An Encouraging Word — A return to Christianity?

Your faith has saved you. Luke 18:42

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

Surely, you know by now that I am a serious admirer of Pope Francis. For the last three weeks I have written about him. Since his election, I have been energized to such a degree that it even surprises me.

Both Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, want the church to be less worldly and more spiritual. But they have gone about it in very different ways.

When Pope Benedict was in his homeland of Germany he called for an “entweltlichung” of the church — a wonderful German word meaning something like “de-world-ification.”

Of all I have read so far, the following insight seems to make the most sense to me in comparing their approaches to that more spiritual and less worldly church they both want.

Pope Benedict’s cure for the contemporary world’s secularization was to try to retrieve the beautiful, elegant trappings of yesterday’s European Catholicism. Thus the name Benedict?

The problem with that viewpoint is that it fails to see how much of the trappings of traditional Catholicism are themselves a product of secularization when the church took on the power structures and court ceremonials of secular worldly powers, instead of remaining faithful to its own traditions and Scriptures for models of leadership and authority.

Pope Francis’ cure for the contemporary world’s secularization, on the other hand, is a radical return to the basics of the Gospel and the mission of the church. In the process, he seems willing to throw overboard anything that compromises the church’s ability to witness to the Gospel.

He wants to look within our own traditions and Scriptures for models of leadership and authority, not the royal courts of old Europe. That’s what is behind his decrying such things as bishops acting like “princes.” He sees the cure for the world’s secularization in a restoration of lived Christianity, not a restoration of European Christendom. Thus the name Francis?

Those of us who love this new pope need to realize, I believe, that what he is really calling for is our return to lived Christianity. Pope Francis cannot revitalize the church alone, but he can inspire us to move individually toward the goal of a seriously lived Christian faith.

My hope is that he will live long enough to move us even deeper, beyond the symbolic gestures that have captured the imagination of the whole world. Instead of looking for him to magically make us all better or waiting for him to create some kind of perfect institution, we need to heed his call to clean up our own individual acts. The Gospel, then, has a good chance to radically change our culture.

As Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe said, “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean.” As Alexis de Tocqueville said, “a nation (church) cannot be strong when everyone belonging to it is individually weak.”

Father J. Ronald Knott

The Record
Written By
The Record
More from The Record
St. Bernadette children pledge to curb use of an offensive word
By MARNIE McALLISTER Record Assistant Editor Children at St. Bernadette Church have...
Read More
0 replies on “An Encouraging Word — A return to Christianity?”