From Father Steven - May 22, 2022
Dear Brother and Sisters,
You may have heard me playing around that I’m old or ready to retire. I even joke saying about myself that they don’t make youth as they did in the past. This complaint is often heard speaking about the younger generations, whether they are in their 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s, or in their teens. We get lost in the middle of all the generations, X, Z, millennials, etc… but is it true that the youth is lost?
Last week, I was reflecting how recently there have been many “young” saints canonized in the church. Not that they were young of age like Carlo Acutis necessarily, but young in light of the 2000 years of the church. We have great saints like Francis and Anthony, who lived almost 800 years ago, or St Teresa of Avila 500 years ago, or even St Therese of Lisieux whose canonization happened 100 years ago. On this past Sunday Pope Francis Canonized St Charles de Foucauld, who although died over 100 years ago, was only beatified in 2005 by Pope Benedict. St Jose Maria Escriva, founder of the Opus Dei, passed away on 1971 and was declared a saint on 2002. Blessed Chiara Badano, member of the Folcolari Movement, was born on 1971, passed away 1990, shortly before turning 19, and was beatified on 2010. There are many more who are on the path to canonization whether we know them or not, like Bishop Fulton Sheen.
This thought process happened while watching a recently added movie to Formed.org (details on how to create an account on the next page) “Chiara Lubich, Love Conquers All”(2021). As it recounts the story of the founder of the Folcolari Movement, there was a scene when she was interrogated by a group of bishops and cardinals regarding her actions. Keep in mind that it was 1950, before The Second Vatican Council, where people didn’t have access to the Gospels, where only priests and nuns had roles of leadership in the church. There was this young woman, not a nun, nor married, who “dared” to read the word of God on her own and defied local customs and went out of her way to care for those less fortunate. There was the contrast, the young church in its full strength being judged for not being in the molds of the old church.
Recently, Fr. Kevin and I were reflecting about what God wants us to do here at IC. While there is much to be done, “where to start?” or “what to do?” were the main questions. This movie shed light on this questioning and it helped us to see our mission under a different light. While it’s true that World War II created a trauma in society everywhere, but it also gave the opportunity to God to create new ways in the church, with the rise of new ecclesial realities such as Opus Dei, Folcolari, Charismatic Renewal, Neocatechumenal Way among others. While looked upon with suspicion upon the Church for being such a new experiences, these new movements are generating the church and giving birth to new saints. Since Easter, we are hearing on the first reading events from the Acts of the Apostles. For those times, they did something unheard of, even forbidden, but led by the Holy Spirit, they opened new ways in the church.
All this is to say brothers and sisters, that the Holy Spirit is still very much alive in the Church and He moves wherever he wills. He continues to light people on fire and inspire things that could be seen as “unorthodox”. Look at Chiara, or even St Philip Neri (another great movie to be watched). As we approach Pentecost, the Lord invites us to be opened to the movements of the Spirit. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but to quote this Weekend’s Gospel, “yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.”
We need a church that attracts man and woman, old and young, from all the corners of the world, who are living in a Post-Modern world, still struggling with COVID, and all other things that are going on. So what shall we do? I’m still not sure what to do, but it seems quite clear that the Lord invites us to deeper waters. Something new, challenging, that will take us out of our comfort zone. Whether it is to attend adult catechesis, or take the youth whitewater rafting, the point is to follow Him, who is our Way, our Life, and the Truth.
Unless we are open to the inspirations of God and be willing to change certain aspects of our pastoral and personal lives, like Chiara, we run the risk to stop people from helping the Church to be renovated, like the bishops. Let us pray during this time before Pentecost asking the Holy Spirit to move our hearts to following wherever He wills.
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Father Steven Clemence