Many signs of hope

Young And Catholic: The Face of Tomorrow’s Church. By Tim Drake (Sophia Press, Box 5284, Manchester, NH 03108; 1-800-888-9344; 2004), 259 pp. PB $16.95.

In the aftermath of dissenting theologians who question the authority of the Magisterium, in the wake of the scandal of Catholic annulments in America, in the prevalent culture of death endorsed by liberal Catholic politicians, and in the crisis in the priesthood afflicted by the sins and crimes of abuse, the future of the Church in America does not bode well. The Christian faith, however, rests upon the virtue of hope: the future does not have to resemble the past, good can come out of evil, and the Lord is a God of surprises and miracles.

Journalist Tim Drake’s book offers many signs of hope that have appeared in the midst of the ruins of Catholic culture in America and in Europe. The popularity of World Youth Day that has attracted millions from all over the world, the new orthodox priests who honor the Church’s venerable teaching on celibacy and embrace the Church’s ideals on the sacredness of life and the dignity of all human beings, the proliferation of John Paul II’s teaching on the theology of the body, and the Catholic influence on the media and the Internet all embody some of these signs of hope that have animated the Catholic faith in the culture of death.

The book is filled with startling, striking facts. According to a Gallup Poll, nearly eighty percent of teenagers value religion for its noble ideals. Campus ministry programs like FOCUS have inspired attendance at daily Mass on some campuses to soar from twenty to two hundred. Orthodox Catholic colleges like Christendom College, Franciscan University, and Thomas Aquinas College continue to grow as they cultivate in young minds both the light of reason and the light of faith and form balanced, integrated men and women with generous hearts and logical minds. Vocations are on the rise in Poland and in Africa as one-third of all European vocations originate in Poland, and the Catholic population of Africa has multiplied from 16 million in 1950 to 120 million in 2005. The amount of Catholic information (including the CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA) available on the Internet and the nearly ten million Catholic web links compel Mr. Hayes to conclude, “Much like World Youth Day, the Internet puts a universal face on the Catholic Church.”

The book cites other new developments that have revitalized the Church. New religious orders like Sacred Heart Convent in Manhattan that serve women in crisis pregnancies have grown from eight sisters to thirty-two sisters. Father Benedict Groeschel’s The Franciscan Friars of Renewal who serve the poor and uneducated in New York City have multiplied from eight to one hundred men. The Sisters of Mary in Ann Arbor, a teaching order mostly in their twenties, have also increased in numbers from four to forty five, and Josemaria Escriva’s Opus Dei—devoted to finding God in the ordinary duties and activities of normal life—now numbers 85,000 men and women.

The Church of course is ever old and ever new, and these many positive signs and new beginnings promise a fresh springtime. Mr. Hayes illuminates the truth that the Church is not an archaic, dead institution but organic and natural in its growth, but one should be wary of exaggerating the role of the media or “the wired world” in winning or converting souls. “We are not called to despair, but to hope. To despair is to give up on God,” he correctly argues. Hope, however, is not false optimism, instant improvement, a naïve belief in progress, new technology, or euphoric excitement. Hope is not measured by novelties or large crowds or by an increase in numbers or by the dissemination of more information. Hope requires patience, constancy, and perseverance in doing God’s will day in and day out, in season and out of season. It is, above all, belief in the promises of God and the willingness to wait. In the words of the Psalm, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my word.” This book evokes our wonder at all the seedlings that have flourished. Like good farmers let us work, pray, and hope for an abundant harvest, but let us not, like impulsive youth, become transported and lose sight of the great work that remains.

Mitchell Kalpakgian, Ph.D.
Warner, New Hampshire

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