It is often a fact that we have had to discuss difficult subjects on this blog. For, it is also a fact that our culture is in serious trouble. But it is also a notable trend that God is renewing his Church. I am seeing increasing signs of a springtime for the Church, at least here in America.
As I walk past the rose bushes out front of the rectory I see the first red shoots emerging from the pruned stumps. Last October my rose bushes were over seven feet tall. In November they were pruned all the way back to one foot. But, the young red shoots are emerging.
And in this I see an image of the Church. The overall numbers in the Church still seem troubling, especially for those of who remember the days of packed Churches and waiting lists to get into Catholic Schools. In those days, the Church stood tall and proud. But the days of pruning came, as a cultural winter set in, and we have seen closings and very lean years. Yet, the young red shoots of a new season are appearing on this rosebush of the Church, if you ask me.
1. Vocations to the Priesthood in many areas are returning. Here in Washington we are preparing to open a new pre-theologate. Our ordination numbers are up and many superb men are presenting themselves for service of the Church. I am very impressed with our new priests of the last 15 years. They are solid men who love the Church, are obedient to the Magisterium and liturgical norms, and have zeal to proclaim Christ.
2. In my parish the convent became so full the Servant Sisters of the Lord had to seek larger quarters. 25 of them moved. Only four remain in our convent, but I expect the convent to fill again soon. Many Religious orders that have retained their traditions such as the habit, communal life, and a focused apostolate are doing well, if not thriving. The Dominican Sisters in Nashville and those in Michigan are over-flowing with vocations.
3. One of my apostolates is the Traditional Latin Mass and I find an amazing number of young people who are attending. They are also meeting each other and marrying. More than half my weddings these days are from the Latin Mass community. They are solid couples, committed to the Church’s teaching on marriage. A good number of the couples I have wedded have gone on to have nice, large Catholic families.
4. The Catholic blogosphere has lit up with many outstanding, faithful and informative sites. Yes, there are some bad ones out there that feature dissent. But frankly, it is clear that the real energy is at the faithful sites. There is a graying of dissent and a thirst for the truth.
5. EWTN and Catholic Radio have a great presence and authentic voice throughout the world.
6. Great publishing houses like Ignatius Press, OSV, and fine Catholic Publications are available to the faithful in abundance.
7. There are many thriving movements in the Church that both reflect diversity and manifest great devotion for the Lord and the Church.
8. Better sense of the Battle – I think an increasing number of Catholics who remain, (remember only 25% go to Church), have an overall better sense that they are in a battle. They are, increasingly sober and serious about the state of the world and the necessity of being distinct from it. Too many Catholics of the past just wanted to fit in and get along. I think this attitude is beginning to diminish. This is certainly so among the younger clergy and religious and a growing fact among especially the younger faithful.
9. Many younger Catholics are more open to the Church’s teaching. They see the disastrous and often ruined lives of the generation that preceded them and seem more open to admitting the errors of modernist tendencies.
10. There are many new and flourishing Catholic Colleges and Universitiesthat have risen to replace many of the seemingly unreformable ones. Likewise, there are many good movements on College campuses such as Newman Centers, and groups like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Groups like these give Catholics a fighting chance on many secular (and even some Catholic) campuses where the moral and academic setting is hostile and poisonous. Other groups such as the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) keep an eye on Catholic Colleges and both praise the good ones and warn parents of the bad ones and bad trends.
11. Open Dissent and Liturgical Abuses seldom go unanswered now. Many Catholics now zelously step forward to set the record straight and demand on-going reform.
Yes, the red shoots are beginning to appear on the pruned rosebush of the Church. My list is just a quick one, anecdotal and incomplete. I would be grateful if you would add to this list. Where do YOU see signs of growth and spring?
Little by little the Lord is raising up men and women in the Church who, by his grace, are ushering in reform and purification. Who do you know like this and what do you see?
I realize that some of you will also want to differ with my view or add areas where we need further improvement (e.g. greater love for and direct service of the poor). Please do so. My picture is incomplete; the rose shoots are just now appearing.
I want to finish with a Scripture from last Saturday’s Mass that speaks with joy of the work of God to rebuild the ruins:[L]ight shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.” (Is 58:9-14)
Photo Credit: Flickr (Right click on Photo for URL)
This video depicts the work of FOCUS, mentioned above. It illustrates well the kind of reform I see springing up in the Church. The Video is very inspiring.