Friday, November 09, 2012

Times of contradiction

It's an exciting time to be a Catholic. I'm not sure that when I first really got into my faith (in high school) I knew that I was signing up for an adventure--I might have backed down, being more of a homebody. But here it is. 

36 years ago, a very reliable source told us what to look for:

"We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up" (Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (Bl. JOHN PAUL II) to the American bishops in 1976, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Nov. 9, 1978 (three weeks after his election as Pope).
1976 was the year Karol Wojtyla was invited by Pope Paul VI to preach the Lenten retreat for the Pope and his "community" (the "Papal household"). The retreat talks were published in book form under the title Sign of Contradiction, during the very time when Wojtyla would have been finishing up his "Theology of the Body" manuscript--the one that he would turn into papal talks when it seemed he could not publish it in book form ("Popes do not publish books," he was told). Theology of the Body, too, has its mention of spiritual warfare, even if not in the stark language Wojtyla used in speaking to the bishops of the US.

For over 1,000 years Christ has hardly been a "sign of contradiction" (Lk. 2) in the western world. The time is coming, Wojtyla seemed to say, when that "sign will be opposed" again by "the principalities and powers" (Eph. 6). Look again at those incredibly strong statements: the greatest confrontation in human history; the final confrontation; Church:anti-Church; Gospel: anti-Gospel.  Later Wojtyla, as Pope John Paul II, spoke of this confrontation in the language of the "Gospel of Life" and the "culture of death." It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the "confrontation" of which Wojtyla spoke has at its center the human person as the Image of the Trinitarian God. 

It's no good trying to salvage institutions or restore the order of the past to defend the living Image of God in each human being. The time for that has passed.  We have no lasting city here, so our concerns will never be fully addressed by political action, no matter how beneficent. Now it is time to "repent and believe the Gospel"; to make a decisive turn in our lives; to place ourselves and everything we have at God's disposition for the full working out of his "eternal plan in Christ" (Eph.1). John Paul the Great would repeat what he said the first time he appeared on the loggia at St. Peter's: "Do not be afraid!" Or, in the word of Julian of Norwich, "The worst has already happened, and it is already remedied." Jesus has already won the victory.

In case all this makes you really feel the need for a heavenly protector and guide, I had some of the St Michael bumper stickers printed up. You can pick them up here in the Chicago Pauline bookstore, or call (312) 346-4228 for a mail order. You can also order bumper stickers and car magnets online, but the bumper stickers are pretty expensive.


Petro said...

"For over 1,000 years Christ has hardly been a "sign of contradiction" (Lk. 2) in the western world."


I love your blogs, but I have to disagree with this statement. The world has always been opposed to the teachings of Christ. Just because the princes and states acknowledged Christ did not prevent them from wars, genocides, slavery, and all sorts of evil that merely continue today in different forms such as abortion and sex trafficking.

Members and leaders of the Church and of both Christian and non-Christian nations were complicit in these crimes and sins in the past, much as they remain sinners today. This is our nature.

From even before the times of Christ, prophets declared this generation as the worst generation. My fear about talk such as this is that it leads men to give up or to spurn his brother and look away from saving his soul.

The Church has seen times such as these. The Church will continue to see times better and worse than these. Let us keep the faith.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Thanks for the observation, Petro. If Christ was not explicitly a "sign of contradiction" in much of Western history, it is because of the window-dressing by those who, as you say, acknowledged him publicly but perpetrated all sorts of evil. Saints like Francis of Assisi brought out the "contradiction" in their own persons so it would not be completely lost to view. That is, I believe, what we are being called to now.

Nancy Shuman said...

Thank you, Sister, for this wonderful post. I encouraged readers of my "Breadbox Letters" blog to come read it today.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Thanks, Nancy!

The Mad-Eyed Monk said...

Thank you for this reminder to not be afraid as we live in this culture of death with the Gospel of life! And for Julian's "The worst has already happened, and it is already remedied." Such hope...God Bless.

plato said...

Thank you, Sister! I have come to this blog post many times to get this JPII quote. Thank you for posting it. You serve your apostolate well!

Anneg said...

Sister Anne, Hello, do you know where I can get a copy of the original speech by Pope John Paul II, do you know? I've been looking all over. Thank you, Anne Gomes

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Still trying to track it down! My brother was able to access the WSJ archives and got me a copy of the original article in that paper; it only quotes the paragraph that is already in circulation, but gives its source as the New York City News (an interim strike newspaper) from September, 1976. Perhaps a library in New York City will have microfilm archives in which more of the talk could be found, but...I'd suspect it would only be more tidbits like the above. The only other possibility is in "Origins" from September 1976. This is a Church document newsletter. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the fee to access their archives!