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An excellent blog post on the website of the parish of Saints John and Clement in Waalwijk*, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, titled, “It is not the Church that needs to change, but you and I”. Taking the recent bush fires in the diocese (Reusel, Liempde, San Salvator, and also Waalwijk, where the previous pastor was less than popular) as a starting point, the unnamed author takes a firm stand against liberal, often elderly faithful who consider themselves progressive and want to change the Church, or at least their parish, in a product of our times.
The ‘protestants’ are often supported by former priests who either resigned their office, or are married and no longer active in a parish belonging to the diocese, or religious priests. They loudly demand democratisation and ‘adaptation to the times’ from the leaders of the Catholic Church who, supported by her bishops and a new class of priests and faithful, all over the world keep to Catholic teaching, which they draw from the unchangeable Gospel of Christ. Those who demand structural change from the Church call their opponents conservative, old-fashioned and stupid. They feel supported by the media and millions of baptised Christians who never, or only at very special occasions, see the inside of a church. All these critics only see a future for the Catholic Church if she adapts to the wishes and ideas of the majority. According to them, the people are the Church, and so they want the people to call the shots in a ‘reformed’ democratic church. Literally and figuratively.
The text mentions some of the examples of incidents I mentioned above, and then continues:
These are all examples which indicate that the Church keeps holding on to the sanctity of the Eucharist and the other sacraments, against the wishes of the majority of the Dutch people, that not only demands that the Church lets people choose for themselves between life and death, fidelity and infidelity, self-sacrifice or self-gratification, charity or selfishness, but at the same time demands that the Church sanctifies, by administering the sacraments, practices that are unchristian according to the Gospels, like the ones mentioned above.
The conclusion of the piece is a serious one:
The only thing that all the protesters and troublemakers achieved since the 1960s, with their anticatholic and unchristian actions, is that the younger generations threw out the baby with the bathwater, i this case the Christ child sent by God. With the result that many young people never or rarely go to a church anymore: Today – 1,400 years after the Christianisation by St. Boniface – the Church of Christ is faced for the first time with a young generation which has hardly learned anything (positive) about our faith and our Church at home and in school, and for the most part no longer knows what the good news of Jesus Christ is.
The piece further refers to the aged ‘revolutionaries’ of the Mariënburg club and the 8 May movement which sprung up in the wake of Blessed John Paul II’s visit to the Netherlands in 1985, noting the disastrous results of decades of individualism and ill-informed protest. The final words of the article are attrubited to Blessed Teresa of Kolkata:
Blessed Mother Theresa was once asked what she thought should change first in the Church. He answer was, “You and I!”
*The parish of the intelligent, humble and over-so-sensibly Catholic Father Marcel Dorssers, a regular guest at the annual Credimus Bootcamp.
Photo credit: R.K. parochie St. Jan en St. Clemens
I am back from two days (and a bit) at the latest edition of the Credimus Bootcamp, an undeservedly shortened edition this time. Next year is the fifth edition, and this potentially week-long camp of Catholic catechesis, culture and enjoyment will hopefully have a record number of attendants then. I will certainly be there again.
This year’s speakers were a diverse bunch, even though the general theme was that of the shepherd: the Good Shepherd that is Jesus Christ, but also our every day shepherds, the bishops, the shepherd of the world Church, the pope and some of his predecessors, and the shepherd’s duty of taking care of his sheep.
There was Deacon John van Grinsven speaking about his work with the homeless and addicted; Brother Ignatius Maria of the Community of St. John, who led a Bible study on the imagery of the shepherd in the Gospel of John (and also the OT books of Ezekiel and Zechariah); Fr. Floris Bunschoten who introduced us to the bishops’ task of sanctifying their flock; and Fr. David van Dijk, our host, who took us through the popes from Blessed Pius IX to our current Holy Father. Quite a variety of topics, which were supplemented by unscheduled conversations with visiting clergy and communal dinners, prayer and Mass (in both forms of the Latin rite).
Personally, I enjoyed the two days in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, as a welcome immersion in Catholic life. The rhythm of prayer, the sharing of knowledge and ideas, the enjoyment of the company of fellow faithful all made for a bootcamp that really deserves more attention, attendance and publicity. Next year is the fifth edition, so let’s hope and pray that it may turn out to be the best edition yet!
With Lent having begun this month, the top 10 of most-read posts has a distinct Lenten taste. Last year’s post about the Stations of the Cross is, fittingly for this time of year, at number 1. Japan ranks understandably also high, as do messages for Lent, and a post about Ash Wednesday.
The number of visitors for March was 4,939, the second-highest number since I began this blog. The total number of visitors is now 76,943.
1: The Stations of the Cross 247
2: A surprise to no one, a Dutch politician in favour of rampant secularisation 137
3: Pray for Japan 94
4: To rub or not to rub 93
5: Boodschap voor de Vastentijd 2011 64
6: Bootcamp program unfolds 53
7: Stille Omgang 2011, Dutch missionary bishop in the dock 52
8: Dutch bishops’ encouragement for Lent 49
9: Papal message for Lent 43
10: St. John the Baptist in Bulgaria? 40
With the release of the new website the Credimus Bootcamp program is fleshed out a bit more. Announcements of speakers have been published on Twitter and Facebook before, but are now gathered online on the site which also offers practical information and a rousing invitation to sign up and join the bootcamp for its fourth installment:
Do you like good conversation while enjoying a good Trappist beer, but the silence that grabs you by the throat in an old church?
Are you curious about the tradition that is the foundation beneath the culture of which you are a part every day?
Do you want to take a peek at the power which keeps everyone and everything in existence for every second of every minute?
Then you are probably CATHOLIC (or you really need to become one).
Three priests and a deacon have been confirmed to speak under the banner of this year’s topic: Shepherds. Father David van Dijk, who also hosts, will speak about the eleven popes from Pius IX onwards; Deacon John van Grinsven will discuss his work with homeless people, founded in the Gospel; Fathers Marcel Dorssers and Floris Bunschoten will speak on topics that are yet to be announced. Fathers van Dijk and Dorssers wil join the bootcamp for the fourth and third time respectively.
Father Bunschoten celebrates Mass in both forms, and he has been training priests and seminarians in the Extraordinary Form at the Tiltenberg seminary. I expect he will also offer Mass in that form at bootcamp. There will also be Masses in the ordinary form, offered by Father van Dijk and other priests.
The Credimus Bootcamp will take place from 16 to 22 July, and will cost 90 euros to attend (or less if you plan to visit for less than the full week).
When good Catholic catechesis and education beyond the basic topics is hard to find, you sometimes need to provide for it yourself. That is the basic reason why the Credimus Bootcamp was held for the first time in 2008. This year it will be organised for the fourth time and already the PR machine is gearing up. To the left you’ll notice the design of the flyer by Brother Hugo, the diocesan hermit who has been involved with Bootcamp from the start. He was also the host of the first edition.
The topic of Bootcamp 2011 is ‘shepherds’. I don’t know anything beyond that either, but I am sure that, over the course of the coming months, we will find out a bit more.
Bootcamp 2011 will be held from 16 to 22 July in Geffen, Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where Father David van Dijk will be host for the third time running.
An impression of my experiences of Bootcamp 2010 can be found in my blog post Back from Bootcamp.
Credimus Bootcamp is a week of liturgy and lectures, but also social activities and relaxation, aimed at people roughly between 16 and 35. There will be daily Mass in both forms of the Latin rite, offered by various guest priests, the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, and every day guests will come and speak about all kinds of topics (past topics included the sacrifice of the Mass, Gregorian chant (also in workshop form), ecclesiology, a first-hand account of an approved miracle and people’s innate urge to find God.
Next to that, there is ample time for relaxation, meals together, a day trip on the free day in the middle of the week and random Catholic encounters with people, traditions and artifacts from the dark attic of the faith, to paraphrase Brother Hugo. For most people attending it is also a week that does not leave them unaffected: in the end, Bootcamp is all about the encounter with the living God.
It doesn’t seem that I missed a whole lot in my week-long absence from the Internet, at least not when it comes to Catholic news in the Netherlands. Everyone still seems upset with the whole Fr. Vlaar business, even though the measures taken by Bishop Punt seem clear: a month at a convent or abbey, followed by another month doing some other work, before the question of Fr. Vlaar’s return to Obdam becomes an issue again.
The media devote much time and space to the issue (something reflected in a fairly consistent increase in the page views of my blog, too). The Protestant newspaper ‘Reformatorisch Dagblad’ publishes an interview with various people about the question of why things have gone so far as we have seen in Obdam (and which we also see elsewhere). One of those people in Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The interviewer asked him about a point raised in the bishop’s (clumsily translated) letter to the faithful in his diocese: “Frankly speaking I was very surprised and disappointed that the faithful do not spontaneously apprehend/understand that this goes way too far.”
Bishop Punt elucidates:
“In my opinion it is connected to the secularisation which has taken place in the past decades in the Netherlands. We have placed ourselves and our needs and desires in the centre of attention. God has become at most a function of ourselves. What does He mean to me? What do I get out of faith? If He is able to increase our happiness, we are willing to let Him into our lives. But if not, we part ways.
“That God is alive and that we were created in His image and owe our existence to Him, that awareness has strongly weakened. Apparently the Church failed in her duty to raise people in the truths of the faith [I'll say...]. This makes it pertinent for us to find new ways to bring the reality of God and His purpose with our lives powerfully to people’s attention. They no longer know who He is. They don’t know Him anymore. They have lost sight of Him.”
Like any society, the Dutch one is pluriform. There are generalities, but the individualistic nature of modern western society has enlarged the individuality that is already present in modern man; their unique person, their customs, habits and priorities. To generalise will therefore never do complete justice to the situation. However, I do believe Bishop Punt is correct when he makes the above sweeping statements about the Church in the Netherlands.
In a recent discussion in the chat room at SQPN.com, Fr. Roderick Vonhögen explained about the situation in the Netherlands regarding liturgical abuses. A mainly international audience such as the one at SQPN, while undoubtedly aware of abuses, generally has no full sense of the extent of the problem. Fr. Roderick said that the situation is 100 times worse than it is in the United States, and I don’t think he is wrong.
Bishop Punt’s raising of new ways to educate people is indeed pertinent. At the moment the Church does not succeed in that. Existing methods gather to a minority of existing Catholics and are invisible beyond the Church. Faith education must be lifelong (since we never stop learning and growing closer to (or further away from) God), thorough, consistent and suited to modern society and modern people. That does not mean denying the truths of the faith in order to achieve that. But truths that are at right angles to modern life must be stated forcefully, not softly whispered.
In that context, the above statements from the bishop are a start. A good start, perhaps, but just a start nonetheless.