Responding to editors’ requests for a regular sampling of current commentary from around the Catholic press, here is an unsigned editorial from the Oct. 3 issue of the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis Archdiocese.
The numbers are startling but should come as no surprise.
In the last 20 years, our local church has seen an almost 24 percent decline in the number of parishes and a 40 percent drop in Catholic elementary school enrollment. Marriages and baptisms are down, too, by 46 and 41 percent, respectively.
There are numerous factors that have contributed to the decline, but in the end, what matters most is the reality we are left to face. In his new pastoral letter on evangelization, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said simply that if we’re to carry on a way of life in harmony with God’s plan for humanity, we can’t keep going on with “business as usual.”
In the face of these sobering statistics, it’s time that we take on reality together as the body of Christ. But that can’t happen until we first make a personal examination of our own consciences.
What are we doing as individuals to build up the local church? At a recent priests’ summit, the archbishop said that Catholics are eager to talk about what they did over the weekend — such as a sporting event or movie — but rarely describe going to Mass. We talk about how our kids are doing in school, but do we speak about the youth retreat they just experienced, or the first time they encountered Jesus in eucharistic adoration?
Consider for a moment what personally drew you to the Catholic Church. Maybe you were ushered into the church as a cradle Catholic. Or perhaps you had a powerful conversion experience in your adult years. Whatever the case, think about what keeps you here. Is it the traditions? The teachings? Some of both? Those are the joyful experiences that we need to be sharing with others — from the fallen-away Catholic to the unchurched individual.
The Year of Faith, which begins Oct. 11, has been designated by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI as a special time to reinvigorate our personal faith journey and to share that faith with others. But these efforts need not be relegated to just one special period of time. Indeed, the Year of Faith is something that should be celebrated and embraced every day of every year in our humanly existence.
In his pastoral letter, the archbishop noted that every Catholic is called to holiness and to mission, as Blessed John Paul II touched upon in his encyclical “Redemptoris Missio” (“The Mission of the Redeemer”).
“These fundamental realities, based in our sacramental union with God, initiated at baptism, are at the heart of what all the anniversaries and celebrations and deliberations are about,” the archbishop said. In his letter, he outlines specific ways in which we can live out that call to holiness and mission.
But it all comes down to this, as the archbishop simply said: “There really is a heaven and there really is a hell, and what we believe and how we live is determining our eternal destiny.”
We know what our ultimate destination is. But are we walking along the right pathway to get there?
The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicPhilly.com, Catholic News Service or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.