by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
It is easy to succumb to despair for our nation and culture. The likely presidential choices come November are distressing. Moreover, Hollywood, corporate America and the courts appeared to have formed an axis of evil aimed at eroding moral values and deconstructing the family.
For decades, the entertainment media, led by some of the most morally confused and unhappy people on the planet, have been conditioning Americans to seek pleasure and immediate gratification over virtue and commitment.
The courts have essentially usurped the power of the elected representatives of the people to establish public policies on such fundamental issues as the protection of innocent human life and the definition of marriage. In order to impose a social agenda, the Supreme Court claims to have discovered unarticulated rights hidden in the Constitution.
Corporate America has joined in the effort by threatening states with dire economic repercussions if they fail to conform to the new social order. Even the most modest legislative efforts — for example, protecting small business owners from being forced to choose between violating their conscience or shuttering their doors — are not tolerated.
On top of all that, as I write this column, the Chicago Cubs lead the National League Central and the Chicago White Sox lead the American League Central. Obviously, the world is upside down!
During the Easter season, our liturgical readings walk us through the Acts of the Apostles. Can anything that we are experiencing compare to the dark despair the first disciples experienced on Good Friday? Are any of the challenges we face today greater than the one given by Jesus to the apostles — to make disciples of all nations? Yet as we follow the story of the early church, we are reminded how God used even their adversities, even persecution, as vehicles to help them fulfill that mission.
Jesus promised to be with his church until the end of time. The same Holy Spirit, who guided and empowered those first disciples, is guiding and empowering the church today. Though we will not be reading about how the Holy Spirit is touching and transforming lives today in the headlines of secular newspapers, it is happening all around us for eyes illumined by faith to see.
This past Sunday, I celebrated Mass at Lumen Christi Monastery in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas. If you want to be renewed in the joy of the Gospel, visit Lumen Christi and pray with the Little Sisters and the Little Brothers of the Lamb.
During the Mass on Sunday, I baptized a man whose life has been transformed by his friendship with the Little Brothers and Sisters. Before he became connected to the Community of the Lamb, his life was chaotic. He was on a self-destructive path. Now, he radiates a joy that is the fruit of his friendship with Jesus that has developed because of his life of prayer.
A couple weeks ago, I attended a prayer breakfast for Saint Paul’s Outreach (SPO), a ministry of young adult Catholics for young adult Catholics. SPO has formation houses at Benedictine College, where students are given the opportunity to live in a community that supports prayer and virtuous living.
We also have SPO missionaries serving at Johnson County Community College and who minister to young adults in the Kansas City metropolitan area. It was powerful to hear the testimonies of young adults whose lives have been transformed through SPO.
This past weekend, Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa and Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe hosted “Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose” featuring Matthew Kelly, the founder of Dynamic Catholic Institute. Australian-born Matthew Kelly has been giving inspirational talks to Catholic audiences for more than 20 years.
Many of our parishes have given away copies of one or more of Matthew Kelly’s best-selling books, e.g., “Rediscovering Catholicism,” “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” and “Rediscover Jesus.” Dynamic Catholic Institute was founded in an effort to address the large number of disengaged Catholics.
Convinced that many Catholics had never been shown the genius of Catholicism and how it holds the key to fulfilling the deepest desires of our hearts, Matthew Kelly and his team at Dynamic Catholic have devoted their talents and energies to contribute to the renewal of the Catholic Church in the United States. Dynamic Catholic Institute has embarked on an effort to develop world-class catechetical materials for key moments in Catholic life. The first of these materials, “Decision Point,” provides a high quality confirmation preparation program. After only two years, “Decision Point” is being used in 50 percent of U.S. Catholic parishes.
To fund the development and the free distribution of these materials, Matthew Kelly is offering “Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose” events. Matthew Kelly inspires and motivates his audiences by providing practical ways in which they can develop their own friendship with Jesus and become engaged or more engaged Catholics. It is exciting to witness how the Holy Spirit is raising up leaders, like Matthew Kelly, to help renew the life of the church.
Even though it is easy to allow ourselves to get overwhelmed by the problems with our culture and the challenges facing the church, discouragement and despair are not options for the true disciple of Jesus. Our Lord has promised to be with his church until the end of time. Jesus is always faithful to his promises.
Beginning with the persecution of the early Christian community, the Holy Spirit has transformed the adversities experienced by the church into opportunities for the hope and joy of Christians to shine ever more brightly in a darkened unbelieving world.
I invite you in your prayer this week to recognize and reflect upon signs of hope already present in your life. Finally, ask the Lord to reveal to you how he is calling you to be a witness of hope for others.