I heard a priest the other day say that we are experiencing a winter time in the Church. He cited low Mass attendance, few vocations, confusion on important doctrine and a lack of prophetic witnesses as signs of this winter.
I disagreed, but wasn’t sure why. John Paul II had spoken of a new springtime in the Church, so that got me thinking.
What is the very first sign of spring? It’s not budding trees. It’s not singing birds. It’s not even little blades of grass poking through the snow.
Yes, mud. Weathering five New England winters taught me that. Locals in Vermont actually break the year into five seasons, the one following snow season being known as mud season. The hush of the snow- and ice-covered landscape is broken by the roar of brimming creeks, rivers and streams.
It’s springtime in the Church alright, but precisely because of this there are some mud stains.
Maybe Mass attendance is low in some places, but not everywhere. Across the board, it’s rising.
Vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are still not enough to attend to the huge flock of Catholic faithful, but every year there are more than before.
There is still plenty of confusion among Catholics on major issues such as abortion, contraception, euthanasia and homosexuality. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is very united on these topics and clear in their declarations about them. That wasn’t the case a few decades ago.
Young people in the Church are excited about their faith. I was just at the National Catholic Youth Conference where over 23,000 youth gathered to celebrate, share and grow in their faith. Talk about a sign of life!
And prophetic witness? Maybe I myself am not a prophet, but my life of poverty, chastity and obedience speaks volumes about the life of Christ and the life to come. And don’t you think that every person living a life modeled after Christ is a witness?
So the Church is a little muddy. Well I’d rather have mud than ice.