In response to my post about Vatican II, someone noted the contrast with our current moment and described feeling like the Church is suffering collective deffervescence. (Perhaps I should call it de-effervescence, but I liked the neologism. So, I stole it for this post.)
Certainly, we live in challenging times for the Catholic Church, especially in the U.S. and places like Ireland. There is also no doubt that priest abuse scandals are the opposite of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. Such things are sure to lead to increased feelings of disengagement and decline. But, I also think that there are positive forces at work in the Church as well, and it is important that we not lose sight of these positive forces for renewal. I guess I am less pessimistic than many when I look at the Church in the US today. I see so much good and know that evil cannot prevail!
I received a phone call the other day from a Deacon in Texas who was interested in conducting surveys of parishes in his local Deanery. He recently had a wake-up call when a young couple seeking to be married in the Catholic Church told him that they attend a Protestant church because it makes them feel alive and the Catholic Church fails to engage them. He also recently attended mass at another parish and found the liturgy dreadful, hard to understand, and not engaging at all. He wondered, “Am I like that when I’m up there preaching a sermon?” He felt terrible that he was going to have to tell this delightful young couple (his description) that they could not get married in the Catholic Church because they are not participating in a Catholic parish (but are instead attending an Evangelical Protestant one). How had their parish failed them? He wondered if others felt like this, and he called me asking about how to go about conducting a scientific survey of parishioners. We talked for awhile on the phone and I sent him some materials, but I was struck by his commitment and his willingness to have people tell him where he is failing…He said, “I’m a big man, I can take it. I just don’t want to lose more people because I am not doing a good job as a Deacon.” He wanted so much to meet the needs of his parish that he was willing to hear where he was failing. That kind of willingness to take honest stock of where we are at, in order to do better, is what will lead to renewal and collective effervescence in the Church today–alongside an accurate appraisal of what we do right and recognition of the real treasures within the Church just waiting to be brought forth.
If you are interested in issues of decline and renewal, you might be interested in reading Pierre Hegy’s, “Wake Up, Lazarus!” or you might want to take a look at his new blog. While I have not read his book yet, his initial post discusses it:
“Today’s Catholic Church faces a major decline, and a dramatic renewal is needed to facilitate positive change. In Wake Up, Lazarus! author Pierre Hegy documents the most important issues facing modern Catholicism and presents a convincing argument for renewal in the Catholic Church.”
While Pierre’s blog shows some growing pains and he seems a bit more pessimistic than I am about the current state of things, he is hope-filled in his view of the possibilities for the future and he certainly won’t let Catholic decline continue without a fight. Pierre’s energy is legion. Check out his book and blog for his view of what is going wrong and his suggestions on how to wake up and renew the Church!
So, what do you see going on in the Church? What is causing disengagement, distrust, and deffervescence? On the other side, what are the success stories? Where is the spirit moving in the Church and how is that creating energy, passion, and effervescence?