A quick look around reminds us of a tragic and sad reality – many are leaving the faith. Bishop Barron recently reminded us that for every one person who joins our Church, six are leaving. 50% of millennial (people born in the mid-80’s to early 2000’s) Catholics claim no religious affiliation. The statistics are sobering. Many reasons are given, but what matters most is the mortal danger to the souls of those who have drifted away from the Church.
It is only natural to search for how to “fix” this problem. The tendency is to turn to our own understanding and offer up solutions that “scratch ‘em were they itch.” One significant outcome of the second Vatican Council was an understanding that while our message is unchanging, our methods must consider the “signs of the times.” Yet it is a “quick-fix” trap to expect to find a magic bullet that will somehow stop the losses. When I consider the experience of the apostles and the early church, I am reminded of what changed a pagan world. It wasn’t slick programming or concert quality music. No, it was something far more significant, more powerful. I think of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, young catechumenates who would willingly face a martyr’s death. I recall the apostles, all but one who gave their life in martyrdom for their faith.
The secret to reclaiming those who are drifting away for Christ? It is the same for us as it was for the apostle Paul; as Pope Benedict XVI says. “We are only Christians if we encounter Christ . . . We encounter Christ in reading Holy Scripture, in prayer, and in the liturgical life of the Church – touch Christ’s heart and feel that Christ touches ours. And it is only in this personal relationship with Christ, in this meeting with the Risen One, that we are truly Christian. “ This “meeting with the Risen One” is what energized the disciples after the Passion of Christ. They were frightened, hiding, unsure of what to expect next when they met the risen Savior. The fervency of their faith never wavered from that moment, and the message of the Gospel spread “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is the example found in the lives of the saints. They had a life changing encounter with the Risen Savior, with Jesus Christ Himself. From that moment, through the good times and the desperate times of life the saints walked in faith as citizens of a world that is to come. May we experience a fresh encounter with the Risen One, and may that meeting fan the flames of faith so that our lives are a witness to the hope and meaning found only in Christ.