Life is short — the years and decades, peopled with children and loved ones, recede into history before we have time to properly savor them . We know this — we feel the occasional pangs of life slipping through our fingers. But just for good measure, the church reminds us again, even as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.
When children are young we rightly strive to guard their innocence and form a kind of protective sphere where they are somewhat insulated from the harshness and vulgarities of the larger culture. This period, however, is fleeting — the bubble will eventually burst and our children must face the difficulties of the world.
Our closest friends have seen our virtues and our warts, our acts of kindness and our petty pride. Hang out with someone long enough and you notice the fruits of their life. In these cases, it is not enough to think of evangelization as reacquainting a once Christian culture with the long-forgotten Gospel.
If a young Catholic reaches adulthood with a poor understanding and personal appreciation of how the sacraments infuse her life with the grace of God, then she will feel little reason to go to regular confession, attend weekly Mass, marry in the church, baptize her children and bury her loved ones with the aid and guidance of the church. The question for many is, “What difference does it make.”
To think that God merely populates seminaries by sheer force of his will, or only calls men in private visions and inner stirrings is a misconception which does not reflect the experiences of the vast majority of seminarians and priests.
The grittiness of Catholicism, in which Lent began with priests etching black ashen crosses on the foreheads of a billion or so men, women and children, will culminate in the holiest week and the grandest liturgy of the year — the Easter Vigil Mass.
When those who oppose the church walk away from a disagreement with her they should do so with the sure knowledge that they are loved and respected.
The point here is not to review general threats to Christian morality in Alaska but to call attention to a very specific challenge that should be on the radar of all parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, godparents and others in positions of responsibility over today’s youth.
When Archbishop Schwietz began his ministry here in 2001, the Alaskan priesthood was quite literally dying out. We had an aging group of hardworking clergy, but there were scarcely any young men following in their footsteps. The priesthood was simply not on the radar and in many parishes and families it was not encouraged.
Changes are afoot in Alaska this November, both in the halls of government and the spiritual leadership of the Catholic Church. During these pivotal transitions the faithful should be fully engaged. First up is Nov. 8, when we have a duty to participate in advancing the common good of our immediate communities, state and nation by casting ballots that are guided by well-formed consciences and a commitment to uphold the non-negotiable moral teachings of Christ and his church.