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Throughout history, the faith of everyday people in Roman Catholicism has often waned and then come back stronger than ever again. With that in mind, I read with great interest Glen Whiffen’s commentary, A time of reckoning for Newfoundland and Labrador’s Roman Catholic churches and parishioners.
During the earthly life of Jesus, for example, His apostles followed Him closely and, according to the Bible, some even vowed to die for Him. Yet, as soon as He was crucified and died, they scattered and hid. It would take the arrival of the Holy Spirit while they were afraid to embolden them to go out and spread the Word. Once they did, people who had never even heard of Jesus became believers, sometimes at events with baptisms numbering in the thousands.
Muslim raiders attacked Rome and sacked the basilicas of Old St Peter’s and St Paul’s-Outside-the-Walls in 1846. Things must certainly have looked bleak. Once again, though, the faith was spared. The pope built a wall to protect the city and the Christian faith continued to grow.
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The Middle Ages are often regarded as being largely dominated by blind obedience to the faith and little else. The fact is, though, that the Roman Catholic church was not doing all that well in 1500 A.D. Popes more interested in politics and the Italian Wars than in the faith took their toll on the church’s integrity.
The faith again bounced back.
Our own Canadian history includes a brief period when the only thing that seemed to keep European interest going in Canada was Catholic evangelization, priests going to Canada to spread the faith among the First Nations. By the early 1900s, Saint Brother Andre’s miracles on Mount Royal were leading to the establishment of the incredibly impressive St. Joseph’s Oratory. The daily newspapers of the day had front-page photographs of thousands of the faithful trudging up the dirt path on the mountain to attend mass at Brother Andre’s little chapel only about 100 years ago.
Then, the scandals of abuse came out. Millions turned away from the faith. Court decisions left the Canadian church – and the church in many other places too – financially strapped.
But I consider that we today are truly blessed.
In the next few years — if history teaches us anything at all — there will be a revival of the faith again.
Yes, we are living at a time in history when the faith of many has grown cold or shriveled up and died entirely. I myself was an atheist for many years. Many people mock Christianity. Our movies and TV shows often depict Christians as simple-minded simpletons or hypocritical con artists or pedophiles. As someone who has travelled throughout Canada, I have been told in some places that I should not profess my faith, not admit to being Catholic, because there is so much antagonism to the Catholic church in those places.
The Bible foresaw all that and tells us how to react to such times.
First, the Bible tells us: “Be not afraid.” And, secondly, Jesus Himself tells us: “Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.”
He’s speaking to us. Today.
Something wonderful is about to happen. In the next few years — if history teaches us anything at all — there will be a revival of the faith again. People looking for meaning, searching for the Truth in a world that seems to no longer make sense, will once again find Jesus, turn to the Father, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. These people, the living, breathing church, will spread out throughout the world and nothing will be able to stop them. They will gather for worship. They will sing hymns of praise. They will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless. They will answer God’s call for their lives with heroic virtue.
Buildings are nice. They keep out the cold and rain. They give us a place to gather. They allow us to store our Bibles and other teaching materials and chairs and provide a special, sacred place. The artwork reminds us of important passages in the Bible. I admit to a bit of sentimental attachment to these church buildings.
In my heart of hearts, though, I have often hoped that every Catholic church would be suddenly demolished. A cataclysmic event during which no-one would be harmed but every church building would be destroyed would wake up complacent Catholics and force them to search their hearts and examine their faith. It would be a much-needed wake-up call.
In a way, I believe that this is what God is doing now. He is allowing our church buildings to be taken from us, separating us from the cultural trappings and real estate holdings, and calling us to a deeper communion with Him — and with each other.
A great evangelization, a spiritual awakening, is very, very close at hand. I feel it — and so does a good friend of mine in Australia. A staunch Catholic, he is so excited at the prospect of this spiritual awakening that he told me on the phone a while ago that he can no longer sleep. His joy keeps him up at night.
May God bless you all, now and in the exciting days to come.
Yours in Christ,
Bathurst, New Brunswick
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