For more than a century the Sisters of St. X served Catholics and non-Catholics alike as teachers and nurses and then in the mid-sixties they embarked on a journey where today many of the schools and hospitals are closed, their order has had to combine with several others in order to finance care for an ever aging and ever dwindling number of Sisters. The healthier among them, all having decades ago abandoned their distinctive habit, community life, the charism of their Foundress, now mostly live in their own apartments, wear makeup and jewelry, dress like any lay woman and on their web site they stress personal choice in apostolic activity [i.e. join us and you can do your own thing] and state as well their main focus is ecology and mother earth.
Not to be outdone many religious orders of men have gone the same way.
I used to visit in my own diocese, and those I would travel to for lectures or missions, the monasteries of a contemplative order of Nuns dedicated to the mission of prayer for priests, but they too took a turn and soon were leaving the enclosure to get their hair done, had a tv in the refectory so they could watch their programs during meals.
Little by little this international order has closed most of its monasteries.
As dioceses throughout North America and Western Europe in particular have watched vocations drop among the above consequences also included that of closing or twinning parishes: often times to settle arguments about location a new church building is built and these are notable by three things commonly missing: 1] central placement of the Blessed Sacrament; 2] a dearth of stained glass windows and statues; 3] rare if ever Exposition, Benediction, Forty Hours, use of incense.
Finally the poverty of liturgical celebration is exacerbated by the far too often wimpy, politically correct, let’s not upset anyone homilies.
Perhaps it can be argued that before the sixties religious Priests, Sisters, Brothers, Nuns did lead very strict lives, sometimes did wear habits that were either too cumbersome or flashy; perhaps churches were overloaded with statues; perhaps all sorts of things needed reform and updating.
However we have gone very, very, very, very far down a road wherein ignoring the wisdom of St. Paul we find ourselves under attack from all sides NOT because of the quality of our holiness and courage in face of the world, the flesh and the devil, but BECAUSE our hesitancy to be holy makes our moral stances opaque and this simply enrages the world and its media all the more against Christianity.
St. Paul tells us clearly, definitively: You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received – Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in Him and built on Him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving. Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ. [cf. Col. 2:6-8]
Consider, not what radical Islamists think but what the ordinary Islamic believer thinks about modesty, drugs, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, just as a few examples, not to mention the priority given to family life, and then think when was the last time any bishop or priest you know had the courage to speak clearly, with the authority of a true father, about such matters.
Pope Paul VI warned about the smoke of satan penetrating into the Church and as serious as the sins of abuse are, in many ways we have allowed that to distract from the other tentacles of the smoke strangling courage out of the ministerial lives of our bishops and priests.
How often when some American or Canadian young man is reported killed on some mission for the Islamists are they identified as former Catholics and yet who has heard a bishop or priest address this issue and why these young men allowed themselves to be seduced by an empty pseudo religious philosophy filled with hatred and violence?
Too many current politicians and supposed religious leaders, too many media pundits operate as if the majority of people want to live in nations filled with the chaos and disorder of easy access to drugs, no limits on sexual behaviour, the breakdown of family life, political correctness run amok.
None of our governments seem to have the courage to rein in the courts and remind them they may interpret the law but they cannot make law. At the same time politicians need to be reminded they are NOT elected to be some power elite, rather their job is to be our servants, ensuring our safety and right order in our nations. Being an elected representative of the people is NOT a licence for any politician to attempt to reshape the nation according to their own personal whims, which increasingly in our days means doing so by pandering to small pockets of noisy and well funded people with very personal and self-serving agendas that have total disregard for the Christian roots of Western democracies.
When you see young people tattooed to the hilt, body pierced to the point it looks as if they have been subjected to some form of torture, when you have a society whose members increasingly refuse to comprehend male is male and female is female; a society so disordered that parents now identify and demands rights for their allegedly transgendered pre-adolescent children and a culture where more and more children have two ‘moms’ or two ‘dads’, who should be surprised if the young look at the namby-pamby play it safe liturgical bankrupt Catholic life that silently ascents to such disorder and chaos and so they say “I’m outta here!”, leave in search of something/someone promising moral clarity, stability, acceptance.
Street gangs and Islamists, like the Hitler Youth of another era, share a common trick: give the lost youth a sense of purpose and belonging and in time you can get those young to do whatever you want.
That happens to be the old adage: “Give me the boy and I will give you the man.”
If we Christians could rediscover truth-speaking courage in our homes, parishes, schools; if bishops and priests could become anew true fathers with courage and compassion, shepherds willing to be martyrs for their faith and flock, then the young would not lose faith or hope, would not be seduced by the diabolical evil of Islamism.
Our political systems, our very culture have become disordered; our priests, sisters, brothers have become invisible; our churches lack passion and life so our parishes are wilting on the vine.
We need to wake up!
When I was at Ground Zero with a New York Firefighter friend a few months after 9/11, standing and praying at the edge of that immense wound in the heart of New York, I was profoundly aware we had been given a warning, and not by the terrorists, and a call to repentance, not by them either.
Have we been listening?
It is far too easy to blah-blah about historic grievances among Islamic peoples or the failures of Christianity, to blah-blah about rights while being silent about responsibility all the while ignoring the inner rot and disorder all around us which is the fault of no one but ourselves.
Salt deteriorates cement and rust weakens steel and bridges eventually collapse; viruses like Ebola devastate with painful rapidity.
There are attitudes and choices deteriorating more effectively than salt the religious, moral, political structures of our nations and they are rusting away to the point of collapse and a virus of religious and political cowardice is rapidly infecting the entire body of faith.
We need to wake up!
We need to convert!
We need to repent!
There is little time left.