celebration of the Holy Eucharist) we cannot live. Money enough is here to repair the roofs of all sorts of churches which the people have practically abandoned. Church leadership must creatively find ways to get people to move on a Sunday to where they can find a priest to hear their confession and celebrate Holy Mass for them. If not, then it will be up to the Schneider families of our day and time to carry an endangered and wandering clergy, hosting them in our homes when we have the honor of their passing from one outlying Catholic community to another.

It would seem that a recovery is not yet in sight for traditional marriage and family, still very much under siege. As young people rediscover prayer, the power and presence of God in their lives, I have no doubt that the tide will turn. Prayer, the family as a school of prayer, learning the basics of the catechism at home, will be the building blocks of that bulwark against the tempest of nihilism.


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