Bishop Robert Barron recently issued a clarion call to those working for the spread of the Gospel in an article entitled Apologists, Catechists, and Theologians, Wake Up!
As someone who ticks all of those boxes, plus Church musician, I thought I might offer some thoughts.
- It is true that many fallen-away Catholics’ expressed protests against the faith are easily-answered and superficial fallacies. Not only should those charged with teaching and defending the faith know how to respond well to them, but every Catholic from high school age should know as well. Middle-schoolers ought to be trained in fallacy detection (here is an age-appropriate book with which to begin).
- The use of the internet and mass media by Catholics has been an evangelistic boon for those who find the Catholic outlets. Videos, Catholic radio, EWTN, and internet forums provide opportunities for evangelization that were simply unavailable in previous generations. But these do not engage everyone, even when spread through social media. How can we improve their reach?
- There are 3 major sources from which most people receive their information about the Catholic Church: the news, the Mass, and Catholics they know. People meet Mass-going Catholics all day long at work and in various social situations. The laity ought to be equipped to defend the faith. I know a priest who wears clerics on plane flights with the intention of engaging those he meets–but how many will he meet?
- There is a general crisis of the liberal arts in our culture, to the extent that most people are perfectly willing to hold mutually inconsistent thoughts in mind at the same time. This is a problem for apologetics, which depends on an intellectual coherence which many do not find necessary.
- Unless a Catholic is “hooked in” to forms of evangelization outside the Mass, they are immune to the efforts of apologists, catechists, and theologians. All they have is the Mass. If this is the case, what must the Mass be? And how does it differ from what the Mass is in our day?
- What must homilies be? What are they? Are they sometimes therapeutic, moralistic, deistic? Or do they present the Faith as a unity in its beauty and truth?
- The rituals of the Mass should present supernatural reality in such a way that the mind is led to contemplate divine things. Are they done so, in a way that invites elevation of the mind, or in a casual, rushed, almost embarrassed manner?
- Liturgical music represents the angelic intelligences in the Mass. It engages human minds and emotions and is united with the sacred text. How, precisely, does it engage the mind? Does it give an impression of randomness and puerility? Is it elevating in any way? Is it actually united to the sacred text?
Our entire heaven will be an exercise in “kneeling theology” (logikan latreian), for which most Catholics are almost entirely unequipped. This is indeed a crisis, and one which bishops will hopefully continue to invite all of their helpers to address.