Tuesday, February 11, 2020

An Old Man's Story

Pope Francis has often commented on the rigidity of priests. This word has been taken as insulting to the traditionalists and a pat on the back to the progressives but that needn't be the meaning in its entirety.

In the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness— Rejoice And Be Glad, we hear these words:
"This is all the more important when some novelty presents itself in our lives. Then we have to decide whether it is new wine brought by God or an illusion created by the spirit of this world or the spirit of the devil. At other times, the opposite can happen, when the forces of evil induce us not to change, to leave things as they are, to opt for a rigid resistance to change. Yet that would be to block the working of the Spirit. We are free, with the freedom of Christ. Still, he asks us to examine what is within us – our desires, anxieties, fears and questions – and what takes place all around us – “the signs of the times” – and thus to recognize the paths that lead to complete freedom. “Test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21)  (168).

"The discernment of spirits liberates us from rigidity, which has no place before the perennial “today” of the risen Lord. The Spirit alone can penetrate what is obscure and hidden in every situation, and grasp its every nuance, so that the newness of the Gospel can emerge in another light" (173).

More than the content it's an attitude. Religious truth is truth but the way it is presented depends a great deal on the wisdom of the speaker." Whatever is received, is received in the manner of the one receiving."

More than a decade ago, a Dutchman and a believer were invited to the home of a family in Amsterdam, A retired priest writes in a bulletin for the clergy of this experience. During the meal, they had a conversation about the church. Present was an 80-year-old family member who had been a devout churchgoer but no longer.  At one time he was concerned for his grandchildren who were no longer attending and he was now no longer going to Mass.

In the parish were now foreign priests who were strict and conservative to a degree that upset the congregation.
There was much criticism of the priest among the believers and he was sent to another area. Those who come to France from other countries have difficulty adapting. The 80-year-old man going to Mass didn't hear the good news and hearing the complaints of the priest every Sunday was too much for him and remained home reading spiritual books.

There were over thirty Churches in Amsterdam, today they have for the most part been closed and only 4 or 5  continue as places of worship. One Church prepared around 3,000 leaflets to be distributed to the families and after giving them to the parishioners that were attending about 70, the efforts showed no results. The empty churches continue and this is obviously not limited to the Netherlands but is what we see in much of the West.

In his talk to the Curia last Christmas, the pope said:  "the Christian world 'no longer exists' and the Christian faith— especially in Europe, but also in much of the West—is no longer a basis for a common living together. Indeed it is often denied, derided, marginalized and ridiculed."

The mission of the church is to present a vision that will make the church attractive again. Pope's words are not just for Western European churches, but for the world's churches, including ours. 

We have a negative perception of religion among our people. More than half of the population of Korea is not favorably disposed towards religion. We are seeing a rapid decrease of our believers and we need great change and countermeasures in the reality of our church. This needs to begin from the Vatican all the way down to the local church.