Friday, April 1, 2016

On Renewing Our Church

Many parishes have probably seen something like this on a smaller scale, but the Archdiocese of Chicago has a new program going on right now called "Renew My Church." At the link, one can take a survey on their specific parish and answer other questions on what the Archdiocese can do to become better as a whole. It seems the ball started to get rolling this Easter, the time of year everyone knows the C&E's come out of the woodwork, and made the surveys available after all Masses.

While a lot of these questions are legitimate, some seem to be a little strange, almost trying to elicit a specific answer. I may not reside in the Archdiocese of Chicago, but here are some of the thoughts I had regarding their questions on how the Church can maintain "vitality":
Holy Name Cathedral

First off, I think that "vitality" should not be something subjective. This survey seems to want to know what is important to the individual as far as "vitality" goes. If "vitality" is to mean "a capacity for survival" or the "power of enduring" as Webster's dictionary puts it, then as far as the Catholic Church goes, vitality should have an objective definition; that is, to proclaim the Good News of Christ without compromise or alteration, and for each person within the Body of Christ to practice the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. The current challenges to this vitality are:

1. The grasp of moral relativism on the modern world
2. A loss of the sense of the sacred; there are many more agnostics and atheists around the world today than ever before.
3. A lukewarmness of faith. This point specifically refers to those already baptized and are among the Catholic laity. These are specifically the people that the Church needs to reach in the "New Evangelization", because we all know what the Scriptures say about those who are lukewarm in faith. We need to bring back our brethren who have become lapsed in the faith.
The Church needs to reclaim a sense of the sacred. We come to church and attend Mass to worship our loving God. Sometimes, especially in the Chicago area, our outward disposition makes church seem more like a get together where we focus on ourselves instead of our awesome God. We must renew our spiritual lives by emphasizing such things as the Real Presence in the Eucharist, fostering private devotions, and bringing back and normalizing other liturgical rites such as Eucharistic Adoration, Novenas, etc.

The Church should also renew Church life by giving Catholics the tools they need to understand and defend their faith in a secular world which is often hostile to the Gospel. Our children are growing up in an overtly irrelgious culture, as I have seen first hand teaching 6th graders in religious education this year. Many of our children do not even know the basics of our faith, i.e. one God in three Persons, the Real Presence, the 10 Commandments and the Precepts of the Church, etc. We need to have more programs which serve to strengthen people's love, knowledge, and devotion to their Catholic faith, so they can proclaim it with confidence and joy to the world at large.

Now, the parish that I attend most frequently in the Archdiocese is one that has Mass said in three languages every Sunday, including Latin in the Extraordianry Form. I've mentioned before how the Byzantines seem to be regaining their traditions, while we in the Latin Rite continue to lose ours. We also need to reclaim our traditions and a sense of the sacred, giving God the honor He is due in our worship.

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