Pope Hit The Mark: At Root Of Catholic Problems Is Lack of Biblical Spirituality
He could not have hit it more squarely on the head. Pope Benedict XVI, toiling quietly, with little of the visibility enjoyed by his predecessor, nonetheless was giving hints that he is doing what he always has, what he is used to doing, what he did for a quarter of a century as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: working behind the scenes to hold the world's most important institution together, and he is starting where it must start, where it needs to start, where so many of the problems reside: with the Bible.
A few weeks ago, in a major pronouncement (albeit one underreported in by the Christian media), he said, "Assiduous reading of sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer makes that intimate dialogue possible in which, through reading, one hears God speaking, and through prayer, one responds with a confident opening of the heart. If this practice is promoted with efficacy, I am convinced that it will produce a new spiritual springtime in the Church" [our italics].
Above all, he was saying, we must remember Scripture.
Added the Pope, in speaking about Europe, "many Christian things occur, but there is also a great fatigue, and we are so concerned with structural questions that the zest and the joy of faith are missing."
As he prepared for Youth Day last August, Benedict XVI loudly rejected the idea of Christianity as a religion of rules and prohibitions and said he hoped to use his trip to spur "a wave of new faith" -- the type of faith that brings results, displays miracles, and springs forth from the Bible."
Let us add that the root of crisis in the Church is how little the Bible is heeded and how much worldliness has infiltrated. Too often, we compromise with society and its trends (its politics, its fashions) because we want to be "with it." We also confuse the word "religious" with "spiritual."
Religion is supposed to lead to spirituality. Frequently, it does not. It is the best way to obtain spirituality -- the narrowest gate -- but too often it leads only leads to religiosity (and a reverence for the codes of man instead of those of God).
The remedy is the book it is all based on. The Church is in desperate need of biblical spirituality. Biblical spirituality is living a life modeled after those set forth as historical examples. It is feeling the grace that flows from the pages. We have plenty of theology. We have enough canon laws. What we need now is familiarity with that remarkable book and the knowing that it is of true supernatural origin.
Reading the Bible on a regular basis allows us to feel the actual move of the Holy Spirit -- to reach God through our hearts instead of through our self-important thoughts.
The Pope's words mimic those of saints like Therese the Little Flower -- who once said that "above all it's the Gospels that occupy my mind when I'm at prayer; my poor soul has so many needs, and yet this is the one thing needful. I'm always finding fresh lights there, hidden and enthralling meanings."
What happened at our seminaries? The Bible was pushed away as ancient literature (and even mythology) and Catholics have now seen the result. Show us a skeptic (one who does not believe in healing or exorcism or prophecy), and we'll show you someone who does not read Scripture.
We have become too secularized and too busy reading complex theology -- the ideas of others about the Bible, or about the ideas of previous theologians about the Bible -- instead of the Bible itself. We formulate complex ideas to impress others.
In other words, we get so wrapped up in the words of man that we forget the Word of God -- which encourages us to exercise spiritual gifts and to believe in the simple movement of Him everywhere (including in current events). When we read Scripture, we understand more about current events than if we read the newspaper.
A Church that is not prophetic, that is not Bible-based, is not a Christian one. It is the very foundation for our precious sacraments!
Call it "aridity" : there is a great spiritual vacancy in the intellectualized Western Church and from the vacancy has erupted scandal.
Unlike other written works, the Bible is alive and of endless fascination for those who come to know its actual power. It informs every day. It relates to different things at different times. It pertains to every circumstance. As Saint Therese said, it has a hidden nature that can be enthralling.
And it tells us what Christians are supposed to do: pray with a living faith, cast out demons, heal, spread the Word, love, give. During the disaster of Katrina the worldly institutions fell while the spiritual ones -- the churches, the charities -- picked up the pieces.
It is in the Bible that we find the richness of wisdom. It is in the Bible that we feel the Holy Spirit.
God will speak to you there.
Need an answer? Remarkably and often miraculously, it's in the testaments.
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