I think the long period of somnolence that has afflicted the Church in the united States is coming to an end. part of it is the leadership of His Holiness, and the effect it has had on the minds of Catholics who think that the faith should be more than a pseudo-ethnic identity.
And part of it has been the gradual wresting of the American hierarchy from the control of the Modernists.
Bu there are signs, signs of an impending "springtime". Many of these signs are being misinterpreted by various factions, but taken together, they do add up to a change that is long overdue.
Of course, we have the election of the new USCCB President and Vice President, but there are more signs than that.
The Conference voted this week to undertake a review of how well or poorly Ex Corde Ecclesiae has been implemented. This comes in the wake of major Catholic universities flouting their duty, as Catholic institutions, to protect and promote the faith. The people running these institutions should be thinking hard now, about how to comply. (I don't think they will--I think they feel themselves to be unassailable. And that will continue until a major school gets declared to be Non-Catholic.) I hope that these institutions do reign themselves in, and return to their Catholic identity. I don't want to see them become formally Non-Catholic, that does nothing for anyone. I want to see them become faithful once again. i think the Bishops share this concern, but I hope that this review means that they are preparing to enforce it, if the Institutions fail to reform themselves.
At the same time the fight over the Catholic Campaign for Human Development encourages me. Yes, I am aware of the set back in Chicago, but consider this:for forty years, there was no real effort to control the CCHD or debate about it's roll. I am particularly heartened by Bishop Morin's address to the USCCB, in which he stated that the campaign will give priority to Catholic identity and institutions, to pastors and parishioners, in it's activities. This is an indicator that the Bishops are becoming more proactive in their leadership, and less likely to delagate responsibilities to cliques and factions of lay bureaucrats and functionaries. It's a beginning.
Another thing I see as hopeful is a return to Catholic spirituality. Bishops and priests are less willing to support faddish spiritual practices and movements. The number of Parishes offering Holy Hours, Benediction, Eucharistic Adoration, Novenas and other traditional practices is increasing. Pope Benedict has noticed and commented on it. It's not just a local or regional trend, it's global. People are noticing something else--Churches, Oratories and Religious Houses that offer worship conducted to a high standard of Ars Celebrandi are attracting people from wide areas, who sometimes travel for hours to attend. People are rediscovering the richness of our Traditions. This applies to both the Extraordinary Form, and to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. With this rediscovery of out liturgical patrimony comes a rediscovery of our spirituality.
And we are renewing our awareness of and commitment to spiritual warfare. It came out last month, I guess, that there were about a half a dozen exorcists in the United States. This month, there has been a training session to begin the process of training men for this ministry in Baltimore. It had 50 bishops and 60 priest registered. Out presbyters and bishops are waking up to the reality that our problems are not merely political and social, but the product of spiritual warfare. The pro-life movement, especially Forty Days for Life has been an important contributor to this, with their practice of prayer and fasting, which for the two years i have been paying attention to their activities, has always born good fruit. We are re-learning the basics, the nuts and bolts, of living our faith.
(As a personal aside, I was gratified that Bishop Paprocki of Springfield,IL addressed Harry Potter in specific, and fantasy movies in general, in relationship to occult activities. He said, rightly I think, that the greater danger lies in being isolated from the faith; that people who are grounded in Christ do not experience this temptation. He also pointed out that parents should teach their kids that fantasy is not real. Being grounded in Christ is our surest defense against evil. BTW, Bishop Paprocki's comments came at the end of the conference mentioned above.)
Not that all is clear sailing and sunny days. Dissidents in the Church are outraged. NCAN, that collection of elderly activists sisters has complained loudly that the Fall meeting of the Bishops did nothing to combat 'anti-gay' bullying. Father Richard Vega of Los Angeles has dissed training exorcists, wondering why we would bother. (It's also interesting that he said demand might pick up, for this 'service' with the influx of Latin and African immigrants--as if he thought that these people were superstitious or fearful--no bigotry there!) Call to Action, Dignity USA and SNAP have all chimed in about how horrible it is that the USCCB has a moderate President, and that the Church is moving back towards a stronger expression of Catholic Identity. Well, i like this development a lot. To be blunt--you can only measure the effectiveness of reform efforts by their engendering of opposition. To see these groups upset, and to hear their complaints tells us that we are indeed making progress. I am tempted here to put in a line I read in a piece by Jack Kenny: "Years a Bishop in England noted ruefully that wherever Saint Paul went there was either a revival or a riot. 'Wherever I go, they serve tea', he said." let's hope our bishops have grown weary of tea.
To use the springtime metaphor, it feels like March to me. Yes, there is till damp and cold, and I'm not seeing a lot of leaves or flowers yet. But you can sense the budding and the shoots pressing upward. Yes, we can still have a killing frost. Yes, there will be the equinox storms. but we can feel assured that spring time will come. For this is the Church Christ Founded, built upon the rock, and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.