To Whom Shall We Go?

To Whom Shall We Go art

Stained glass art of St. Peter kneeling before Christ.

(“To whom shall we go?” John 6: 66-69)1

A Pastoral Letter on the Spiritual Nature of the Human Person and the Role of God’s Grace in Guiding Us to Live the Fullness of Our Humanity in Today’s World According to His Plan

Introduction
Arriving in New Jersey almost fifteen years ago, I joined the faith community of the Church of Newark and the civic community in the process of recovering from the aftermath of September 11th. These were days and months of profound sadness and human suffering. They were also days and months saturated with an abundance of natural goodness and supernatural grace. In the wake of a sudden and massive experience of terror, there followed a sustained search for answers, meaning, solace beyond our daily existence – a reaching out to the transcendent, a turning toward faith, a search for God. At the same time, there followed a reaching out to others through a myriad of acts of charity, compassion, and empathy.2

Following 9/11, men and women from all walks of life, from a multitude of races, cultures, and life-philosophies, of a professed creed, and of no creed, turned toward the transcendent One for strength and assurance to guide them from turmoil to peace, and offer the hope of moving forward toward healing for self and others. During those days and months lived in the shadow of evil and human suffering, men and women of goodwill responded in a manner natural to the human person.

I. A Sense of the Transcendent
The human person experiences an innate sense of the transcendent3—an undefined awareness of that which lies beyond the temporal experience of what we can see, hear, and touch. More still, the human person senses a longing for a knowledge of, and relationship with, a transcendent being, a Someone beyond self­awareness. A being “not as some abstract entity, but as presence, a presence which I do not myself make, which I find. A presence which imposes itself upon me.”4

Daily living, interpersonal relations, chance encounters with beauty, the order and wonder of nature, all provide signposts which correspond to our subtle sense of a realm beyond ourselves, and point to a transcendent reality. These moments of awareness serve as “signals of the transcendent,”5 “signs,”6 and “sacramental moments”7 which draw us out of ourselves, and expand our capacity for revelation of the divine, and human fulfillment. Affirming this common human experience, Pope Francis notes that all men and women seek “to see signs of God in the daily experiences of life, in the cycle of the seasons, in the fruitfulness of the earth, and in the movement of the cosmos.”8

Writings and artistic works, secular and religious, throughout history have alluded to, or directly addressed, this sense of the transcendent. Philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, prophets, psychologists, anthropologists, musicians, and mystics have sought to express this common human experience, and have wrestled with the question of the transcendent, and the larger questions which surface from within: What is the purpose and meaning of human existence; what is my contribution to the world around me; does suffering have value, and evil an explanation; what is truth and goodness; what does it mean to love and be loved; does God exist; is there sense or order in the world; is there life beyond this world? Questions such as these, our search for answers, for an orienting point of reference, “a sure compass for our life,”9 sought in relation to the transcendent, introduce us into the “realm of sacred things, of obligations that cannot be accounted for in terms of any deal we made, and which speak of an eternal and other-worldly order.”10

The unknown answers to these questions, which reach out to an unknown transcendence for resolution, flow from the core of the human condition, and have been the driving force for human beings throughout our history in the quest for meaning and happiness.

During his visit to Athens, Paul the Apostle found himself in a city where these deeper questions of life, and how mortals can know and relate to what lay beyond the world of nature, were regularly hashed out and debated in the public forum. Paul praised the citizens of Athens for engaging the existential questions of life, and their religious sense made manifest in the plethora of monuments to known gods, and even an edifice to “the god not yet known.” As he stood in the center of the Areopagus, Paul took his turn and addressed the gathered crowd: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god” (Acts 17:22-23). Paul acknowledged and affirmed this fundamental search for truth, and the unknown gods who order the universe.11

II. The Gift of Faith
Into the Athenian marketplace of life’s enduring questions, and the relation of the gods to humankind, Paul introduces the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob revealed in the person of Jesus Christ—the Fully Human, Fully Divine, Incarnate Son of God:

What, therefore, you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth … And he made from one, every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth … that they should seek God in the hope that they might grope for him and find him (Acts 17: 23-24, 26-27).

Upon hearing Paul’s proclamation, some in the crowed “mocked” his testimony, while others were curious and agreed to hear him again, and Dionysius, Damaris, their associates, and some others “joined him and believed” (Acts 17:34).

Since the days of ancient Athens, men and women through the ages have heard the proclamation of the Good News, have witnessed the Gospel in action, and have sought to follow the Christian path of life in faith-filled hope of seeking after the Unknown God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, whose word corresponds to the longing of the heart, and soothes the angst of the human condition. All of us who claim the name of “Christian” have, to some degree, experienced an attraction, a sense of “home” in orienting our lives in relation to Jesus:

For to believe as a Christian means, in fact, entrusting oneself to the meaning that upholds men and the world; taking it as the firm ground on which I can stand fearlessly … to believe as a Christian means understanding our existence as a response to the word, the logos, that upholds and maintains all things … Christian belief … means opting for the view that what cannot be seen is more real than what can be seen.12

As the human person responds to an inner desire to reach out to God, so too, God reaches out to us, and desires to “reveal himself to man, and give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith.”13 From the inexplicit signs of nature and personal experience,14 God leads us by incremental self-revelation to the full and definitive sign of his Son.

God complements what can be known of him from human reason with self­-revelation, in word and deed, so that we might enter into a personal relationship with him. Moving from the natural to the supernatural revelation God, beginning with his communication to our first parents, Adam and Eve, to the restorative covenant with Noah, the promise made with Abraham, our Father in the Faith, the calling and formation of a people uniquely his own, through the covenant on Mount Zion, the words of the prophets, to the fullness of his revelation in Jesus—his Word made flesh.15 Through his intimate revelation and steadfast relationship, God answers the questions of the human heart, that we might come to know and abide in the one in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28).

When God’s gratuitous revelation resonates with the core of our being, when we hear and are moved to believe, our response is to place our faith—”our assurance for things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) in God. For many of us, the response in faith, which is often initially a “small, hesitant “yes”—spoken with inner reservations, and surrounded by a thousand questions,”16 nevertheless places us on a graced path to deeper knowledge, assurance, conviction, and encounter with the Son of God, who has loved us, and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Faith is, in itself, a personal gift from God—a grace each individual must choose to receive and engage. It is also a human act, a free-choice act of the will, which stems from a personal commitment.17 At the heart of faith, in most of the great religious traditions, is an encounter with the transcendent Other which demands a response.18 At some point in the Christian journey, we meet the Lord anew, and the encounter brings forth a more holistic and definitive commitment to Jesus. We move from knowing about Jesus, to putting our faith in him. Faith in Jesus provides us with the trust and confidence to allow mere facts to become a lived belief, the touchstone for every aspect of our daily living, and the lens through which we see the world around us, and the people we encounter. Belief which becomes faith transforms our discernment and decisions, our words and deeds, our priorities and affections. In essence, belief coupled with faith involves “taking up a position … taking a stand trustfully on the ground of the word of God”19 as we move from knowing about Jesus, to knowing the person of Jesus Christ.

The Christian does not stand alone. Indeed, the personal “I believe” professed is derived from, and joined to the communal “We believe.” In the community, the individual believer is formed in a deeper knowledge of belief, and nurtured in faith, as “the life of the believer becomes an ecclesial existence, a life lived in the Church.”20 Within the Church, God’s self-revelation, which has called into being the community of believers, is preserved, and continually transmitted, through Sacred Scripture—the living Word of God—and the deposit of Holy Tradition, under the guidance of the Spirit of God.21 Our individual act of faith is, first of all, a gift of God, something which we receive. It is to live the fullness of our humanity as God intends it. As St. John Paul II reminded us in Redemptor Hominis, we learn who the human person is through Christ’s revelation to us, of what we, in our completeness, really are. So too, the content of belief is not something which we create and re-create, but rather a gift which we receive to treasure in all its integrity. The Church serves to provide certain guidance in deepening the faith we have placed in the Lord, and strengthening us in living out that faith in our daily lives.

In responding to God’s revelation, we, like John the Apostle, have “come to know and have believed the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16). Yet, for many of us, our faith relationship with the Lord, like all relationships, encounters set-backs, doubts, a turning back to a former way of life, a turning from God, and lukewarm periods. Like Peter, we, too, struggle to remain faithful to our encounter with Jesus. But in the midst of struggles, difficulties, and infidelities, we, too, like Peter, must return to our initial attraction to Jesus who corresponds to the needs of the human heart, and so reaffirms our stand with him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

III. Faith and a Secularized Culture
“Lord, to whom shall we go?” The faith-filled rhetorical question of Peter gives voice to the longing that the human person experiences for a trustworthy source to provide meaning, direction, and clarity to life. Peter, and believers through the ages, have turned to Christ for the words which give meaning to life’s journey, and the words which lead to life eternal. From the early apostolic Christian communities, through the nearly one thousand years of European Christendom, individual believers, and eventually society as a whole, have turned to Christ, and the surety of the Church, for guidance, truth statements, a cohesive system of life weaved through the seasons of life, and the moments of daily living.

The cohesiveness of Christian faith and life provided a common foundation for the ordering of the common good, social norms, and private life. However, the scandal of many leaders, both secular and religious, failing to live in accordance with the social and moral teachings of Christ, caused the sin of division. The 16th century Protestant Reformation, and the subsequent array of Christian churches and individualized interpretations, shook the sure foundation of Christendom. The subsequent conflicts and divisions, religious and national wars, paved the way for skepticism and doubt. Soon, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, were proposing reason, unaided by faith, as the only sure guide to life. The many positive advances in the sciences, technology, political philosophy, and social restructuring brought with them also a questioning of religious and governing authority, a suspect disposition to tradition and belief systems, a disordered adherence to rationality over faith, the scientifically demonstrative over the relational, and a growing sense of absolute self-sufficiency.

This exaggerated belief in reason was proven inadequate by the Reign of Terror and the Napoleonic wars. Subsequently, every attempt to establish an atheistic regime, whether of the “right” (fascism) or the “left” (communism), created more and more injustices, wars, barbarity, and atrocities. With the “death of God,” everything became permissible in the name of an imagined secular utopia. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became Benedict XVI) observed that this radical secularism has led to a “practical atheism” in Western societies:

This process had a major impact on both politics and ideals. In terms of ideals, there was a rejection of the sacred foundation both of history and of the state. History was no longer measured on the basis of an idea of God … The state came to be understood in purely secular terms, as grounded in rationalism … The secular state arose … declaring that God is a private question that does not belong to the public sphere … Public life came to be considered the domain of reason alone … religion and faith in God belonged to the domain of sentiment, not of reason. God, and his will, therefore, ceased to be relevant to public life.22

Our Founding Fathers knew better. They understood the importance of morality and virtue, grounded in a vibrant life of faith, to sustain the new experiment in ordered liberty that they founded. George Washington spoke specifically to this issue in his farewell address:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens … And let us, with caution, indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason, and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Washington’s experience, in both war and peace, had led him to know this well. What was true in 1796 is still true today.

One need not be a person of faith to realize that there exists in Western societies a significant absence of belief and reference to God in daily living and public discourse. While governments and politics can have a substantial positive or negative influence on the role of faith in the public forum, political systems do not, of themselves, create or deconstruct a society which is formed and informed by faith, and reference to the transcendent. The message and vibrant living out of Christianity developed and spread within the context of the ancient pagan Roman Empire. A lived culture of faith remained strong underneath 20th century communist and totalitarian regimes. And one need only look toward theocratic governments and nations with an official religion to observe that government-supported religion does not necessarily translate into a practical experience of faith among its people.

As government-sponsored religion does not guarantee a people of faith, so too, a secular government, or a secular nation, does not mean a nation devoid of faith. Faith, Judeo-Christian or otherwise, can and has taken root and flourished in nations like our own that adhere to a clear separation of church and state. During his 2008 pastoral visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI took note of the spiritual fervor that has marked the citizens of our nation:

 America is … a land of great faith. Your people are remarkable for their religious fervor and pride in belonging to a worshipping community. They have confidence in God, and they do not hesitate to bring moral arguments, rooted in biblical faith, into their public discourse. Respect for freedom of religion is deeply ingrained in the American consciousness—a fact which has contributed to this country’s attraction for generations of immigrants … “23

Yet, Benedict XVI also drew attention to the creeping secularism which is taking hold in the United States, as it has in Europe:

While it is true that this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can, nevertheless, color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent … to exploit or ignore the poor and the marginalized … to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death?24 

Secularism is an individual and cultural disposition which focuses on, and orients itself to, the things of the world rather than the transcendent, the things of God. The cultural influence upon the individual encourages a privatization of faith with little reference to the public square. Secularism, be it antagonistic to religious expression, dismissive of the spiritual dimension of the human person, or indifferent to the role of faith in the social arena, contributes to what Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have referred to as a “practical atheism,”25—living as if God did not exist. It creates a compartmentalized approach to human existence, professing faith in God, but living according to one’s dictates, emotions, preferences, and the prevailing cultural norms of the day, without reference to God. The probability of a personal God, truths of faith, divine moral code, and religious rites are not denied, but are deemed an irrelevant factor in daily life.

The effects of practical atheism come to bear upon the individual, the family, societal norms, and upon the Church’s effectiveness in shaping society and culture through its members. The effects of secularism, and the adoption of practical atheism, are reflected in an exaltation of human nature without reference to the Creator, a rejection of universal and unchanging moral norms, an ambivalence to value systems and the possibility of objective truth, a culture of death and dehumanizing social structures, an understanding of freedom as liberty to do as one pleases removed from a grounding in truth and goodness.

The exclusion of a transcendent being—of God revealed throughout human history as a point of reference for the individual and public culture—creates an existential void which causes us to feel disoriented and detached.26 Be it in our personal life, or the communal life of society, culture, and politics—our relation to God can be unconsciously forgotten or overlooked, deliberately set aside, or rejected outright.27 The greater the secularization of society, the more the human person experiences the need for something to satisfy the heart’s hunger for meaning. When God is removed from the equation of life, a questioning void remains: “to whom shall we go?”

IV. Lived Faith and Religious Freedom
In the United States, founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and the natural law written on the human heart,28 the adherence to church-state separation serves to protect religious institutions from state interference, and to secure the freedom of each individual to profess and practice his or her faith in accord with the dictates of one’s conscience. In safeguarding this freedom, our Founding Fathers moved toward an acknowledgement of the dignity of the human person, and paid respect to the spiritual dimension of its citizenship. Likewise, the Catholic Church declares that the right to religious freedom flows from the very nature of the human person.29

Civic systems of government must promote and defend the good of each of its citizens and the common good.30 Fundamentally, the common good requires a respect for inalienable rights, provision for the necessities of life and human growth,31 and the peace and security needed for individual and communal development. Additionally, the Church seeks a political sphere in which individual believers, and religious institutions, are accorded the right and freedom to worship, preach, minister, and organize in light of religious tenants,32—and to live out one’s faith in a manner consistent with the dictate of one’s conscience.33

In the history of our nation, the constitutional freedom of religious liberty, granted by the First Amendment, has not always been immediately acknowledged and implemented. The letter and spirit of the law do not exist within a vacuum, but are subject to cultural realities and the human condition. As faith traditions—Catholicism among them—have entered into the American experiment, they have faced communal or institutional discrimination, and had to struggle for acceptance in the melting pot of America. We are thankful that, in time, respect for the conscience of the individual, and the ideal of religious freedom, prevailed. May it continue to do so today for each new immigrant and faith tradition entering into our great nation.

While it is true that religious organizations have, for many years now, enjoyed full freedom to assemble and worship, the Catholic Church, and other faith communities, have faced new challenges to religious freedom in recent years. Legislation and policies at the federal and state level have sought to impose norms, requirements, practices, and forms of cooperation upon religious institutions which are inconsistent with their belief. In some cases, secular authority has taken upon itself the role of interpreting religious tenets, and determining what policies may, or may not, violate the moral teaching and belief system of a religious organization. In effect, recent policies and court rulings acknowledge the right of religious institutions to believe, but not to act in accord with belief. Faith and belief are confined to a private matter, not to be translated into public practice. One need not be a religious leader or theologian to realize the inconsistency entailed in an institutional or personal disconnect between professed belief and public action.34 Belief must inform action, and action must confirm belief—in the privacy of our homes, within the walls of our houses of worship, and in the public sphere:

It is clear that the order … of the spiritual, or of the things that are God’s, should vivify to its most intimate depths the order of … the temporal, or of the things that are Caesar’s; but these two orders remain clearly distinct. They are distinct, {but} they are not separate. To abstract from Christianity, to put God and Christ aside, when I work at the things of the world, to cut myself into two halves: a Christian half for the things of eternal life—and for the things of time, a pagan or diminished Christian, or ashamedly Christian, or neutral half … such a splitting is only too frequent in practice … In reality, the justice of the Gospel, and the life of Christ within us, want the whole of us, they want to take possession of everything, to impregnate all that we are, and all that we do, in the secular, as well as in the sacred.35

A dualistic approach to religious expression in word and deed is at odds with the very nature of what it means to exercise religious belief. Pope Francis never tires of reminding the Christian community of this message in his official writings and informal reflections:

But if we accept the faith and then do not live it, we are Christians in memory only … our Christianity doesn’t help anyone! And more than that, it goes by way of hypocrisy. “I call myself Christian, but I live like a pagan!” Sometimes we say “Christians stuck halfway,” who don’t take this seriously. We are holy, justified, sanctified by the blood of Christ. Take up this sanctification and carry it forward! And this is not taken seriously! Lukewarm Christians say, “But, yes, yes; but no, no.” … A bit of Christian whitewash, a bit of catechism whitewash. But inside there is no real conversion.36

Over the last few years, certain ideas that take expression in legislation and policies—among them, gender confusion, same-sex unions, unrestricted sexual activity, abortion, unjust immigration laws, and other attacks against the dignity of the human person—have created difficult challenges for the Church as it seeks to provide the educational and social services which flow from the Church’s mission and ministry in a manner consistent with our sincerely-held religious beliefs. These charitable expressions of our faith are “as essential to {the Church} as the ministry of the sacraments, and preaching of the Gospel.”37

Within the four counties that constitute the Archdiocese of Newark, the Catholic Church offers pastoral care to more than 1.4 million Catholics in 219 parish churches; education to some 45,000 children in 98 elementary and high schools, and 17,500 college students in four institutions of higher education. Three Catholic affiliated hospitals provide physical and spiritual healing to more than 1 million individuals annually. Four facilities provide a caring home for 650 aged men and women, and five temporary housing sites assist 875 individuals with challenges ranging from substance abuse to crisis pregnancy. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark offers much-needed social services, food distribution, and immigration assistance to 72,000 men, women, and children. At the Saint Lucy Homeless Shelter in Jersey City, a nutritious meal, a warm shower, and a clean bed is offered to close to 300 of our brothers and sisters in Christ each night. Since the mid-1970s, Saint John’s Soup Kitchen has provided food to Newark’s downtown area as a direct response to the Lord’s command to feed the hungry. Each day, 700 hot meals are prepared and served with a faith-filled spirit of kindness and concern.

These charitable works of mercy are offered in Christ’s name, and in response to the call of the Gospel to any and all in need. They are some of the works of the Church as a community of believers, of the individual members who form the mystical Body of Christ, and of countless men and women of good will who join in our Gospel mission. Through its charitable organizations, the Church engages in “a task agreeable to her … doing what corresponds to her nature. The Church can never be exempted from practicing charity as an organized activity of believers … because in addition to justice, man needs, and will always need, love.”38 By its very nature, sincere religious belief, which takes root in the soul of the human person, and forms the foundation for one’s words and deeds, can never be constrained to private expression, or granted liberty only within the confines of a house of worship. Religious liberty extends beyond the freedom to worship. Religious liberty entails the freedom to exercise belief, and to order one’s life in accord with that belief, in affairs both private and public.39

V. Faith in the Christian Life
The gift of faith which the Christian accepts and affirms in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation is not an accessory to human existence, but by its very nature faith serves as the touchstone, the driving force, and unifying factor of the whole of life in the private and the public domain. Faith is a personal response to a continuing invitation to live in an intimate relationship with Christ, answering the question of the human heart “to whom shall we go.” It is a relationship of joy, of life-meaning, of strength, and of consolation, and it is also a relationship of the sometimes challenging moral imperatives entailed in a life of discipleship.

The lay faithful, by virtue of their baptism, have an essential role and responsibility which is uniquely their own to share in the mission of Christ and his Church. Living in a society which demonstrates an indifference to faith tenets—if not a hostility to the role of faith in society—then the renewal of the vocation of men and women of faith in the world is greatly needed. “There is,” as John Paul II has noted, “so much need today for mature Christian personalities, conscious of their baptismal identity, of their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world.”40 The greater the need, the greater still is the responsibility to respond. Within the Christian, such need and responsibility must generate an anxious desire to proclaim and share the Good News: the gift of faith which is ours—”what you have received as gift, give as gift.” (Matthew 10:8)

The Church today, perhaps as never before, needs to, and must rely upon, the lay faithful to commit themselves to their baptismal participation to the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel: to bring Christ into the multi-layered dimensions of culture and society, to be “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 49:6) and leaven in the world to re-evangelize culture.

Jesus Christ is the goal and the means of evangelization. To be effective agents of cultural transformation and evangelizers, to be authentic bearers of the Good News of the Gospel, we first must allow Christ to enter and transform our lives. Christ must first have found a home within us before we can dare to bring him to others. As we are transformed by Christ’s love, we desire, more and more, to share with others the joy of friendship with Christ.

Our first encounters with others will often take the form of dialogue. St. Paul’s speech at the Areopagus, referred to earlier, can serve as a model of missionary activity. Here, Paul enters into “dialogue” with the cultural and religious values of the Athenians. He attempts to show them that God is already present in their lives as Creator and Sustainer of all things. But to recognize the Lord, the Athenians must abandon their false gods, and a limited notion of the Transcendent. One can easily see parallels to the false gods of the modern, secular world. Dialogue of this sort brings into contact two or more persons sincerely searching for the truth. The Christian comes to these encounters as a fellow-seeker of truth. He or she knows that there is much to be learned from the other. But the Christian also knows that he or she has much to share. Having encountered the person of Jesus, and captivated by his teaching, Christians bring the light of the Gospel to these discussions. Because the Gospel can never be imposed on another’s freedom, the dialogue provides an opportunity to propose—not impose—the truth of the Gospel.

Along with dialogue and, perhaps, even more important, each of us must bring about re-evangelization by our personal witness. In the spirit of the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi—”Preach always! When necessary, use words.”—we are called to witness to Christ in the arenas of our daily lives by the manner in which we live. Ultimately, the most successful form of evangelization is the personal witness of a holy life. “People today put more trust in witness than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theory.”41

There are many obstacles to the effort of re-evangelization. Most of these are internal to each Christian, and to the Christian community; our own sinfulness acts as a countersign to the Gospel. Concupiscence, the tendency to sin that remains in us even after baptism, is difficult to overcome. A lukewarm heart, and lack of fraternal charity, can make us less than totally fervent to share the Gospel. The many failings of our Church—its hierarchy and members—have led others astray. In all of this, we must, as individuals and as a community, acknowledge our sinfulness, seek to heal wounds, and commit to genuine renewal and transformation.

But in addition to internal obstacles, there are external difficulties that we face. Culturally, we live in a society that is not fully supportive of the Christian life, and the contribution which faith—Christian or otherwise—has to offer. In our increasingly pluralistic environment, many demand that religion be reduced to a strictly private realm. In an atmosphere that regards every opinion as a “truth,” evangelization is never easy. But we must be careful not to fall into the trap of blaming the prevalent culture for our lack of success. While we are obligated to point out the dangers of individualism, secularism, hedonism, relativism, and other negative forces, we cannot overlook the deep religious hunger that stirs the hearts of our brothers and sisters. Somewhat ironically, secularization has produced a religious emptiness in many parts of our society, an emptiness that yearns to be filled. The idea that everyone has his or her own “truth” does not satisfy basic human needs. Dissatisfied with such relativism, many realize the foolishness of asserting that contradictory views are equally “true.” Many seek answers to the mystery of life. Into this “emptiness,” we shine the light of faith, and allow the proclaimed name of Christ—who is the way, the truth, and the life—to echo as the answer to humanity’s questions.

Serving as Christ’s witness to the world, and standing firm for Christ and his Gospel truth, is a challenge, and we can easily find ourselves, almost without notice, exchanging the clothing in Christ which we received in Baptism (Galatians 3:27) for the shackles of worldly values. We must remember the encouragement of Paul: “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then, you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him, and is perfect” (Romans 12:2).

For many of us, we can trace back to a particular time in our life when our faith in Christ became particularly active and effective. We must often return to this graced moment of encounter with Christ as we travel the journey of faith, and recommit ourselves to our relationship with the Lord. This is essential for our perseverance and effectiveness as disciples. As Jesus directs us: “Abide in me, as I abide in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). Abiding in the Lord can be a challenging endeavor in the midst of the busyness of life, its daily challenges, and a culture counter to a lived-faith. All the more does the Christian need to provide the Lord room within our life, and give priority to the life of the soul.

Giving priority to the spiritual dimension of the human person, itself, takes deliberate consideration and effort. Essential to our remaining in communion with the One who has called us into relationship with him is our weekly participation each Sunday in the Eucharistic Celebration which is the “source and summit”42 of the Church, and life of each of its members. In the weekly reception of Holy Communion, we receive the food for the Christian journey, and in a most literal way, we abide in Christ, and Christ in us—and are then sent forth to be his ambassadors in the world. Into the world, we take with us the Good News of the Lord as revealed in Sacred Scripture. The revealed word of God is also our nourishment for the journey. Reading a passage of Scripture each day, expectant that the Lord will speak to us, has been a venerable practice for Christians through the ages, and deepens our knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ. Coupled with engaging the word of God are a few moments of mental prayer in which we speak with the Lord as we would a confidant or dear friend. If we can carve out time, and commit ourselves each day to this daily encounter with the Lord in Scripture and prayer, we will surely see the fruits of our efforts in our personal lives, and in the manner in which we approach the arena of our daily lives. To the foundations of the Christian life—the Eucharist, reflective reading of Sacred Scripture, moments of personal prayer, and frequent confession—we can join other spiritual practices and devotions—such as the Holy Rosary, meal-time prayer, the reading of a spiritual book, a morning offering and nightly examination of conscience—all of which help us keep the presence of God as we pass each day, and seek to develop and fortify our relationship with the person of Christ.

In addition to finding strength in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Christian needs to join with others outside of the celebration of Sunday Eucharist in order to find support and encouragement in living our calling as disciples. This type of support is important, not only for those of us who are life-long Catholics, but also as a means of providing support to those who join our community of faith. During this Easter Season alone, within the Archdiocese, 438 adults received the sacrament of Baptism, 65 Christians from other faith communities entered the Catholic Church, and 587 adult Catholics completed their full initiation into the Church. This is a great grace for the Church of Newark, and their response to the Lord, their turning toward Christ for answers to the longing of the human heart, renews our faith. As Christians, we need to be not only “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 49:6), but a light and witness to our brothers and sisters in faith.

One very important place to find this support is in the local parish community. Many, if not all, of the parishes in the Church of Newark provide opportunities for continuing adult faith formation—such as prayer groups, bible study, lectures, parish missions, catechetical offerings, and apostolic service opportunities. However, in the course of the Church’s history, most notably during Catholic Revival of the 16th and 17th centuries, lay movements and organizations have risen up in response to specific needs and the spiritual desires of the faithful. Many of these organizations continue to this day, and many more have been added since the Second Vatican Council. Active within the Archdiocese of Newark are a host of lay movements and organizations—such as the Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, Saint Vincent DePaul Society, Neo-Catechumenal Way, Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei, Couple to Couple League, Courage, Charismatic Renewal Movement, and Cursillo, to name only a few. In addition to these the Archdiocese sponsors, there are a number of outreach groups and initiatives to provide spiritual and communal support to particular life situations—such as groups for the bereaved, divorced, and individuals with disabilities. Involvement in these, and other such faith-based groups, can help to provide a greater integration of our faith in our daily life, and offer a supportive experience of Christian fellowship and faith formation.

Equally important to the family unit is regular and active participation in the sacramental and communal life of the parish. Our parishes exist, first and foremost, to provide for the spiritual and sacramental needs of the individual and families through the reverent and meaningful celebrations of the Church’s liturgical rites, and the proclamation of the Gospel message. They should also serve to bring the faith community together for outreach initiatives, the expression of the rich cultural traditions of the people of the Archdiocese, and provide opportunities for social gatherings. When our parishes are vibrant, they provide for both the sacramental and communal needs of the faithful, and serve as a well of supernatural grace, and much-needed communal support for our families.

Nor should initiatives to evangelize, or re-evangelize, within the Church be limited to those programs centering on adults. Parish and diocesan initiatives for religious formation, and fellowship directed toward youth and young adult members—Youth Ministry, Catholic Youth Organizations, and Newman, and other apostolates on the college level—are all strong responses to the question: “To whom shall we go?”

In an atmosphere of secularism, which undermines the goals and ideals of Christian living, and which characterizes the person of faith as an oddity rather than the norm, the Christian, and the Christian family, require a strong personal relationship with the Lord, a community of support, and a deliberate daily recommitment to Christ, in order to counter social and culture pressure to adopt the value system and philosophies of the present day. While fulfilling his or her baptismal vocation of bringing the Gospel message to bear upon society, culture, economics, public policy, and all human endeavors, as disciples of the Lord, we require the surety and steadfastness of Joshua:

And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves whom you will serve … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Conclusion
Gathered around Jesus as he taught in the synagogue of Capernaum, the Twelve, and a large crowd of followers, were both attracted to the person of Jesus, and felt challenged by his words. As he continued teaching, revealing his mission and identity, his mind and soul, and his Divinity, the disciples’ attraction to Jesus gave way to the challenges involved in following him. Slowly, and we can imagine with reluctance and disappointment, the crowd of followers dwindled as, one by one, they drifted away from Jesus only to begin again the search for words which satisfy the core questions of human existence. But the Twelve remained. Despite the imperatives and challenges, the words and person of Jesus corresponded to the yearning in their hearts:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6: 68-69).

All who were present in Capernaum that day had been searching for the transcendent. Happily, the Twelve recognized the Presence of the One True God among them.

Christian believers, today, ask the same questions. We believe that the best of human reasoning has pointed to truthful and beautiful answers to these questions. For example, reflection has revealed the spiritual nature of the human person, and of the existence of the immortal soul. Reason also points to the existence of God, for one ought to be able to discern the Artist from his art (cf. Wisdom 13).

But Christians also know from their personal encounter with the Lord that God is loving, kind, and merciful (cf. Psalm 103:8). God’s love for us is so intimate that he adopts us as his children. And as a loving Father, he reveals to us, his children, how to live and love. The fullness of this revelation is seen in Jesus of Nazareth. It is always to him that we turn to discover the truth about who we are as humans, and from him, that we receive that saving grace that strengthens and nourishes us to live according to God’s plan.

Today, I invite each of you to recognize and embrace that Jesus is, was, and always will be, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Fully Human, Fully Divine Incarnate Son of God. He “has the words of eternal life.” Accept this invitation, and you will discover that with the Lord, the desires and possibilities of human life find the promise of fulfillment.

I came that they may have life and to have it more abundantly. (John 10:10).

Peace be with you. 

Given at my Chancery this 27th day of June 2016

Most Reverend John J. Myers
Archbishop of Newark

Attest: Reverend Monsignor Michael A. Andreano, VG
Vicar General and Chancellor

  1. “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Simeon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6: 66-69.
  2. Archbishop John J. Myers, If God is for Us, Who can be Against Us: Reflection on Faith and Terrorism, Oct. 11, 2001.
  3. For a comprehensive philosophical and theological presentation on the transcendent reality of the human person, see: Robert Spitzer, The Soul’s Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2015.
  4. Luigi Giussani, The Religious Sense, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1997, p. 139.
  5. “By signals of transcendence I mean phenomena that are to be found within the domain of our ‘natural’ reality but that appear to point beyond that reality…The phenomena I am discussing are not ‘unconscious’ and do not have to be excavated from the ‘depths’ of the mind; they belong to ordinary everyday awareness.” Peter Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural, Doubleday & Co., New York, p.65.
  6. “The world is a sign. Reality calls us on to another reality. Reason in order to be faithful to its nature and to the nature of such a calling, is forced to admit the existence of something else underpinning, explaining everything. By nature, the human being intuits the Beyond.” Luigi Giussani, The Religious Sense, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1997, p.139.
  7. “Many people who might call themselves agnostic or even atheists live the life of faith, or something like it – in an attitude of openness toward meaning, recognizing the sacramental moments and giving thanks, after their own fashion, for the gift of the world. Yet they adhere to no religion.” Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2014, p.192.
  8. Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, 2013, n.35.
  9. Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, 2013, n.35.
  10. Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2014, p.176.
  11. “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, never the less often reflect a ray of truth which enlightens all men. Yet she proclaims, and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6).” Second Vatican Council, Nostra aetate, n.2.

    “This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom…The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as tis dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself…It is in accordance with their dignity as persons – that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility – that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are bound to adhere to truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth…Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order to thus assist one another in the quest for truth.” Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis humanae, n. 2-3.

  12. Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2004, p.73.
  13. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 35.
  14. “With his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longing for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he desires signs of his spiritual soul. The soul , the ‘seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material,’ can have its origin only in God.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 33.
  15. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 54-67; Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, 2013, n. 8-17.
  16. Adrienne Von Speyr, Man Before God, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2009, p. 73.
  17. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 153-154. “To be human, ‘man’s response to God by faith must be free, and…therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.’ ‘God calls men to serve in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced…This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.’ Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 160.
  18. “Such was the nuit de feu of Pascal: the night of 23 November 1654 when, for two hours, he experienced the total certainty that he was in the presence of God – ‘the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, not the God of the philosophers and wise men,’ in other words a personal God, intimately revealed, not conjured by abstract argument…Those who claim to have found God always write or speak in those terms, as having found the intimacy of a personal encounter and a moment of trust. The great witnesses to this – Saint Teresa of Avila, Margery Kempe, Saint John of the Cross, Rumi, Pascal – surely persuade us that one part, at least, of encounter with God lies in the irruption into consciousness of an intersubjective state of mind, but one that connects with no merely human subject. And included within that state of mind is the sense of reciprocity: the sense of being targeted by the Other, I to I.” Rodger Scruton, The Soul of the World, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2013, p. 13-16.
  19. Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2004, p. 69.
  20. Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, n. 22.
  21. “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And Holy Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 81.
  22. Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, Basic Books, New York, 2006, p.66.
  23. Pope Benedict XVI, “Celebration of Vespers and Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America,” Washington, D.C., April 16, 2008.
  24. Pope Benedict XVI, “Celebration of Vespers and Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America,” Washington, D.C., April 16, 2008.
  25. Pope John Paul II, “General Audience Address,” April 14, 1999; Pope Benedict XVI, “General Audience Address,” November 14, 2012; Pope Francis, “General Audience Address,” November 27, 2013.
  26. Regarding the effect of secularization on the human spirit, English philosopher Robert Scruton observes: “The world is remade without the transcendental reference, without the encounter with sacred things, without the vows of allegiance and submission, which have no other justification than the weight of inherited duty. But it turns out…that those vows were far more deeply woven into the fabric of our experience than enlightened people tend to think, and that the world without transcendent bonds is not a variant of the world that had not yet been cleansed of them, but a completely different world, and one in which we human are not truly at home.” Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2014, p.94.
  27. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 29.
  28. Romans 2:15.
  29. “The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason … This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.” Dignitatis humanae, n. 2.
  30. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1905-1912.
  31. “Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1908.
  32. “In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with is conscience, especially in matters religious. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind. The social nature of man, however, itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion: that he should share with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community. Injury, therefore, is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed.” Dignitatis humanae, n. 3.
  33. “This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.” Dignitatis humanae, n. 2.
  34. “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well…We see this in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t limit his ministry to the four walls of the church.” Michelle Obama, “Remarks by the First Lady at the African Methodist Episcopal Church Conference,” June 28, 2012.
  35. Jacques Maritain, Integral Humanism: Temporal and Spiritual Problems of a New Christendom, Scribner’s, New York, 1968, p. 292-293.
  36. Pope Francis, “Homily at Casa Santa Marta,” October 24, 2013 in Antonio Spadaro, ed., Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday – Morning Homilies from St. Martha’s Chapel, Image, New York, 2015, p.226.
  37. Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 2005, n. 22.
  38. Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 2005, n. 29.
  39. “The right to live, work and worship according to one’s faith is a freedom foundational to the United States … The Founders were clear, and the Bill of Rights makes it fundamental to our constitutional order that the government should not infringe on the free exercise of religion. In recent years, however, Americans have increasingly faced attempts to water down this robust understanding of religious freedom to a mere ‘freedom to worship’ … The American conception of religious liberty provides every person the freedom to seek the truth, form beliefs, and live according to the dictates of their conscience … Americans should be free to care for the poor, heal the sick and serve their communities in accordance with their faith without unnecessary government interference.” Sarah Torre, “The Lie that Freedom to Worship is the same as Religious Freedom,” The Daily Signal – Heritage Foundation, September 21, 2014.
  40. Pope John Paul II, “Message for the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities,” May 30, 1998.
  41. Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, n.42.
  42. Lumen Gentium, n. 11.
Archbishop John J. Myers About Archbishop John J. Myers

The Most Reverend John J. Myers, fifth Archbishop of Newark, after receiving his degree from the Pontifical North American College in Rome, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria on Dec. 17, 1966, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. He then received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from Gregorian University, Rome, in 1967; and in 1977, received a Doctorate in Canon Law from Catholic University of America.

On September 3, 1987, Bishop Myers was installed as Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria, and acceded to the See of Peoria on January 23, 1990. Later, on July 24, 2001, His Holiness, Blessed Pope John Paul II, chose Bishop John J. Myers to serve as the fifth Metropolitan Archbishop of Newark, N.J., being installed as Archbishop on October 9, 2001.

In 2005, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Myers to the post of Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision for admitting married former Anglican clergy in the United States to the Catholic priesthood, a post he held until 2011. As a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Myers helped draft the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a document dealing compassionately with victims of abuse, and openly with civil authorities.

Archbishop Myers has, since 2001, served as President of the Board of Regents, and Chair of the Board of Trustees, of Seton Hall University. He has chaired and served in various capacities both at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and the Pontifical North American College, Rome, including as Chair of the North American College’s Board of Governors. Currently, he serves as Trustee of the Papal Foundation, and on the Board of Directors of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Foundation, Inc., as well as serving as a member of the Episcopal Advisory Board of the Theology of the Body Institute; and, as a member of the Bishops Advisory Board of the Pope Paul VI Institute.
Archbishop Myers has also served from 1998 until 2008 as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legal Texts. In 2008, he was named a Member of this Pontifical Council.

Archbishop Myers’ motto, Mysterium Ecclesiae Luceat (“Let the Mystery of the Church shine forth”) is a succinct summary of the central theme of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. He has often said: “I cannot make someone believe. I can, however, explain what the Church teaches and the reasons for that teaching, and then invite him or her to be open to that teaching and embrace it.”

Comments

  1. Thank you, Archbishop Myers, for this rather comprehensive overview of many aspects of the religious need in man, and the one satisfying response: Jesus Christ, found fully today in His Church.

    In the section of your letter titled “The Gift of Faith,” you wrote:
    “At some point in the Christian journey, we meet the Lord anew, and the encounter brings forth a more holistic and definitive commitment to Jesus. We move from knowing about Jesus, to putting our faith in him.”
    This is certainly true – for the “we” for whom it is true! But for how many, in a typical parish, is it actually true? In my experience, a “holistic and definitive commitment to Jesus” is rare – and instead a tepid, institutional, “Catholic by birth and by habit” is more common. This is a troubling and very sad problem. An authentic personal encounter with Jesus Christ is a meeting that leaders in the Church ought to work harder to arrange, for every member who is now, sadly, little more than “Catholic in name only.”

    The mission Jesus gave to the Church was and is daunting:
    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you….”

    “Make disciples… teaching them to observe all…” Jesus was not afraid to present to His followers all that they needed and deserved to hear. He was not afraid to let them hear the hard sayings, including “the challenges involved in following Him”! It seems that many homilies of today – almost all that I have heard – in parishes today illustrate the soft sayings, the things comforting and easy to hear, often made even less threatening with a sprinkling of jokes and personal digressions. In many instances we are not “disciples making disciples” we are, as Pope Francis poignantly described it, “babysitters.”

    Jesus was not afraid of the Truth, in making His disciples! He knew many would be offended, and would leave Him! He remained in Truth. Your Conclusion included this:
    “As he continued teaching, revealing his mission and identity, his mind and soul, and his Divinity, the disciples’ attraction to Jesus gave way to the challenges involved in following him. Slowly, …, the crowd of followers dwindled as, one by one, they drifted away from Jesus.… But the Twelve remained.”

    Are we avoiding “hard truths” in homilies to keep members in the pews? Is it fear that keeps adult formation sparsely attended, poorly promoted, and an unnecessary “option” in the minds of most Catholics? It is embarrassing, but no surprise, that most Catholic adults had their last significant formation experience in adolescence, preparing for confirmation! Most Catholics today “do not know their Faith” – and that is a self-contradictory but commonly declared fact.

    I have been offering adult formation in parishes for some years now, and the biggest obstacle I see, consistently, is the absence of the sense of any need for adult formation – or even a sense of the importance of it – among most laity and among many (certainly not all) clergy. The result is a continuing dumbing-down of the faithful, hence making some of them easy targets for zealous evangelicals seeking converts, or for others, leaving them easy marks for the “God is irrelevant” secularist recruiters, busy building the culture of death.

    I’ll close with this observation from Pope Benedict XVI:
    “… Across the centuries, it is the drowsiness of the disciples that opens up possibilities for the power of the evil one. Such drowsiness deadens the soul, so that it remains undisturbed by the power of the evil one at work in the world, and by all the injustice and suffering ravaging the earth. In its state of numbness, the soul prefers not to see all this; it is easily persuaded that all things cannot be so bad, so as to continue in the self-satisfaction of its own comfortable existence. Yet this deadening of souls, this lack of vigilance regarding both God’s closeness and the looming forces of darkness is what gives the evil one power in this world. On beholding the drowsy disciples, so disinclined to rouse themselves the Lord says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death.’” (Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI)