23/10/2012 15:37

Faith is love

A letter from Fr. John Glynn OL
Jubilee Catholic Secondary School, Port Moresby

There are two articles in particular in the October issue of Catholic Reporter that excited my interest. I believe they are closely related to each other. They appear on Page 3 – ‘Catholic Professionals Stress Teaching of Catechism’ and ‘PNG Lost Generation’.

I spent a life time in New Ireland as a Primary School teacher in the 60s, and then as a High School teacher and finally as a Priest. Thus I suppose I must accept some small part of the blame for the very distressing situation described by Fr. Shanthi - the inability of our young people there to give expression to their Catholic faith.

It is not a problem confined to New Ireland, nor even to Papua New Guinea as a whole. It is a universal problem that sees young people everywhere turning away from their ‘Catholic Faith’. I use inverted commas here because this is the language we use to describe what we see happening - but we are wrong! Our young people are not deserting the Catholic faith since they never had it in the first place. They are turning their backs on Catholic Religion.

With all due respects to the ‘Catholic Professionals’ that Veronica Hatutasi tells us about, I am afraid that the Catechism is not the source or the foundation of my faith. It was beaten into me with strap and cane when I was a small boy, and today I cannot remember a word of it.

The faith came slowly to me. I experienced it in my parents, in some of my teachers, in some of the clergy I encountered as I grew up. As I matured it became increasingly clear to me that religious practice and the life of faith are two quite different things. And it was after I was finally ordained - at the age of 44 - that I truly began to experience the enormous gulf that can exist between the two.

We make a terrible mistake when we assume the existence of faith in our young people, and then proceed to enthusiastically impose on them the practices, prescriptions and proscriptions of the Catholic Religion.

How did the Apostles and early disciples win converts to Christ? It wasn’t through the use of catechisms or by preaching religious practice. It can only have been through demonstrating in their own lives what it means to be alive in Christ - I live now, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; Gal.2:20. People were attracted to the risen Christ, and to the message of redemption, by what they heard, what they witnessed and by their experience of the lives of these missionaries. They were not attracted by a new set of laws and practices but by the call to love. As St. Paul puts it ‘... serve one another through love. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Gal.5:13,14.

It is only when we begin to lead lives of faith - lives based on the Lord’s call to love one another - that the practice of our Religion begins to fulfil its purpose and take on its true meaning. Without that basis in faith the practice of Religion is dead and meaningless.

Are there people in your Parish who are outwardly very religious, yet whose lives are ruled by anger, or self-righteousness; who do not hesitate to criticise, condemn and even punish others; who turn their backs on the poor?

All around the world the Church is in deep trouble because so much of the Institutional Church forgot its role of loving service to the community of the faithful. Acting with an incredible degree of self-righteous arrogance they allowed themselves to become enslaved to the elemental powers of the world Gal.4:3 (NAB). It is going to be a long time before the Church recovers from the damage done to it by its institutional leadership.

In the meantime it is up to people of faith to win others to life in the Spirit of Christ by their words, by how they give witness, and by how they share in the lives of those who are poor in body, mind and spirit. And having won people to the faith, perhaps then we can win them to the Catholic Church too. (CBC Communications 20121023 – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)