Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurexit sicut dixit, Alleluia, Alleluia

Χριστός ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη
happy easter
I spent Easter Day with friends at their country home.  There were several families there for the weekend and a priest friend of theirs had joined them Easter morning to celebrate mass for the group and have Easter dinner with them.  Among the families were seven “kids”—all of College Age or seniors in High School and all took part in various ways, as did the adults, in the mass.  The readers were both among the younger generation.  Others had moved the chairs and set up and decorated the screened porch to be a temporary chapel.  In a shared homily, all the youth but one shared their response to the Easter readings.  All come from good Catholic families and all obviously know the mass and participate in it regularly.  Yet something struck me and made me wonder as I watched them: how many of these—all children of practicing Catholics—will be practicing Catholics themselves in ten to fifteen years?  They represent a new generation, a generation that thinks for themselves, can be articulate about what they think and believe, and do not take things on other people’s testimony.  In the course of the day I heard various kids express some very different opinions on politics, on social mores, and on religion from their parents.  These opinions may have been somewhat disturbing, but they were well-informed, well-thought out (in one case in particular, far better thought out than the opinion that this girl’s father had just expressed), and well expressed.  This is not a generation to take things “on authority;” indeed my impression was that at least five of these seven young men and women do not even have an intellectual construct that admits to authority’s having a claim over them.  Their experience seems to be their only guide.   While this failure to accomodate a place for authority is a dangerous sign for the future, I want to emphasize that—for this limited group of young people—their experience is informed and rational and not just a whim or a bandwagon rolling by.  But if such is fate of the green wood, what shall become of the dry?  These "kids" are la crème de la crème--Catholic families, Catholic Schools, all in college or about to go there.  If authority has little or no credibility for them, what will happen to the much larger number whose ties to the faith and Catholic  background is weak?    When the Renaissance caused a sharp and swift rise in European education in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it led to challenges to the authority of the Church—challenges that resulted in the series of Protestant Reformations that split western Christianity into an all but infinite number of denominations and sects; it also created the most effective internal Reformation which the Catholic Church has known in its history.  It gave us Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli; it also gave us Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and Francis deSales.  We need to take today’s technological advances with the subsequent revolutions in knowledge and communication seriously so that time we can experience the Reformation of heart and mind without seeing the Body of Christ disintegrate even more than it has.  This requires us to “think outside the box” not merely with a photo of the Pope opening his Facebook page, but with genuine communication running up and down throughout the central nervous system of the Body of Christ tying all together in mutual understanding and profound respect.  The renewal demanded for the Church to stand faithful today to the mission of its Lord is not a matter of guitars at mass or aging nuns in pants suits—it is a thorough revisioning of what it means to be the Body of Christ.    

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