In the Catholic campaign, something extraordinary
At this stage in the campaign for a renewed Church and a more effective evangelization, it may seem that we are falling further and further behind. And in some ways that is undoubtedly true. Most followers of CatholicCulture.org reside in the West, which is growing more secularized and even more pagan by the day. It can be discouraging, of course, but it is also true that little miracles of grace occur constantly. In the most unlikely places and under the most unlikely conditions, people come to their spiritual senses, and Christian flowers bloom.
But the gardening isn’t easy, and it can be discouraging. Mentioning this to my pastor the other week, he pointed out that we must always remember that Christ has already won the victory. Sometimes, when we look around our world, and even sometimes among our friends and families, it is hard to understand what that can possibly mean. I rather think we are not even supposed to understand it. But we are supposed to have faith that this is absolutely and irrevocably true. And so we are supposed to “be of good cheer” (Jn 16:33).
This subject always comes to mind during our fundraising campaigns. As a younger man, I often thought we aren’t going to make it this year. Therefore, I was concerned about what I would do next. Actually, I have tried various forms of full-time apostolate over the years, and not all have succeeded, at least not along the lines I envisioned. Even Trinity Communications (the non-profit which runs CatholicCulture.org) began life as a book publisher and failed at it, leaving a few years of drift before emerging and gathering steam on the Internet. I often thought the success or failure was “up to me” in terms of effort (or “down to me”, as the expression goes to express accomplishment).
Learning that it is primarily both “up to” and “down to” Jesus Christ may not stop the wondering, but it does wonders for the worrying!
Because He has already won the victory.
A life of paradox
The Christian life is a great paradox of suffering and joy. I don’t mean to claim that I have suffered a great deal—certainly not very much in comparison with many others! But the “triumph of the cross” is always on display in Catholicism, the power of resurrection shining through shortcomings and setbacks. The same is almost axiomatically true of fundraising campaigns for good Catholic causes. It is generally the more worldly organizations which seem to make money hand over fist. Those who take Christ and the Church seriously nearly always have to experience the threat of (human) failure before they get to experience sufficient support to work at making things better for another season or so. It may be a law of the Christian life that, if you have more than enough funding to do the good you envision doing, you ought to at least consider whether either your vision or your methods are not fully at Christ’s service.
Of course this evaluation, from outside, is invariably reminiscent of sour grapes. It is easy for me to say that there must be something wrong with organizations that prosper! It could be, after all, that they are better managed. The healthy way to look at these things is to admit one’s incompetence, attempt to compensate for it as much as possible, pray unceasingly, flee from sin whenever it is recognized, and leave the rest to God. That’s as true of running an apostolate as it is of raising a family. For most of us, it takes a good deal of repetition to learn the lesson.
But the Resurrection shines through in every circumstance, primarily in the form of an unruffled joy that Christ has already won the victory.
Getting Old...and Staying Young
As we age, we recognize even more fully that our own energies are insufficient. For a nation, a community, a company, a church, an apostolate—and even a family—ongoing developments ultimately depend on the next generation. If the project lasts long enough, this dependence will shift again and again. Sooner or later, every nation, company, and community, every specific instance of apostolate, and even every particular family will cease to exist at least in this world. But that is simply not true of the Church. No matter her problems in any given situation, even if she ceases to exist in particular times and places, she will remain alive and indestructible.
Sowing and reaping alike can to rendered difficult or even impossible here and there; we have all experienced hindrances from a wide variety of causes. One of the benefits of an Internet apostolate is that it can help those who seek even in fairly bad times and fairly bad places. But of course nothing adequately substitutes for the real thing—the community of Christ experiencing the sacramental ministry of the Catholic Church. When the Internet is the medium, the goal is to offer instruction, formation, encouragement and even spiritual relief in the face of all the conditions which inhibit genuinely vibrant local Catholic communities. Sadly, the need for this is growing greater in our world year by year, even though it can never be a replacement for the real Catholic thing.
But this does not mean the Church is getting old. The Church is Christ’s body—Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). All those who abuse the Catholic name at any given moment, with their efforts to make the Church more acceptable by chipping away at Jesus Christ—by wounding his Body again and again—simply wish to take the fast track to worldly approval. This is incredibly easy, but its sterility kills, and in the end it has no part in the victory of the Cross, no part in our hope for the life to come. Sometimes an internet apostolate can make things much better even locally by making important distinctions like these—by at least describing reality as it is.
I pray that this is so, and that it will continue to be so as long as the work is helpful to the Body of Christ. But it can fail for any number of reasons—terrible leadership, the lack of the right people to carry on the work as the previous generation runs out of steam, or a simple lack of available resources. Apostolic work must find ways to stay young. We have brought younger people on board. And we need to raise about $35,000 by Pentecost to win a $60,000 Challenge Grant, so that we can continue to proclaim the Catholic Faith. I mean the victory of Christ and His Church—always extraordinary, even in Ordinary Time.
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