Recently the church has received a lot of blows which have made us think about what it will look like in the near and distant future.
The abuse scandals, the change the world’s moral culture, the Covid 19 crisis, and other things have many of us saying that the church will never be the same again. The question is what will it look like in the future. Certainly, changes are necessary and are coming.
The church is big and there are very many good things that it is doing. Some things must never go away i.e. the Eucharist, the liturgy, education, looking after the social needs of the poor etc.
When we say “the church” we mean, me and you, the priests, the sisters, the Pope, and everyone in between. In other words, all of us. We are all going to have to create the change together. But let us not forget the part that God plays in all of this. Crisis in the church is nothing new. The church in 2000 years old. God in His goodness, calls and equips people (saints), men and women who lead and inspire us in our hours of need. It has happened before and will happen again.
The abuse scandals, the change the world’s moral culture, the Covid 19 crisis, and other things have many of us saying that the church will never be the same again.
I would like to introduce you to just three saints who come to mind who stepped forward in the past, Athanasius, Francis, and Teresa of Avila, to reform and renew the church when the church was in need during their time in history.
St. Athanasius (293-379) was a theologian who taught the true faith about Jesus and the church. The church at the time was plagued by false doctrine. The division in the church was so bad that it led to violence and dissent. He himself was sent into exile 5 times. Our belief in the trinity was formed by him. He identified the books of the new Testament. He, in other words, helped create the Bible. God sent Athanasius to the church to give us the scriptures and true teaching. The church is a better church because of his leadership.
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). God sent him to the church at another time of need. St Francis started a religious order whose goal was “to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in His footsteps”. St Francis believed that nature was the mirror of God. All creatures were “brothers” and “sisters”. The earth itself is holy. He attempted a peaceful understanding between Christians and Muslims. St. Francis, the peace maker, even today is a role model in our modern world.
St. Teresa of Avila (1582-1622). She was a religious reformer in a decadent society. She started the reform with herself and her convent. Her devotion to the Virgin Mary was outstanding. She understood what sin is and how awful sin is and the effect of original sin on humanity. She taught that she and all of us by ourselves cannot confront sin and defeat it unless we give ourselves totally to God. Sin had invaded her religious community and the society she lived in. She was a spiritual giant called by God in the hour of the churches need. She taught us to take personal responsibility for our actions.
Today we are certainly living in an era where God is not held in the esteem. Just as in the example of these three spiritual giants, God will send us new prophets who will lead us to a new church. A church rich in faith and in the unity with the will of God.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
This article was published in The Church and Life Newspaper