In an article by the National Catholic Reporter’s man at the Vatican a couple of days ago, John L. Allen deals with Pope Benedict’s opening words on his visit to Great Britain. The Pope, Allen reports, speaks about the dictatorship of relativism and warns against it and the other dangers arising from secularism and the marginalization of religion going on the the wide and woolly Western world.
Far down in his article Mr. Allen mentions some research done by a fellow at the University of Manchester, England, which is depressing at first glance. It’s all about religious households and how things are going from bad to worse with their numbers. Allen quotes the fellow as saying that his numbers show “institutional religion has a half life of one generation” in Britain.
I thought about that all the way to Mass Friday morning where I listened to St. Paul’s words to the folks in Corinth.; him writing about the resurrection of the dead and how without that being the truth then everything we believe is in vain. In his homily a few minutes later, Father Paul talked about the problem St. Paul faced, (the one Pope Benedict faces today); a skeptical crowd growing ever more skeptical, a cynical crowd and, even, a hostile crowd.
How do you prove the resurrection of the dead? How do you prove faith? How do you tell folks it’s worth the trouble?
They have a lot in common, St. Paul’s Corinth and Pope Benedict’s Britain, don’t you think? Father pointed out that the evidence for the truth of the claims faith made in St. Paul’s time could be found in the lives of the believers, and by extension that should be enough for today’s cynical, hostile and skeptical lookers on. Turns out, though it took a while, it was enough. Well, I wonder what it will take in Britain. He’s a nice guy and a darn smart one to boot, the Holy Father. If anyone can do it, kick a hole in the foundation of the edifice of lies about what matters most built up over there (and here, too, don’t doubt it for a minute) in the last two hundred or so years it ought to be him. Call it a beginning, or to use his own term, a “re-evangelization” of the place.
Father Paul, while not mentioning the Pope’s visit once, directed my thoughts to that visit and its meaning. Its been called a visit where “heart speaks to heart”. That’s the theme, a heart to heart talk with a little old man among whose first words to the world were under the title of Caritas in Veritate: “Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity. Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth.”
I mentioned above the news from the scholar at the University of Manchester which closed Mr. Allen’s report in the NCR, the news about the depressing and disturbing numbers, the woeful half lives of religious institutions in Great Britain today. I had been thinking about that all through Mass on Friday, and something occurred to me while Father Paul was speaking after the Gospel. That thought, like a headline inside my brain was this, “God Doesn’t Care About Numbers!” The simple proof of that is the fact that He chose one person, a young girl in a tiny village in a small province to start it all off, a young scared girl who loved Him…hence the title of this thing.