I must say the whole thing is aggravated by those who were once sure footed peddlers of doom and gloom who kept us sensible and hard working all of a sudden pointing out rays of hope for the future. Because of them I have been forced to think that perhaps this nagging hope was not contained to my little world – birds of a feather and all that rot.
In a letter to the editor of Priest magazine this past month, Fr. John Koelsch took hard working, dedicated pessimists to task, telling them to wake up and smell the incense. “The American Catholic Church (sic) some 70 million strong in over 18,000 communities is arguably the largest group of actively practicing Catholics in the world. Yes, Mass attendance has declined, but it still averages three or four times that of most of the world’s Catholics . . . we still “luxuriate” in priest-per-people compared with other countries (especially the so-called Catholic ones.)”
He makes some further points. Scandals and defections are not nearly so bad as they had been in the time of some of the reforming saints. In fact, there is hope in that despite the various Church scandals the faithful, who have their eye on what is of true importance have contributed each year, “to the largest and most developed Church institution in the world (our universities included among them.) The survivability and continued response of our people is unequalled anywhere.”
A further troubling factor is our seminaries. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR writes, “I visited three seminaries recently, filled with seminarians who are clean-cut, dedicated, enthusiastic and loyal Catholics . . . The good news is that we are improving from the roots up. Every priest and every Catholic layperson should be glad and rejoice. If I had the time, I would write a book in response to “Goodbye, Good men!” It would be called “Welcome, Good Men!”
It seems the number of seminarians is on the rise and I grudgingly report a growing satisfaction with my own seminary – and might even say it? Can it be the dawning of . . . pride? Is that too much?
Believe me, I could come up with pages of issues that my cautious heart would like to see fixed in the Church. But despite the patches of chilling snow that still lays on the ground, it seems that a new springtime in the Church cannot be stamped out adequately. One cannot stamp out a crocus without ten glaring daffodils popping up elsewhere. Especially with younger people – around forty five all the way down, among those who practice the faith there seems to be a hunger and a cry for serious Catholicism, for orthodoxy, for challenge, for boldness of witness and practice. It is becoming harder and harder to be an honest pessimist.
The glass may only be only half full, but I think it is a martini.