At any time you turn on the national news or pick up periodicals or newspapers it is impossible not to hear or see disheartening events that are occurring daily with the Catholic Church. Not new scandalous statistics, but the decline of membership or willingness of parishioners’ to care about faith, God, and the afterlife.
It is alarming to see the indifference towards what we (older Catholics) have grown up with. For a long time (well over 40 years) clergy watched as attitudes towards Church Sacraments has slowly slipped away. No sooner had an adolescent received their confirmation along with church attendance and the question would appear, “what happened to these now warriors for Christ?” You no longer see most of them at Mass and begin to seek help from the local parish. Neither the church nor parents are able to discern what happened.
The next time they appear is when wedding bells are about to toll. Then it becomes a scramble to search records, and questions regarding a spouse if they are not local and fighting to have the church match their times and dates to what the foreseeable couples have already set-up. At one time people would check with the Church, first. Now we hold a second place in the minds of people.
But, the problem existing within the Church goes much further than a local dramatization of renewed adherence to the Sacraments. The problem we are facing has become global. Many countries are realizing a large falling away from the Church, a non-adherence to Catholic ideals and principles being taught in many universities, and some clergy having a difficult time believing in the Theology that were ordained to pass on to the people in the pews. Pray for your priests.
Priests and deacons remember well the obligation we took to the loyalty toward our bishop. Any time we decide to deviate from that can be a severe penalty, not to the bishop as much as to Christ.
Today, Sunday, July 18, the first reading from Jeremiah and the age-old problem when shepherds were not teaching salvation. “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. “Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” (Jer. 23: 1-2).
This is happening in many areas of the world, and perhaps in this country as well. Question came up today what is happening to our church? The answer is more simple than curiosity; it has become the very essence of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers and the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens? (Eph.6: 11-12).
Paul wrote this around AD 61-63, yet in 2021 the very principal of these words hold to the truth that affects our understanding now. What is happening that is causing so much disloyalty to the Sacraments, the Hierarchy, and the very truth of God?
Satan is the very essence that is in a battle for souls; yours and mine. What better way for the devil to defeat Christianity, if that were possible, than through the sanctity of souls in the Church itself. Corrupt the shepherds by enticing godless attractions and the sheep will scatter. We are the prize and only through faithful shepherds shall we develop the strength to find our Lord Jesus Christ, and save the remnants of our faith.
Ralph B. Hathaway, Our Souls are the prize of God. 2021