“God, what’s it all coming to? Sometimes I wonder where the world and the church are going! Who would have ever thought it would turn out this way? Whatever happened to make it turn out like this?
“The church I grew up in, the church of my youth, of my family, the church in which I took my vows….it’s dead, gone, gone away; it’s not just changed, it’s dead. I guess since I am an old-fashioned fogey, I can still use some old-fashioned language: that is what Thomas Aquinas called substantial change. This is a new ball game.
“Vatican II, Vatican II! You can change anything and simply call it the spirit of Vatican II.
“I don’t know, it’s supposed to be better, a new church, a church renewed, a church with its windows opened, as Pope John XXIII said. The Holy Spirit, as SHE is now called, is supposed to be in this same place. Somehow I find it hard to believe. Less people are going to church, nobody is following the church’s commandments on marriage and sex any more, there’s a lot of talk about social justice and commitment to the poor, but, like most everything else, it’s a lot of talk. I don’t see anyone living all that poorly.
“When I was a kid, the church was poor! We didn’t need to talk about poverty, we were poor! Now we hold conferences on social justice, which is a sure sign that we aren’t poor. You know, I went to a workshop last year on social justice and poverty, you know where it was held? At the Holiday Inn! That’s the new church for you! No more church basements with the Catholic Women’s League cooking. Oh, no, we’re too sophisticated for all that!
“Yeah, I’m supposed to believe that the Holy Spirit is in all of this. Over half my classmates have left religious life, and three of those are now divorced. I don’t know whatever happened to sacrifice and commitment. We sure don’t talk about them any more. It’s not in the spirit of Vatican II.
“Jesus, that expression bugs me! As do a bunch of other clap-trap clichés that I have to swallow every day like stale coffee…visioning, birthing, enabling, empowering, commissioning, and, of course, sharing. Oh, yes, sharing, everything is sharing….’I want to share this with you!’
“No wonder nobody goes to church any more, we can’t even tell a noun from a verb! Birthing, visioning…let’s call it crapping, if we’re into turning nouns into verbs!
“….I fought, God, I’ve fought, fought for the church of my youth, fought for the church that sustained my parents through hard times, fought for the church that used to challenge the world, that didn’t have morality by Gallup polls, that was different from the world. I fought…at all those endless meetings, where nothing ever was accomplished, but, of course, the process was worthwhile!
“I fought, but now it’s over. I’m tired. Yogi Berra once said, ‘it ain’t over until it’s over!’ Well…it’s over! The church has shifted. There is no sense arguing anymore. I feel like a damned antique!
“It’s all gone….daily Mass; First Fridays; the Baltimore Catechism; special months for Mary, for St. Joseph, for the Sacred Heart; the Angelus at noon; Corpus Christi parades; the old religious habits…antiques!
“It’s hard to believe. All that sweat, blood, sacrifice, life, all those institutions and all that tradition – the beauty of the Gregorian chant, the universality of the old catechisms – all of it gone, gone, dead, died, relegated to the museums.
“I gave my life for all of those and, in 20 years, it’s all swept away. I don’t know, it’s hard to believe that it’s for the better, but, what’s for sure is that it’s forever different. It’s a new way now, we’ll never have the old church back again!
“Jesus, God, it’s death, death to have sunk so much into something, to have believed in something so much, and to see it all thrown away like yesterday’s newspapers! I want to cling to what was, but it’s gone. I can’t fight this any more. Let me accept what has to be accepted….give me some heart, some spirit, for this!”
Even after the resurrection, until they received the new spirit of Christ at Pentecost, the disciples doubted that something good had taken place. They longed instead to have their old Jesus back, the pre-Good Friday one. Depressed, unable to understand and imagine Jesus in a new mode, they, in their discouragement, returned to their old way of life, fishing and the sea.
The pre-Vatican II church, like the earthly body of Jesus, was a sure enfleshed presence of God on earth. But, like Jesus, it suffered a painful Good Friday….and a subsequent incredible resurrection. The church lives…pruned, new, marvelously raised up, given new life beyond its former imagination. But, like the beautiful prayer of the nun I just quoted, we, each of us, must pray to receive its new spirit.