In my most recent post, I said that my next would be on hope.
In the absolute sense, of course, Hope is foundational to Catholicism. But I was being more specific than that, and thinking of the current crisis in the Church in this country.
Of course, our hope is always grounded in the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord, His Redemptive Work, and His promises to us. We know that the victory has been won, and that whilst the skirmishes continue, there is no doubt about the outcome. Our job is to make sure that we are on the right side, and to bring as many with us as we possibly can.
Nonetheless, when we find ourselves in a crisis where a number of the hierarchy have forfeited our trust, and many priests and even bishops seem to be in de facto schism with the Church, it is easy to be disheartened.
So it helps me to take stock of our reasons for hope, even in such times.
As well as the fundamental ones already mentioned, I think there are many more we can consider. For example, it is easy to imagine that the problems we face are unprecedented; but in fact the reverse is the case. A brief consideration of the Arian heresy, universally, or the Reformation, locally, will serve to remind us that bishops can go off the rails.
(Someone had a go at me recently for failing to trust the bishops 'appointed by the Holy Father.' I thought that odd. In the light of both history, and indeed the recent +Conry scandal, it is clear that bishops can and do go off the rails; moreover, to imagine that the Holy Father appoints bishops other than based on the information he receives from those who know the candidates, seems odd to me. It is not St John Paul I think was remiss in the appointment of +Conry...)
But to return to my theme, in both the crises I mentioned, it was the lay faithful who kept the Faith.
Moreover, what we face now is not, in fact, as grave a crisis as either of those. We have several bishops in England and Wales who are trustworthy, and who do work tirelessly to pass on the Faith as they have received it.
Also, it is not outside the wisdom of Providence that we are born in this place and in this time. Rather than lose heart, we should give thanks for everything, always.
Moreover, it is not my responsibility, as a lay man, to govern the Church in this country. My priorities start with my personal salvation, my responsibilities of state as a husband and father, and my professional, parish and social relationships. Beyond that, of course, I do have responsibilities in the wider Church: but the fact that I do not see how to get the Church in E&W back on track should not weigh too heavily upon me.
If I discharge my immediate responsibilities with Faith, Hope and Charity, then I am in fact doing the larger part of my duty. If I want to do more, all well and good, but I should not lose sight of those first priorities: and they are things that I can have a direct impact on.
So whilst I will continue to decry the sorry state of the CBCEW, and to ponder what can usefully be done, I will try not to allow that to distract me from what I should really be doing: in the sure and certain hope that salvation is won for me, and freely offered, if I just accept the graces being poured out on me.
Now, I had a talent buried around here somewhere; perhaps I'd better try to dig it up and put it to work.
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