In Chapter 3, Paragraph 11 of Dei Verbum is found a phrase, “… the faith of the apostolic age.” The reference, as it is worded, suggests the Apostolic Age to be a thing of the past, and assumes an age of Christendom. While various parts of the world did indeed enjoy such an age for significant periods of time, we would be gravely mistaken in supposing that it has remained so.
This is the first truly post-Christian age. As Monsignor Shea put it so poetically, we now woo with the Gospel, not a young innocent maiden, but a jaded, embittered, hardened divorcee.
We are not in an age of Christendom, as is evidenced by the loss of influence of the Church on the greater population. This indeed is one of the disadvantages of the age in which we now find ourselves – that of Apostolic Mission, but the disadvantages of an age of Christendom are important to note, too. In an age of Christendom, there is the danger of Cultural Catholicism; lukewarmness; a diminishing of the call to holiness of the laity; a lack of that healthy radicalism that is attractive – the conviction that eternal life is offered by God through the teachings of the Church He founded when indeed on this earth in the flesh He deigned to take from a woman.
As the age transitions from one of Christendom into one of Apostolic Mission, saints are sent to activate that which is latent, that which is complacently held but not actively owned. In an Apostolic age, it becomes even more essential that we understand what our Lord calls us to be; wise as serpents and gentle as doves.
What is it that prevents us from going deep? Father asked us in his homily two Sundays past. Is it Mother Money or Father Greed or Sister Jealousy or Brother Hate that keeps us from encountering and loving our Lord as a person? Do we make our God like a tree or a lion, which does not “impose” upon us to love them (though self-proclaimed radical environmentalists will attempt to do it for them), or demand anything of us should we profess to care (although the radical environmentalists will do that, too).
Herod was troubled, we read, and all Jerusalem with him. Mt 2:3. Not by a star, or words on a scroll or in memory, but by a Person. Do we allow Our Lord to disrupt our lives for the sake of His Kingdom? Do we shout Jesus! from the rooftops until Jesus asks us to moderate our drinking, or take custody of our eyes, or condemn 50 Shades of Grey, or demand justice for the holocaust happening before our eyes in this very moment?
Vigilance is not an art [in and of itself]; it is a science, the science of disagreeing without being disagreeable – for that is what we must do. To be counter-cultural does not mean to make ourselves unapproachable. But we must name the evil that we face, and we must not make the mistake of supposing that it is new; only that it has evolved, which means that we must also move forward to counter it. Evil is not to be parried with. Note this: That every age has struggled with sexual temptations; but our age justifies immorality. Every age has struggled with seeing children as an inconvenience, but our age justifies murder in the womb; not only that, but it encourages and even applauds it. And for our part, we are failing to move forward to counter these new levels of evil. We are stuck on old arguments and old methods; we want to be comfortable and complacent; we wish to leave the dirty work to the clergy and stay well away from the front lines.
In an Apostolic Age, there is the opportunity, the potential, for less hypocrisy because of zealotry, clarity, ardor, and purity of intent. We, as the Church, as the Mystical Body of Christ, cannot afford to be nostalgic. There is no room for nostalgia in this battle, for each of us are created by Our Lord specifically for the age in which we find ourselves. There is no time to be wasted mourning the turn of the age. Consider this, written in 2004 by Cardinal Ratzinger:
In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.
Again, this letter was written in 2004, and does it not capture exactly what we see today?
But when the Church – we, as the Church – go about “business as usual,” laboring under the delusion that it is up to the Church hierarchy to fight our battles for us, we lose, and lose, and lose largely. We as the Church lost Belgium, we lost Quebec, we lost Spain, we lost Ireland.
Don’t we know by now that we cannot count on society to supply support? We speak and speak and speak of a battle, but do not engage. We throw around the phrase, “new evangelization,” but what does it mean?
Pope Paul VI exhorts us,
Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.
The universal call to holiness is mandatory, not optional. The priestly vocation of the baptized is a command, not a suggestion. Our Lord is a Person, not an abstraction. When He commanded the Twelve to go and make disciples of all nations, they were not intimidated by the world – and there were twelve of them! But what drove them was their imperfect love for a personal God made Man, One Who came to meet them in their weakness and their despair, and Love them into Heaven. And He comes to meet us still, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, every time we intentionally allow Him to disrupt our lives by calling us to the Table.
Of what, then, are we afraid?
He Is All in All.