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The Church: Smaller, But More Alive

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes . . . she will lose many of her social privileges. . . As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members."
"It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek . . . The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution – when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret."

"And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.” (These quotes were taken from Pope Benedict's book, Faith And The Future.)

Since today is the feast of Pentecost I thought that I would take a slightly different approach.  I will attempt to write about what I see as the future of the church.

The reason why I choose these passages is that I agree with Benedict's prophesy.  I too believe that the church will get smaller, but more purer in the future.  It is already happening as we speak.  For example...

  • Vocations to the priestly and religious life are overall down, but among the more traditional orders there is an upward trend.
  • In the public, cultural arena the Catholic influence is waning.  Yet the catholic influence can still be felt among its few but dedicated politicians, artists, philosophers, and businessmen
  • Catholic schools are closing at an alarming rate, yet there is a resurgence in home schooling and enrollment in more orthodox schools.
  • The media which despises the Catholic Church covered exclusively the burial of John Paul II.
  • More and more Catholic universities are dropping their health coverage because of the HHS mandate and yet still enrollment hasn't been dramatically affected at these universities.
  • More and more churches are closing, but the one's that are still open are thriving.
  • There is a spike in Lay religious communities. 
  • The Catholic Church which is considered "uncool" to adolescents and young adults still manages to draw millions of them each world youth day.
In a weird way I draw solace from Benedict's prophecy. Throughout history the church has always been the church of the few. I am seeing these trends and my prediction is that these trends will continue.  At the same time I am heartened by these trends. Sure I would love our faith to become the faith of the majority, but the reality is that this probably won't happen.  The Church is going through a purification process.  The Church has made many mistakes, the world hates us, but at the same time the world needs us. (See John 15:18) I am absolutely certain that the church will emerge stronger through this purification process and become a beacon of hope, a light in the darkness for this world, as Benedict reflects,

"Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret."

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