Thursday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
Many years ago, Pope Pius XII said, “The sin of the century is the loss of a sense of sin.” When I was in school during the 1940’s and 50’s the worst discipline problems were whispering and chewing gum during class, running in the hallways, making too much noise, getting out of turn in line, littering in public places. The loss of a sense of sin has grown by leaps and bounds since those more innocent days: drug abuse and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and pornography, rape and abortion, suicide and murder, robbery, vandalism and school shootings.1
Twenty-One centuries ago, Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). Think of the Syrophoenician woman’s faith who begged Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter? According to the Pew Research Center, American Christianity has been shrinking dramatically. Among many young Catholics, what comes out of their hearts is no longer faith and devotion but disbelief and self-will. Their hearts have lost the presence of God. Another Pew Research study found that 74% of U.S. Catholics under the age of 40 do not believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. It is not “the source and summit of their Christian life.”
If cohabitation is followed by marriage, many Catholic couples no longer consider it essential for validity to be married by a priest. Recently, I heard that one Catholic girl asked her sister to officiate at her marriage.
The sacrament of Reconciliation has fared even worse. Scot Hahn writes, “Many Catholics have lost a sense of sin. If there is no sin, then the sacrament of reconciliation is a curious oddity.” Who needs it?
The sacrament of Confirmation suffers from a different evil, the loss of a sense of the holy. We are strengthened by Confirmation with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to seek good and avoid evil, to be holy. By contrast, the explosion of Satanic rituals, the Ouija board, games like Dungeons and Dragons and occult activities are reasons we need the sacrament of Confirmation. The struggle is beyond our strength. But Confirmation is often refused or received reluctantly.
The most significant trend in religious practice during recent decades has been the growing shift away from formal religion. In 2019, for the first time, those who check “no religious affiliation” on their profiles were the same size as Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants, the two largest religious groups in the United States. In the 1940s and ‘50s only 3% of Americans said they had no formal religious identity.
So, when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth like the mother who pleaded for her daughter?
- Newsweek, January 5, 1987.