The headline for OSV Newsweekly for May 31, 2015 read, “Are CATHOLICS really in decline?” The article quotes a researcher from CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) who challenges a recent Pew study. This study claims that the number of Christians in this country has dropped dramatically.
While reading it, I remembered that I often meet people who say they are former Catholics. They attend evangelical mega-churches, other congregations, or have no religion. They often express dissatisfaction with traditional mainline churches.
The religious quest of contemporary society has changed. Vibrant music, fresh catechesis, or the new evangelization, by themselves, won’t address people’s deepest aspirations. Neither will a parish attitude of “business as usual “with a few band aids. Rather, the Church needs to follow the lead of Pope Francis, as he reaches out to the vulnerable, poor, children, foreigners, and the disabled. In so doing, the Pope invites us to develop a new attitude, one necessary to reinvigorate the Catholic community.
This new attitude demands that we focus our priorities on people, not institutions. We are to ask: What are the needs of contemporary Americans? How can the Church address their hunger for spirituality in their pressurized lives?
The answers lie in spiritual renewal, not more programs or new church buildings. This renewal can be enriched when we ask, “How can we enhance a Catholic attitude toward prayer in our home? How can we help our children develop a spiritual way of life centered on the love of Jesus in the Eucharist? How can we grow in the practice of the virtues and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? “
Jesus and his disciples transformed the world by sharing love and forgiveness with those around them. He forgave the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4:1-26) by his words and personal presence. He did the same with the Good Thief on the Cross (Luke 23:39–43). Peter healed the cripple on his way to the Temple, He said, “I have no silver or gold, but ….. in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
Christ is incarnate in the lives of Christians who act in his name. Pope Francis says that we are to share Jesus’ Good News in an interpersonal way. When sharing it, our faith comes alive. Then we live in the spirit of the Risen Christ and follow Jesus' command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…..” (Mt. 28:19).
Order Fr. Hater’s latest book, Common Sense Catechesis: Lessons from the Past, Road Map for the Future.