Le Jour de l'an has traditionally been a time of great importance within French-Canadian families as it was the occasion when children would ask for their father's blessing. Alas this is another tradition that has been lost to common knowledge with the decline of the Catholic Church in Quebec and now throughout much of Canada. An opportunity to strengthen family ties is lost to the omni-present hangover that afflicts so many in the wake of "ringing in" the New Year.
The faith assumptions of many bishops and priests who are "of a certain age", (at least within Canada, pre-1965) are no longer understood or even held as relevant by the majority of the generation that is now coming into power in the political, social and economic spheres of western societies. I fear that now is the time when the sad truth of Richard Neuhaus' maxim ("that which is permitted will soon be found to be obligatory") will be realized. This mean that the Church will soon face many challenges to its right to practice as 'equality' legislation will be interpreted by civil authorities with an ever greater prejudice against the freedom of religion, at least as it is expressed within the public square.
These are the bitter fruits that are the catechetical failures of the Canadian Church of the past 40+ years, in the wake of Vatican II.
Although, I do believe that those who would blame that momentous Council for the current state of affairs are in error. If those responsible for ensuring the cathechetical preparation of the faithful since the 1960's and 70's had actually done as the documents of the Council called them to do (practicing both Aggiornamento and Ressourcement) then we would not be in the mess that we are in today: facing an un-evangelized generation hostile to the rights of faith.
What is the answer? "Better late than never" would sum up the best response to the current situation. We need Catholic leaders to better use the various media's at their disposal to argue for the rights and consequences of religious freedom, using language understandable to the general population of today.
These leaders need to step forward from both the clergy and laity alike to carry the values of faith into the everyday parlance of daily life. Even as a priest who has an ear to listen for such voices, I can find few, if any leaders in Canada (Archbishop Pendergast and Bishop Henry being stellar examples of Catholic Episcopal exceptions) stepping up to engage the media in teaching and explaining the propositions of our Catholic faith.
In my life, I have had the opportunity to live under two Pope John Paul's and I hold both as person models for ministry. Cardinal Albino Luciani, who became John Paul I had an amazing gift of explaining the tenets of the faith in an manner that was both engaging and effective to many Catholics in the wake of the papacy of Paul VI. His response to the birth of Louise Brown, the world's first 'test tube baby' (when asked if he sent roses to the mother as some sort of papal approval of IVF, he replied that theologians would help to make clear the response of the Church, he was simply sharing in the joy of God bringing to life a daughter into the Brown's family) won more souls for Christ than any pamphlet published by a Bishop's Conference. Like his successor, he understood the power of symbol and action in approaching today's culture, something he was able to accomplish in his all too short pontificate. We need priests and bishops who can function in our culture who can effectively do the same in the difficult days that now faces us.
What we need, is for our 'spiritual Father's' to truly bring to us Christ's blessing as this new year begins.
2010 would then be off to a great start, the first of many to come!
Happy New Year to one and all!
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