This is a century of many firsts for the Catholic Church, the world in general, and the West in particular.
After almost two thousand years, missionaries and mystics blazed a tidal path across the world, drawing behind them the magisterium and mysticism of the Church.
Till now, the Church was frequently a miracle worker, spellbinding audiences. These pre-Christian audiences had never experienced the joys of life in Christ.
And in the flip of a century, we stand amid a post-Christian culture. Moderns don’t affiliate with the religion of Christ, but His morality is alive, just disconnected.
Much of our world today has never heard of Christ on His own terms, much less begun to understand His message.
Today, it is ‘smart’ in the West to reject what it thinks is Christianity.
The Church is in a unique position. The questions have changed. We need new answers for the new conversations. Answers rooted in antiquity and heritage, but clarified in light of where we are today.
It’s time for the John Paul II generation to come into its own. Especially online where we’re needed most.
Some history-breaking changes
- Science is being shaken from the inside out as our tools become more refined, and 400 years of ‘materialist dogmatism’ is challenged. We are inundated by an irrepressible pooling of information from around the globe. Things like quantum mechanics, background radiation, and ongoing research into Near Death Experiences are shattering the viewpoints that have long grounded how science is done.
- History is being rewritten as fresh locations, research and theories are forcing themselves into the light. Almost daily, amateur and professional teams uncover evidence that pushes mankind’s intelligent origins far back beyond the last ice age. All this evidence is shaking long-loved assumptions. We’re re-thinking the implications and contexts of Sacred Scripture.
- For us in the West, our identity comes from a rich heritage. Our ancestors carved out bastions of security and brilliance. And yet, most couples have smaller and smaller families. Tomorrow, we will rub shoulders and break bread with new cultures throughout a strange and new Europe.
- At the same time, we’re en route to colonizing Mars. Between tech pioneers like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, our efforts to outstrip NASA and create livable conditions on another planet have been the dream of every 5 year old since Sputnik went up.
- After a red century, Russia is reviving her long-repressed awareness of Orthodox Faith. We see reports of greater freedom to practice faith within the military. State-attended public processions, is an incredible development. It seems that Russia, once warned as a source of error, is turning her ship around.
- The ‘Third World’ is coming online, fast. And they’re bringing with them their cultures, their attitudes, and their deep sense of place and family. We will be enriched in new ways through these connections.
- We’re changing our energy sources. Wood, peat and coal used to be the backbone of progress. And then electricity upended human productivity. As we move into the next century, we’re continuing to build a more responsible, creative, and freer future. We must cultivate a healthy stewardship of Creation.
- Distance and speed have been completely re-imagined. This century has seen the annihilation of distance, outstripping the horse and careening into a supersonic and Hyperloop-powered future. It used to be that your community was in walking distance. Your church was down the street, your market was in your neighborhood. No more.
- Dense, interconnected community living has now been reinvented. Community is no longer primarily defined by location, but by interests and needs.
- The internet is a new binder for communication, progress, and humanization. It has been a necessary development for mankind, a salve for our growing pains. As our communities grow farther apart, our need to stay connected becomes stronger. For the first time in human history, anyone from anywhere can share stories, data and research, pooling information and iterating theories at an almost fever pitch.
There are so many other firsts as well.
And we are still in the beginning stages of all this potential.
And the Church has been working as hard and as fast as she can to renew her approach.
The council for the new millennium
Pope. St John Paul II was insistent on the brilliance and timely application of the Second Vatican Council. His ‘The New & Incoming Millennium’ is still a stunning read, since he wrote it all before Facebook, Amazon, and Google were coded.
The Council happened at an incredible time. They saw the upcoming changes. They sensed how the world was changing under our feet in ways we’d never seen before.
So much re-invention in terms of identity, potential and opportunity.
So much fear at the future under the primed guns of world war, nuclear weapons, bacterial warfare, Eastern spiritualities and confused Christian belief.
Our century is at an incredible tipping point in the history of the Church. A watershed for the waters of life.
We are tipping into an amazing future.
A future built on social connection. Where travel and shipping is faster. Where video chat is instant, and research can cross languages without delay.
For a little while, we’ll be distracted by all the shiny new stuff.
But there are upsides happening everywhere.
- Evil regimes and events can no longer get away with things like they used to. We’re all watching, and we have a voice now.
- Influencers rise and fall in batches, and the good ones earn the right to attention.
- Global access to sites like Facebook and Netflix means a unifying around stories.
Whether we like it or not, we’re all learning how to function in a world that’s never existed before.
A world where economies, laws, borders, patriotism, and identity are changing, blending, being redefined.
The human side of the Church is reaching a new, needed stage in her development. After 1800 years, the magisterial side of the Church has caught up with the mystical. We finally ‘gets’ how to be present to the world. A leavening agent, salt, and light, and heat.
During the Medieval era, she was guardian and superintendent. Now she is guide and sanctifier.
This is the challenge laid down by Vatican II, and our beloved saint, John Paul II.
Today, with globalization becoming a norm, we can’t rely on heritage and habits for our identity.
We must start making choices. We must choose the values and norms that best express our contribution to the human story.
For the first time ever, cross-cultural learning can meet, focus, share, and learn.
Science exploded over the last 2000 years under the encouraging patronage of the Church. Our modern struggle with materialism is already outdated. It will continue to crumble as we collaborate, pool our knowledge, and refine our theories.
I’m excited at the next 100 years of the Church’s development. And what it means for the next 500 years.
I think that the West will continue to change, and likely be very different in the next century.
As we’ve now seen, the initial research on population control completely missed a defining factor – the potential for human creativity.
It’s changed everything.
It’s fair to hope that our projections for the ‘decline of religion’ in the West will also change. We can’t forget human ingenuity, and God’s ever present, ever creative grace.
And if there’s anything that gets people to sit up straight, it’s a good story. It’s a good reason. It’s a compelling witness to the delight of the Christian life.
We just need to do a better job of telling it, living it, and sharing it in this modern world.
Let’s renew our Faith together.