In response to newspapers that suggested the Catholic Church should “get with the times,” G.K. Chesterton famously wrote, “We do not want a church that will move with the world. We want a church that will move the world.”
As Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ discussed during a recent St. Joseph’s Workshop, one of the attractive features of the Catholic Church continues to be its stability – a feature that gives it the power to change the world, rather than being changed by the world’s fads and trends.
Fr. Matthew was reflecting on some comments that Archbishop Eamon Martin of Ireland made after the Synod on Youth. Archbishop Martin said that what young people are yearning for is a reference point. Some kind of stable place they can attach their boat to in the rough waters of the storms of this world. To know that there is a point of safety and a point they can always refer back to. But sometimes, Archbishop Martin said, the Church can have the temptation to go with the flow of society.
Father Matthew agreed with Archbishop Martin’s comments, saying, “It’s what attracted me to the Church in my younger years. What attracted me to the Church was that stability. It was that continuity of the teachings of Jesus.”
But Fr. Matthew said that there is often a temptation to forfeit that stability in following fads and trends, or giving into societal pressure. “Sometimes, within the Church even, we can be caught up in the currents of the world. It’s always a temptation. We see it inside of our parishes, we see it inside of our dioceses, we see this temptation to go with the world, rather than to be counter-cultural.”
“[Archbishop Martin] was talking about the apathy of the young people toward the cause of the Church. And perhaps that is because the Church Herself has not been as faithful to those precepts of Jesus that we need to be.”
Fr. Matthew discussed how recent Church scandals can lead people to question the authority and stability of the Church. He suggested that these are natural things to wrestle with in tumultuous times but that we should remember, “The stability in the Church comes from Jesus Himself and from the rock of Peter. The stability of that role of a guiding person in the Church, and a Magisterium that remains stable, teachings that can be preserved and safeguarded – these are all essential parts of the Church in the world today.”
And when priests, parishes, or dioceses do give in to the temptation to follow the currents of the world? “It doesn’t mean that we abandon the Church, it doesn’t mean that we turn away from the Church,” said Fr. Matthew. “No, far from it. Because we are not going to find anywhere else the fullness of teaching of the Church. But we do need to encourage that stability. We do need to strive to always safeguard the teachings of Jesus inside of the Church.”
“Let’s pray for that stability,” he concluded. “Let’s pray that our young people see in the Church a reference point. That they discover in the Church founded by Christ, Jesus Himself. That they find the one Person they are looking for for their happiness and joy in life.”
Listen to the full reflection below: