Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Points to Ponder from Phil Lawler's Upcoming Book

I really like this approach of Philip Lawler to the Church's current crises. The type of renewal we need is best served by non-institutional efforts, at least at this point. Priests and bishops should do what they do best, i.e., liturgy, homilies, sacraments, canon law, and leave "the rest" of the work of evangelization to the laity. What constitutes "the rest"? Lawler provides the example of EWTN:

My favorite example of this phenomenon—and arguably the greatest success story of 20th-century American Catholicism—is the growth of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Who could have predicted that a cloistered nun with no background whatsoever in broadcasting, and with serious physical ailments, could found a Catholic radio-television empire that spans the globe? Mother Angelica began with nothing but a vision and a commitment supported by faith. She had no experience or expertise in broadcasting, no connections with the industry, no powerful corporate sponsors. For years she faced opposition from the US bishops’ conference, which poured millions of dollars into a competitive effort. Yet against all odds it was EWTN that prospered, while the lavishly funded effort by the bishops’ conference disappeared from the scene without leaving a trace.

Here's how he looks at the "Francis effect":

So let me ask the question again. Could there be something stirring within the Church: a subterranean rumbling, a movement for renewal that could burst forth to change the religious landscape? Since his election in March 2013, Pope Francis has prodded us all—not only Catholics, but the whole world—to look upon the work of the Church in a new way. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Pope Francis wants the Church to look at the world in a new way: with eyes fixed resolutely outward, concentrating first on the needs of our neighbors rather than on the internal housekeeping of Catholic institutions. His unconventional approach has caused some confusion—even a sense of disorientation—among faithful Catholics. But his popularity is undeniable. Thanks to “the Francis effect,” many more people are interested in the Catholic Church. People are asking questions about the Church, wondering if there is something about Catholicism that they have not quite understood. Yes, it is a time of great uncertainty; but it is also a time ripe for evangelization.

A lot of goofy ideas are floating to the surface recently, and they are based on a "spirit of Pope Francis" rather than authentic Catholic teaching. Some of these ideas floated up in a homily I heard recently given by a priest visiting from San Francisco. The man cherry-picked from every source he used—not just the pope's words—and served up the kind of thin gruel that turned the mainline protestant churches into ghost towns in the 20th century. I might blog about that in more detail later. The fact that I am able to communicate on the subject on this blog is the kind of thing that gives me hope. Good useful ideas will push out the useless, dopey ones. People will take the meat over the gruel when it is presented to them; that's the key.

A great religious revival does not necessarily begin with a formal announcement, and the people who take part in it do not necessarily realize that they are part of a historical movement. Decades from now, historians may look back and declare that a resurgence of the Catholic faith had already begun in the early years of the 21st century. They may even say that you and I helped to start it! And if a religious revival is gathering force in America today, it is arriving just in time to save our society from disaster.

In this book I am examining the influence of the Catholic Church on society, rather than on individual souls. Theoretically, I suppose, it is conceivable that a spiritual revival could occur without producing dramatic effects on society. But in practice, a vigorous movement of faith always produces social effects. A spirit of worship—of “cult” in the classical sense—cult gives birth to a culture.

By the way, this is not a brand new or unique approach to bringing the Gospel to the world. Opus Dei has been pushing this approach for years since its inception. It's actually the real intention of the Vatican II council which is supposed to be about the Catholic laity's role in the world, not the laity's role in the Church.

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