I have just stumbled across Pastor Juventus’s article in the Herald for March 23 and, as always, wish he had not been moved from his former slot on the centre pages. Tucked away towards the back of the newspaper he is easy to overlook and that is a great pity: he is always pithy, reflective and penetrating. On this occasion he is writing about the current “clash” between the Church and the world. Michael Voris of CatholicTV.com usually discusses the same theme but his manner and presentation are rather like the Redemptorist missions of days gone by, with their emphasis on hell and damnation. After listening to him I am left daunted by the problems facing the Church in today’s society. I come away feeling we are back in the catacombs and not a happy bunch there either.
Pastor Juventus, on the other hand, always leaves me with a sense of hope and encouragement and the possibility of change and renewal. He writes here: “…There is a struggle on hand for the soul of the world, which, while it has some particularly frightening guises in 21st-century England, is actually a perennial struggle, requiring huge efforts and grace…”
He does not decry the need to use intellectual arguments in this struggle but says that victory will only come about through “the incarnate witness of saints and martyrs”. We know this – that’s why we honour the saints – but it is always good to be reminded of it. Pastor Juventus continues: “We have to show that our arguments are right by the manner in which our lives reflect self-sacrificing love. Mother Teresa or John Paul II were effective not because campaigning, but because of the congruency of what they said and how they lived. So a woman’s ‘right to choose’ is challenged every time a woman sacrifices herself for her child in the smallest, tiniest way. The ‘right’ to gay marriage will be most fundamentally challenged by vibrant, holy marriages open to life. And the caricature that priests and bishops are all complicit in paedophilia is challenged by the witness of saintly, joyful priests who embody spiritual fatherhood.”
It sounds so obvious. It makes arguing the case for protecting unborn life, traditional marriage and the importance of strong priestly vocations seem the easier part; the rub lies in the living. On this note there is cheering news about the peaceful prayer vigil last Friday night outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s abortion clinic in central London. Led by Bishop Alan Hopes who had been vilified in the blog and twittersphere for his participation, it was, in microcosm, a triumph of serene, prayerful good over chanting, angry evil. According to Dr Joseph Shaw’s blog the pro-life contingent was between 400-500 people; the crowd opposing them “was less than half that size.”
And in this week’s column, Pastor Juventus describes a recent vocations weekend of discernment for the priesthood in these words: “Like spring flowers, just the sight of these good men tentatively approaching priesthood is a beautiful sight, and one that inspires the heart to hope and praise.”
Finally, the Coalition for Marriage has now attracted over 340,000 signatures in a few weeks. I understand that only 100,000 signatures are needed to start a debate at parliamentary level. Let’s hope it will mean a real debate on the subject and not, as has been anticipated, a foregone conclusion of governmental diktat.