Thursday, June 27, 2002

In ancient times, forty years was considered the life of a generation. This is why the Jews spent forty years wandering in the desert. The new Jews, the young Jews would be a new generation... one not engaged in the sin that caused their wanderings and thus one worthy to enter the promised land.

Someone mentioned to me recently that forty years is also the length of time that it takes for the Church to settle down into a new configuration after an ecumenical council. Forty years is the time that is required for the necessary changes to settle into the lives of the Faithful. It is also sufficient to display the bad fruits that should be cast out.

Today, the Church is not who the post-Vatican reformers imagined. She is not who the old widows turn to in their dreams. She is not quite the Mother whom newly-reconciled post-Protestant Catholics had envisioned. She is not at all the Church that any of our highly motivated human members demand Her to be.

It occurs to me that, if the Church is not what any of Her human members want, perhaps the Church is not particularly concerned with their dismay. Perhaps, she is more interested in pleasing Another.

The pre-Vatican Church (at least in America) was 'a people set apart'. She existed as a distinct and separate society within the larger secular world. She was true and faithful and monastically quiet in confronting the world. The pre-Vatican Church was an organization based on quiet strength and discipline. As a woman, she most resembled the demure 'women of cover' who inhabit the Islamic world. Her beauty and her passion were discreetly veiled.

The post-Vatican Church was ecumenical. She was open to the world in her innocence. She was entranced by the neighborhood 'bad boys' who tempted her with freedom and rebellion. In opening herself to the world, she flirted with infidelity. She was young and sensuous and authentic. Perhaps She was a bit naive and thus dangerously vulnerable. She went to the dance with dissidents who then abandoned her when flirtation turned to seduction and her ultimate answer was 'No'.

She's come home with Calvinists These staunch new Catholics, fervent in the faith, would not have glanced at the cloistered Sister of Mystery. Yet, they embrace the secret mystery in the soul of this more wanton woman. They recognize the chaste purity at the heart of her flirtation.

The post-Vatican Church was open to dissent; now post-Vatican dissenters must confront the fruits of their dissent. The new Catholics are not impressed by theological degrees and learned opinions. They are impressed with authenticity and freedom.

The post-Vatican Church was empty. Some say 50% to 75% of Catholics are non-practicing. What will happen when these orphaned children grow weary of a world gone mad? What will happen if their memories are stirred by the clarion call of a Church persecuted by a culture of death and devilment? If ever they come to their Mother's defense, which Church will they be defending? Which memory is stronger... the memory of a Mother who sheltered them or the memory of One who abandoned them on the verge of adolescence? In the exhausted aftermath of battle, into whose arms will they want to surrender themselves?

The people who today argue over possession of the Church and who earnestly seek to chart her future are the lost middle generation of desert wandering. In a sad but substantial way they are irrelevant. They are neither old men dreaming dreams, nor young men seeing visions. They are merely the status quo.

The time for desert wandering is spent. The pilgrim church is being refashioned. We have entered a new age, one for which we have been prepared. The Canaanites hold in their possession the promised land but not the promise to the land. The Church Triumphant is beckoning and the Church Militant is rising. We will yet conquer the world with a wild and masculine love.

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