CATHOLICISM IS THE ANSWER by Bud Macfarlane Jr., MI ON THE PULSE As a novelist and director of a Catholic lay apostolate, it's my responsibility to try to discern trends and understand the bigger picture, although I'm highly fallible in doing so. In the wake of recent scandals in the news, it's more important than ever to have a realistic view. I've been keeping my finger on the pulse of Catholic Culture for over a decade now, and I want to share with you some positive tends. I'll be frank: my heart burns for souls. My passionate goal in life is to play my part in the conversion of everyone in America to our beloved Catholic Faith. Another way to put it: we need to transform the culture in the U.S. and Canada from one of death and godlessness into a Culture of Life. I do not see this as an impossible goal. I do not and have never believed that our mission to is hold on to what we have--to merely preserve the Faith in a kind of defeatist retreat. TOTAL CONVERSION I really do believe that the more aggressive goal of Total Conversion, let's call it, is a realistic one. This is what we owe our children and future generations of Catholics who are depending on us: the inheritance of a Culture of Life. Total Conversion, in fact, is what the Holy Trinity desires for every soul on the face of the earth, and what Christ commanded of the apostles when He told them to go to the ends of the earth with the Good News. Benefactors of our apostolate have always been attracted to this positive attitude which permeates everything we do. Do we appear naive and childlike? Good. That makes us all the more powerful instruments in God's hands. Jesus told us to be like children. He told us to convert the world. The world Jesus placed us in happens to be America during a godless era. It's not much more complicated than that. SNOWBALL Practically speaking, I've always felt the way to convert America is to help empower the devout Catholics among us to be holier, and through this holy army, convert our lukewarm Catholic brothers and sisters. With God's grace, as we "heat up" the lukewarm, our momentum will snowball, and we'll then be able to call back the fallen away Catholics, pool our immense and growing resources, and then convert our beloved separated brethren, the Protestants. Then, together, we'll convert the agnostics and atheists. Political issues will start going our way; demographics are on our side. One quarter of the population of the United States consists of baptized Catholics. We're the largest "block" in the most powerful, influential, and wealthiest country in the history of the world. The numbers are on our side: devout Catholics, on the whole, have large families. The godless do not. CHANGE AGENTS As best I can estimate, only 5% to 8%--let's call it 7%--of baptized Catholics believe and practice the teachings of the Church as the Church presents them. Let's call this 7% the Change Agents. We are the modern equivalent of the Catacomb Christians during Roman times. The watershed issue is the transmission of life. Most polls I've seen show that 90+% of married Catholics are not open to life as Christ desires and use artificial means to limit family size. I do not judge them. Most have simply never been taught the truth and have been sucked into the Culture of Death almost without knowing what was happening to them. As Change Agents, it's our calling to bring the truth to them by word and deed powered by God's pure grace, which is completely available to us through prayer and the Sacraments. NO SUCH THING AS ONE CONVERSION The good news is, the Change Agents are growing rapidly, perhaps doubling every four or five years, and the rate of growth is increasing as our numbers increase. Every convert and revert is a Change Agent. There is no such thing as a "single" conversion, because each person who converts is part of a family, a parish, a town, and the culture at large. For example, most of you reading this article were not devout ten years ago. You've converted or reverted. God gave you the grace of conversion not only for you, but also so you could then reach others in your circle of influence. Many of you have proceeded to help convert close family members and friends. Our openness to Life and God's will also bears fruit in children--the next generation of Change Agents. This is the Big Picture Trend that gives me so much hope. The Change Agents are growing. The Change Agents are having children. The Change Agents are actively seeking to evangelize. The Change Agents are just that: changing the world. And we're doing so in that peculiarly Catholic way: almost imperceptibly, yet powerfully. THE WORLD HAD NO CLUE I liken our current cultural situation to the long thirty year span when Jesus was just another Jewish baby then child then young man in a provincial backwater of the Roman Empire. Mary and Joseph were going about their job of raising a young boy. The world had no idea that this boy would change the world. Our world has no idea that by going about our vocations of raising our children, we're poised to conquer the Empire of Death. TRENDS FOR HOPE Our world--our culture--is going to hell in a hand basket around us, yet Jesus is born within us, preparing us for a public life of sacrifice, ministry, and conversion. So here are other positive trends I discern, in no particular order. 1. The Conversion of Protestant Ministers to Catholicism. What started as a trickle with Scott Hahn in the 1980s is now a steady stream of hundreds of conversions. Many or most of our best preachers and apostolic leaders were once anti-Catholic Protestants. 2. The Rapid Growth of Lay Apostolates. The Mary Foundation and CatholiCity.com are just one example among many. Almost all of the major Catholic apostolates and faithful book and magazine publishers which supply the intellectual ammunition and tools for evangelization to the Change Agents didn't exist twenty years ago. Practically all these apostolates have three things in common: love for Our Lady, devotion to the Eucharistic True Presence, and utter fidelity to the Holy Father. 3. Instant Access. There are literally thousands of orthodox Catholic websites. For the first time in the history of the world, the priceless teachings of our faith are literally at our fingertips--and at the fingertips of the unconverted if they so desire--at nominal or no cost. 4. The Explosion of Homeschooling. Tens of thousands of Change Agent children are being prepared to fight the Culture of Death by daily living the Culture of Life. This preparation is monastic in character, as Father Fessio of Ignatius Press has pointed out, and is more rigorous in terms of piety and intellectual formation than the parochial school system of past generations. This homeschooling trend is supplemented by a growing trend of the founding private Catholic schools which are faithful to the teachings of the Church. The bulk of new vocations are coming from these families. 5. New Networks and Groups: the coming into existence of important Catholic networking groups for leaders and Change Agents. I've been a part of three such groups, none of which existed in 1995: the Catholic Marketing Network, the Catholic Leadership Conference, and the Colebrook Society. More national and international groups have been founded with more to come. On a local level, thousands of other groups are being formed organically by the Holy Spirit--Bible Studies, home schooling groups, Prolife organizations, and so on. 6. The Growth, Renewal and Founding of Orthodox Catholic Colleges. Christendom College, Thomas More College, Thomas Aquinas College, Campion College, and Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Canada now exist. Furthermore, as the Change Agents grow, the transformation of formerly lukewarm Catholic institutions such as Franciscan University of Steubenville will continue. Institutions, like individual souls, are capable of conversion or reversion. 7. The Next Generation of Catholic Priests and Religious. Faithful congregations such as the Legionaries of Christ, the Nashville Dominicans, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and the Companions of the Cross of Canada are prospering. A handful of dioceses run by fearless and zealous bishops are seeing a dramatic increase in diocesan vocations from Arlington to Omaha. Rejuvenated new "versions" of the Franciscans are sprouting up everywhere. Completely new religious congregations, some with just a handful of members, are being founded. Many of these congregations have "modern" or "American" charisms, designed by the Holy Spirit to re-evangelize Western Civilization and to defeat the Culture of Death. 8. The Changing Media. Although not always specifically Catholic, conservative radio shows, websites, magazines, and cable news shows are drawing the highest ratings. Articulate and faithful Catholics such as Sean Hannity, Alan Keyes, Peggy Noonan, and Lawrence Kudlow are growing in influence because of their personal excellence. The "liberal" media, on the other hand, is losing ground rapidly. Part of this trend has to do with new choices provided by technology: the Internet, cable television, satellite broadcasting. EWTN is part of this trend. Catholic radio stations are popping up all over America. 9. Families As Signs of Contradiction. The world sees us but does not understand us, or our power, for our power is invisible, and based on the grace of God. We are the Mystical Body of Christ. Do not underestimate the witness that you provide as a member of His Body. Like John Paul II, we are all "Witnesses to Hope." When you fill up a pew at Mass with beautiful children in a parish where most of the families are not open to life, your presence is having a bigger impact than you imagine. Your outward peacefulness and happiness is a light shining in the darkness. What the worldly believe is impossible is contradicted by your very existence. When the lukewarm and fallen away begin to consider reverting, they know exactly who to approach: you. 10. The Growth of the Rosary and Marian Apparitions. In the wake of false propaganda by liberals after Vatican II, the Rosary was discouraged and even suppressed. Yet today it is more popular than ever, in large part because of the explosion of appearances by Our Lady in the last 170 years, from Fatima, Portugal in 1917 to Akita, Japan in the 1970s. Also note the explosion of the Divine Mercy Chaplet as the second most popular pious devotion in the history of the world. The canonizations of Sister Faustina and Saint Maximilian Kolbe are the Holy Spirit telling the world through the Church what the future holds. 11. The Pontificate of John Paul II. Enough said. 12. Worldwide Growth of Catholicism. As just one example: when my father was a young man, there were 3 million Catholics in Africa. Today there are over 110,000,000. There are more baptized Catholics now than ever before--a trend that has continued without abatement since Jesus Himself rose from the dead. Catholicism is the largest Faith on earth. It is the only corporate institution of any kind on the planet that even existed during the Roman Empire. They can deride us, marginalize us, persecute us, and even kill us, but they can't stop us. We just keep resurrecting, don't we? I'm sure there are more positive trends; the ones listed above came off the top of my head. NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN On the surface, recent centuries have not been kind to the Catholic Church. Modern philosophers have been predicting our demise from the French Revolution to the Communists early last century to the godless materialists of our day. In simple terms, if you're a devout Catholic, then according to the bad guys, you shouldn't be here. Then why ARE you here, despite the seemingly unstoppable and omni-present force of the Culture of Death? Because Catholicism is the Truth. Because the Culture of Death is built on lies, and offers nothing but sorrow. Because Jesus is God, and God is all-powerful; modern man is not. EASTER 3002 So be not afraid. We are celebrating Easter in 2002, and unless Christ returns, Catholics will be celebrating Easter in 3002. As for our enemies who embrace the Culture of Death, no one will celebrate them. There will be no monuments to the abortionists and pornographers in future eras--only memorials for their victims. In the meantime, let's just be what we are: Catholics. Let's be holy. If we're not holy, of course, America will not change. If we are, it will. God will supply the grace and Our Lady will supply the details. As with the Romans, modern day bad guys will never know what hit them. Happy Easter, really! With Immaculate Mary, Bud Macfarlane Jr., MI The Mary Foundation CatholiCity.com http://www.catholicity.com/
(Reprinted with Permission of Author)
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