Lots of people wonder why young people leave the church. Most people that look at this question ask those that left why they chose to leave. They then analyze the data, and select reasons that seem satisfactory to them. Secular or liberal-minded folks conclude that the church is too backward on social issues like sexual orientation and the status of women. The church needs to “change” to “get with the times.” Progressive-minded folks conclude that the church is not accessible enough. More music, louder music! Create great social opportunities. Invite even the lukewarm to participate in everything. Above all, people ought not to feel judged or like there are rules they ought to abide by to be welcome. Maybe then people will come back.
My favorite movie about Jesuits (thus far) is The Mission. It’s got beautiful music, sweeping scenery and a simple, sad, but hopeful story about missionary priests who are willing to die for their faith. I like unambiguous stories that give me a clear side to root for. About two and a half years ago, I got to read Silence, a masterpiece by Shusaku Endo. Silence is a grim and complex book/film. The film adaptation is not the sort of feel good Christian movie that pastors urge their congregations to go see.
Silence was made by the acclaimed director Martin Scorcese. Even though you may not have heard of it (it was beloved by critics but a box office flop) it was a labor of love and packed with talented, well known actors. You really owe it to yourself to see it. It’s beautiful, thoughtful and uncomfortable; and the main character is deeply flawed.
This video is an epic, 2nd century sermon on the occasion of Holy Saturday:
If you don’t watch it first: this is the day when Christ conquers death and frees Adam and Eve and our ancestors from hell. A long, gloomy wait for his disciples, but a day of joy for those who came before Christ.
I grew up really enjoying the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast. Now, in 2017, I had a chance to see Disney’s updated take on the fairy tale. These are great movies – beautifully animated, with excellent musical numbers, and an engaging story. However, there has been some debate about the morals of this new film. Having that in the back of my mind made me want to take the film apart a bit after viewing it, and so I have.
Last Sunday, I was given a reminder of what Easter last year looked like. A catechumen went through a “scrutiny”, one of a series of welcoming rituals for converts who have felt the call to join the Church at Easter. It reminded me that last year, at this time, I was also going through the conversion process.
Last year, my wife and I were nearing the end of a long period of waiting. We had been going to classes (called RCIA) at our church for months. We were not conflicted about our decision, since we had read our way into the Church, but we were conscious that we were caught between two traditions, neither one nor the other. While those traditions share a core agreement about Jesus Christ, they differ on many other important topics. It was a hard time, but it was a spiritually vibrant time.
This year, it feels like life has gotten significantly busier. I no longer have the time to pursue projects that I enjoy, with all of my time going to preparing for work. Prayer time seems to be squished and constrained. I’ve had precious few theological discussions since we moved. More mundane matters that occupy conversations and thoughts. It does not feel as overtly fulfilling, and there’s no immediate goal to look forward to. But through it all, Christ is still there, moving. Moments like this remind me of that.
Looking back on the intervening year, my first year as a Catholic, I see that God has done so much for us. There’s no glamour in moving from a provincial capital to a small, northern town; but God has been leading us quietly. May He use us and all Christians in this Lenten season for the greater glory of God and for the unity and health of the Church.
Although I’ve spent quite a lot of time thinking about, explaining, and writing about why I’ve become Catholic in the past year or so, I really ought to have prefaced those explanations with praise for my former faith. So, long delayed, but here it is: in praise of the Evangelical strain of Christianity.
Lately, I feel very lost. Not spiritually lost, mind you, nor ignorant of possible forward directions. I feel lost as in unmoored, lacking a home; a wanderer and an alien in a land to which I do not belong.
The week of prayer for Christian unity is here. This year is special for Western Christians; for this is the 500th anniversary of an event that shattered the unity of Western Christianity. 500 years ago, the Reformation informally began with the nailing of Dr. Martin Luther’s grievances to the church door in Wittenberg.