2067: the end of British Christianity  ✂︎

Damian Thompson writing for The Spectator (UK) on the increasing secularization of Great Britain:

Every ten years the census spells out the situation in detail: between 2001 and 2011 the number of Christians born in Britain fell by 5.3 million — about 10,000 a week. If that rate of decline continues, the mission of St Augustine to the English, together with that of the Irish saints to the Scots, will come to an end in 2067

Saint Paul tells us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek; the Almighty is not interested in ‘heritage’, the new name for ethnicity. But since Britons with Anglo–Saxon and Celtic ancestors make up 90 per cent of British Christians, that rejection represents a devastating loss of faith.

It has all happened so quickly. Anglicans in particular are abandoning their faith at a rate that (in more ways that one) defies belief. According to the British Social Attitudes surveys, their numbers fell from 40 per cent of the population in 1983 to 29 per cent in 2004 and 17 per cent last year.

And America may be next:

It’s time we abandoned the notion that America is religiously special — living proof that popular Christianity can thrive in an advanced industrial democracy. Last month, Pew Research published a big study about America’s changing religious landscape. Its subtitle was ‘Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow’. All of which applies to Britain, too.

Only 57 per cent of Americans born between 1981 and 1996 identify as Christians; 36 per cent of ‘young Millennials’ between the ages of 18 and 24 are the so-called ‘nones’ — they have no religious affiliation at all.

Sunday Afternoon Matinee: “A foundation so that you can serve others”

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Just as a well-constructed home needs a variety of materials, if you are only giving up chocolate for Lent, then chances are that you’re not getting the most out of the Lenten experience…Prayer, fasting and almsgiving make for a very solid foundation for the season of Lent…Lent builds a foundation so that you can serve others.

– The Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City

Leaning on the Sacrament of Marriage

(Or "Why I Love My Wife, Volume II")

Marriage at Cana, c. 1500, Gerard David, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Two years ago on St. Valentine’s Day, I wrote nearly 800 words about why I love my wife. As the same day came and went this year, I have been reflecting a lot on those words and the time at which I wrote them.  I found they have never been more true than they are today.

Much has changed since I wrote that post, though. There has been much more uncertainty than certainty over the past couple of years. Despite the uncertainty, my life has still been full of great blessings. I am quite sure that many people would trade their troubles for mine, especially if the blessings came along with them.

Still, some of the changes over this time have led to a lot of stress and anxiety; two things with which I do not deal well. This has affected me most deeply in my spiritual life. When I wrote the post two years ago, I was in a really good spot spiritually. My prayer life was good. I was really involved in my parish. Having recently returned from a trip to Rome, I felt deeply connected to the global Catholic Church. And, after attending the Catholic New Media Conference the year before, I felt like I had found a career path to which God was calling me.

Even as I was writing that post, little changes and challenges were already beginning to chip away at my spiritual perch. A year before, the longtime pastor of my parish had been elevated to bishop. For the first time since my conversion to Catholicism, I was going through a pastoral change. While not an uncommon change, it was nonetheless difficult to say goodbye to the man who brought me into the Church and witnessed my marriage.

In addition, only days before I published that post, Pope Benedict XVI had shocked the world when he announced his retirement. I took this especially hard and have written plenty about my affection for him and his vital role in my conversion. That announcement capped a three-year period where I experienced the appointment of a new local bishop, new parish priest, and eventually, a new Pope. None of these are devastating changes on their own, but nonetheless disrupted that spiritual stability to which I had grown accustomed.

There have been changes at church. There have been changes at work.  That career path for which I had once hoped has not yet materialized. Changes all over the place that have sent my head spinning at times and left me both spiritually and physically exhausted. This exhaustion reached a tipping point a couple of Sundays ago. Unable to concentrate on anything spiritual, my mind raced with thoughts about what has transpired over the past couple of years. All of that baggage had finally seemed to break me. Full of cynicism and apathy, I sat in mass, for the first time in a long time, wondering why I was even there.

I silently expressed this to God in what I assumed would be another shout into the echo chamber that had become my prayer life. Then, something subtle, yet amazing happened. I looked to my left to see my wife serenely listening to the homily, and I realized that she was why I was sitting in that church on that morning. On a day that an unmarried version of myself might have just stayed at home, I was there, not because she had forced me, not out of guilt, but because of my desire to be there with her.

It was the first time that I was able to experience so clearly the grace from the Sacrament of Marriage. I saw in it how the sacraments work to compliment each other and how the grace from one can help bridge the gap to the grace from another. The Sacrament of Marriage had drawn me to the Eucharist. This realization felt like my first moment of clarity in months.

That clarity allowed me to see that even with all the change and transition, my wife and our marriage along with God was the constant. The idea that marriage is to be a manifestation of God’s unwavering love for us had become such a real thing in that moment.

The Eucharist and other sacraments, like Reconciliation, have tangible acts that are often centered around drawing yourself closer to or making yourself right with God.  Marriage is more subtle.  It is God in everyday life.  Often, it is not about making yourself right with God, but about helping your spouse to do so.  This help is what I’ve experienced over and over again, even if I have failed to recognize it.

This Lent, I am going to try to focus less on what has or will change and more on the grace and stability that I receive from all the Sacraments, especially Marriage.  And for all the grace I receive, I will work to see that my wife receives the same.

 

ISIS-supporter confirms the Anchoress’s point: West too hip to deal  ✂︎

The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia, on one of the biggest, yet unspoken or unrecognized elements in the war on Islamic extremists:

Everyone wants to possess the thoughts, and the resources, of the young but no one is wooing their souls. Increasingly, the West “does not do God”, does not approve of soul-chasing; it routinely discourages or politicizes soul-talk.

To young people seeking what they have been taught not to learn, secularist indoctrination offers a series of short soundbites, while a theological embrace presents a massive sky-full of thunder. It offers books of fast-burning matches, while religion offers books of sustained lightening.

If ISIS is the only supernatural game in town — the only one they’re hearing anything about and the only one that seems both dynamic and undying — it will attract many into making a grave mistake with their lives.

Sunday Afternoon Matinee: “A time of grace”

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It’s just become a part of our cultural bias to presume that this is a time that we are supposed to be unhappy, hungry or anxious to move on, but that’s not our heritage, and it does not reflect who we truly are…Lent..is a time of grace.

– The Most Reverend Edward Weisenburger, Bishop of Salina, KS (and my former pastor)

Why did the world ignore Boko Haram’s Baga attacks?  ✂︎

In Nigeria, another crisis was unfolding, as reports came through of an estimated 2,000 casualties after an attack by Boko Haram militants on the town of Baga in the north-eastern state of Borno. Amnesty International described as the terror group’s “deadliest massacre” to date, and local defence groups said they had given up counting the bodies left lying on the streets.

Reporting in northern Nigeria is notoriously difficult; journalists have been targeted by Boko Haram, and, unlike in Paris, people on the ground are isolated and struggle with access to the internet and other communications. Attacks by Boko Haram have disrupted connections further, meaning that there is an absence of an online community able to share news, photos and video reports of news as it unfolds.

(h/t @newadvent)

The Charlie Hebdo massacre, and secularism’s problem with Islam  ✂︎

Michael Brendan Dougherty writing for The Week:

The taboos of secularism interlock in other odd ways. Modern Western secularists feel no anxiety whatsoever when they encounter harsh criticism and satire of Christianity. But if you offer a particularly barbed remark about Islam among the enlightened, someone will ask you to politely agree that Christianity is just as bad. And ironically, this instinct to protect the powerless is a leftover instinct of Christian civilization, which put sayings like “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last” at the heart of its worship and moral imagination.

We used to say of comedians, “He can make that joke, because he’s Jewish.” In this respect, the Western world’s comfort with attacking Christianity is an inadvertent admission that Christianity is “our” religion. And so it elicits from us none of the respect, deference, or fear we give to strangers. Viewed this way, secularism looks less like universal principle than a moral and theological critique derived from Christian sources and pitched back at Christian authorities.

Giving thanks in days of fear, uncertainty, and doubt

Two months ago yesterday, filled with a mix of anger, disappointment, and some level of relief, I spent nearly all day cleaning out my office. The contract on which I had worked for nearly ten years had been awarded to a different company, and rather than move wholesale to the new company, my team decided to break apart and move on to new opportunities.

The days leading up to that final one were horrible. Realizing the exodus of talent, both our customer and our competitor, rather than reach out to us in good faith and professionalism, decided to treat us like criminal suspects in need of questioning to attempt to fill in the knowledge gap. After two weeks of being subjected to this, my anger, frustration, and cynicism reached a high point. At one point after ranting and reeling off a series of uncharitable jokes, I realized that I had become the worst version of myself.

After I finished cleaning my office and said goodbye to people who had been my second family for nearly a decade, I walked out of the door unsure of what was in store for my life. It was pretty easy to start feeling sorry for myself and think about how the world or more particularly, my former customer had screwed me over. It was also easy to let that one negative overshadow nearly every other positive that I had in my life.

Life tends to do this to people. Uncertainty challenges our faith, causes fear, and fills us with doubt. Unfortunately, the world is filled with uncertainty. As I was experiencing my own personal issues, much larger scale events were unfolding. It started with ISIS marching across Syria and Iraq and killing anyone in their path. It continued with ebola leaving thousands dead and sparking a worldwide health crisis. Even as I write this, violent protests are breaking out around the world after a grand jury chose not to indict the police officer involved in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Ten minutes of watching the evening news can easily leave one cynical instead of thankful.

This global uncertainty helped put things into perspective for me. It made me realized how incredibly blessed I am. While the disruption in my career was difficult, it was temporary. As it turned out, my unemployment lasted for only 31 days, and my former employer provided a severance package that kept food on the table and bills paid without having to dip into our savings. Now a month into a new job, the anger and negative emotions of two months ago seem ages away.

Caught up in my own adversity, I forgot how fortunate I am, especially considering the hardships in which others find themselves. Many have lost jobs and are left wondering how they will make ends meet. Many are dealing with tragedy and illness. Many find themselves in the middle of the global tragedies that are filling the news cycles. Blessings and bad fortune alike tend to be relative, and we often view our circumstances in the vacuum of our own joy or frustration.

For this Thanksgiving, I am taking time to realize how great I have it. I have a great family, a great new job, and a litany of other blessings that God has chosen to pour out on me. While not without its minor drama and struggle, this has been a great year for my family and me.

I hope that you can say the same today. If you are struggling to do so, I hope that the difficulties in your life are just as temporary as mine have been and that blessings are just around corner. Even in days of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in our own lives or those of others, we can be thankful that God works all things for good according His purpose.