There is a lot of discussion in Catholic circles today about our diminishing numbers as our institutional Church searches for concrete responses to the bleeding that has been going on now for some years. I read an article on Spirit Daily today [Will the Post Covid 19 Church be smaller?] that pointed the finger at practices in the Church today that don’t comply with practices in the pre-Vatican II Church such as communion offered in the hand rather than on the tongue. In general, the author pointed to success achieved by parishes that have moved back into traditional territory and he explained “ that they are successful because they offered a serious alternative to unserious, touchy-feely, self-centered culture” that he says prevails everywhere else. No mention, of course, to the success experienced by parishes of the Divine Renovation Network such as St Benedict’s in Halifax Nova Scotia who, like others fostered by Renew International, have successfully developed renewal processes in response to the call of our last 3 Popes to the New Evangelism. There seems as always to be some who wish to live in the past whether or not models of the past will produce fruit in this post Christian era in which we live.
I am a pre-Vatican II Catholic who was raised and educated in the years prior to Vatican II and I can say now that our Church contributed to the decline we are experiencing today because they did not fully understand the Gospel imperative in Mathew 28: 18-20 to make disciples, to baptize and to teach in that order. I was well catechized and sacramentalized but did not experience evangelization until later in life. The Kerygma must always precede catechesis to provide the necessary platform for discipleship formation that reaches its fruition as the result of teaching and admission to the sacraments. We must learn to care and that happens when we fall in love with Jesus. During much of my ministry work over the years, I did not understand the significance of these principles and the relative lack of fruit that those efforts produced are evidence of that.
I have to say that I have been involved in evangelization for over 20 years in my home parish of St. Joseph’s at Vanderhoof but have only come to understand the significance of the place of the Kerygma in the process over the last 3 years. The Divine Renovation Network and the writings of Fr. James Mallon have helped me to re-order my ministry that it might be more fruitful.
Yes, we need to try to recapture some of the sacredness that characterized the pre-Vatican II Church but that sacredness can shine forth in a culture of hospitality, invitation, Holy Spirit inspired prayer, small group sharing, stewardship and outreach to those who do not yet know Jesus. These aspects of renewal characterize communities who are not content to maintain what they have but are determined to embrace others through mission in response to the Great Commission. This is the task that the Holy Spirit calls us to today. We will be a smaller Church but Hope sustains us as we recognize that with the Holy Spirit doing the heavy lifting our Church will survive and grow in the years ahead.