Monday, June 3, 2013


   The Archdiocese of Philadelphia just announced that more parish churches are being clustered together into new parishes.  Catholic numbers keep diminishing, and a spiritually effective Catholic presence in today's society and culture keeps diminishing.

   Philadelphia is a clear example of a church that spiritually is hopelessly behind the times.  It is still trying to operate according to the social model that began to die in the 1950's.  In those days, Catholics lived in tight-knit neighborhoods, in "Catholic islands," that were isolated from the "outside" world of non-Catholics.  They walked to church through a neighborhood that was populated by Catholics.  They went to Catholic schools and attended Catholic social and sports events.  Philadelphia Catholics identified where they lived by naming their parish.  The "island culture," e.g., of attending Mass, going to Confession, belonging to the Sodality or Holy Name Society, going on retreat, honoring particular saints, etc., was the glue that kept their pious, devotional spirituality intact.

   Beginning in the 1950's, Catholics moved out of their "islands."  Today the diminishing number of Catholics walk or drive to church--not necessarily their home parish--through neighborhoods of people of many faiths and of no faith.  Many send their children to public schools and they socialize and enjoy entertainment along with the general public.  The "Catholic cultural island glue" is gone, and the old, pious, devotional spirituality is dying as the older generation dies.  And contemporary Catholics keep walking away from the old, "island bound" spirituality that makes no sense to them.  But their search for the Infinite has not died.  It has evolved.

   An increasing number of today's evolving Catholics are searching for a spirituality that will be understandable and effective in today's post-modern world of different faiths and no faith. They don't need a spirituality with its "churchy" pieties and devotions; they need a spirituality that gives them a personal experience of God that enables them to relate to God and others in a way that is meaningful and effective in today's society and culture of dehumanizing, over-specialized education, hectic chasing after the latest technological fad, economic greed, political insanity, etc.  They don't need to be invited to "come back home" to the "churchy" spirituality that wore out years ago.

   They need a spirituality that will show them what they, as Catholics, have in common with other people of good will, whether of other faiths or no faith.  They need to know how to discern God's presence and intentions, and prophetically act to help humanize today's society and culture, by elevating and even correcting them in the loving, saving grace of Christ--without imposing our religion on anyone.  Where are the spiritual leaders who can form and guide them in the spirituality they rightfully need and that their baptismal grace rightfully demands?

   The spirituality that so many of today's Catholics are seeking is available.  It began to be developed at Vatican II and has evolved a half century since then.  But as Philadelphia's parishes continue to close, the spirituality that should be becoming prevalent today continues to be unknown or ignored.  Our seeking Catholics continue to be spiritually unfed and un-nourished, and our society and culture continue to suffer needlessly.  As the 1960's song poignantly asked, "When will they ever learn?"



No comments:

Post a Comment