A Sure Path for Renewal
9/1/2019by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
The challenge of reform and preserving unity within the Church calls for natural and supernatural virtue
EARLIER THIS YEAR, I attended the consecration of a beautifully restored church. As the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the new tabernacle, I thought of the Ark of the Covenant, which was the place of God’s presence among his people, beginning in the time of Moses. Now, in the New Covenant, the Lord’s true presence is a reality wherever Mass is celebrated and wherever the Eucharist is reserved.
As Catholics, we may take this reality for granted today, but the initial reaction to Jesus’ discourse on the bread of life was one of disbelief — the Jews saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” and his disciples saying, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” Most of his disciples actually left, and Jesus then turned to the Apostles: “Will you also go away?” As we know, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).
Jesus’ question remains painfully real in light of the devastating scandals that have recently rocked the Church and the declining church attendance among Catholics. And if Jesus’ question has new relevance, so does Peter’s answer. If we were to turn away from the presence of the Lord, where would we go?
There is a growing trend, especially among young people, to say that we can be “spiritual” while also rejecting organized religion. Pope Benedict XVI addressed this issue in his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) when he asked, “Is Christian hope individualistic?” He answered that “salvation has always been considered a ‘social’ reality,” adding that we are called “to a lived union with a ‘people,’ and for each individual it can only be attained with this ‘we’” (14).
We see this social reality, this unity within the Church, most beautifully in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the hundreds of thousands of tabernacles throughout the world. And this call to communion is especially important for us as Knights of Columbus, committed this year in a special way to the principle of unity.
As we pray for and seek renewal in our Church today, I am reminded what the 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke said about institutions in need of reform. He argued that the virtue of prudence is necessary to find the right combination of “conservation and correction.”
We should keep in mind Burke’s recommendation of prudence. In the foreseeable future, however, the most important of the cardinal virtues may not be prudence but fortitude, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines as “the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good” (1808).
And as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, fortitude is dependent upon yet another virtue: justice — certainly today, justice for the victims of sexual abuse and their families as well as justice for the People of God.
Indeed, all four of the cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance — will be necessary to achieve “correction” while preserving the unity of the Church.
In Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict further reminded us: “God is the foundation of hope. … His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope” (31).
In the days ahead, therefore, let us rededicate ourselves to the practice of the moral virtues and pray for an increase in faith, hope and charity. In this way, we will continue to move forward, meeting whatever challenges may arise.
The Lord remains in the midst of his people, and he will never abandon us. He calls us to unity. He calls us to virtue. And in him, we will find a sure path for renewal.
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