In one of the many poignant moments in Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, Our Lord carries His Cross along the road to Calvary and looking toward His Mother, says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Renewed purpose, this month’s theme, conjures the idea of taking something old and giving it new purpose: in a word, renewal. Before Our Lord’s Incarnation, mankind groped about in the darkness, seeking for a God from whom Adam and Eve alienated our race. Throughout the Old Testament, we see many examples of God our Father renewing humanity, drawing people to Himself, gently preparing them for ultimate renewal.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to the Faith has been the inability of the bishops as a whole to deal with the sins of the past, the manner with which they were handled, and the exploitation of these sins by outside parties for their own agenda. Ultimately though, this is a symptom of a greater problem, the loss of identity and the influence of secularism. Pope Benedict XVI had repeatedly warned Catholics of the dangerous influence of secularism. Secularism’s pull on the Church and individual Catholics remains difficult to resist, but resist we must. So often political considerations and a false understanding of what it means to be pastoral or merciful mutes the voice of Truth. To overcome her present difficulties, the Church in America must find a renewed purpose by rediscovering and embracing her identity. She must be unabashedly Catholic, and stop trying to seek the approval of men.
Rome acted prudently in November by ordering the U.S. bishops to wait before voting on certain policies. As we saw with the Charter, policies made in haste for the sake of satiating the public are often bad policies with unhappy consequences down the road. Eventually, a solution will be found that is fair and just for all parties concerned. Our bishops should not care what politicians or the press think, so long as they are articulating the faith as Christ gave it to us and striving to live it as best they Can. Nor should priests censor the Gospel, especially when in the pulpit. Compromising the Faith for human respect is reprehensible.
What does this mean in practical terms for clergy and laity? Men need an ideal and a challenge, so reducing things to the least common denominator will not inspire seekers to embrace something masquerading as Catholicism. To quote Archbishop Charles Chaput, “If men and women are really made for heroism and glory, made to stand in the presence of the living God, they can never be satisfied with bourgeois, mediocre, feel-good religion. They’ll never be fed by ugly worship and shallow moralizing. But that’s what we too often give them.” Catholics must make Sunday Mass an absolute priority. Go to Penance at least monthly, more often if needed. Go to parish devotions; read the lives of the saints and other spiritual writers. Pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament. These things strengthen souls against the onslaught of secularism and worldly temptations. Faithfulness, the beauty of the Mass, and the sweetness of Catholic doctrine will attract souls as bees to honey.
Christ renews our purpose in His self-offering to the Father, where we find our nourishment and strength. He will fortify us, so that we shall not go astray. Indeed, Our Lord will make us new if we allow Him, for in Him we find our ultimate end and purpose which is nothing less than to know, love, and serve God in this life, that we may be happy with Him in the next.
HAROLD MCKALE, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is parochial vicar to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish (Doylestown, PA) and works with the Philadelphia Latin Mass community. He hold a B.S. in business from Millersville University, and M.Div. and M.A. from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia).