The secular press during the recent papal trip to Brazil has constantly made references to the Holy Father’s statements on political and social issues as antiquated and reflective of a church that existed fifty years ago. The anti-Catholic critics are out in force and trying their best to undermine the Pope’s recent messages that call for restoration and renewal of centuries old traditional beliefs. During the sojourn, Benedict’s words were conveyed as a “wake-up” call to twenty-first century Catholics that at times have lapsed in a participation in some of the most basic premises of Catholic faith. The message, once again that is communicated might seem old to some Catholics. The usual stuff complains Time magazine, “go to Mass, support celibacy, pray for the poor, faith in Eucharist and so on”. Well if the message is so simple and so old…why aren’t Catholics following the papal initiatives? Maybe the matter does not truly reside in the external manifestations of our practicing faith.

The secular press during the recent papal trip to Brazil has constantly made references to the Holy Father’s statements on political and social issues as antiquated and reflective of a church that existed fifty years ago. The anti-Catholic critics are out in force and trying their best to undermine the Pope’s recent messages that call for restoration and renewal of centuries old traditional beliefs. During the sojourn, Benedict’s words were conveyed as a “wake-up” call to twenty-first century Catholics that at times have lapsed in a participation in some of the most basic premises of Catholic faith. The message, once again that is communicated might seem old to some Catholics. The usual stuff complains Time magazine, “go to Mass, support celibacy, pray for the poor, faith in Eucharist and so on”. Well if the message is so simple and so old…why aren’t Catholics following the papal initiatives? Maybe the matter does not truly reside in the external manifestations of our practicing faith.

Perhaps the real problems are related to the syndrome of “convenience Catholics”. That is, Catholics that believe the practice and manifestation of the Gospel message is only meant to be a perfunctory Sunday (or Saturday evening, Sunday anticipated) experience. The secular and modern influences that press against the Catholic exercise of faith are all around us, and we see the problem most clearly when we speak to “Catholics” about their beliefs. This author always gets more grey hair when the topic of Catholic Church pops into any family, social or political discussion. For the most part, people don’t think of Catholicism as a lifestyle and a continuous spiritual journey. They see it as a “Big Brother” institution that has rules and regulations and stipulations that are supposed to be followed with unwavering faith. Generations of Catholics have been taught, in error to disregard moral and ethical teachings the Church promulgates as unmodern or insensitive to twenty-first century needs. Liturgical ministries have been relegated to volunteerism and priestly obligations have been usurped by well intending, but none the less liturgical liberals and extremists that constantly fly the banner of modernism. Benedict XVI is simply and clearly stating in his words and actions that the Church needs to stop the whirling dervish and get back to fundamental Catholic expressions of belief and theology.
 The matter and its intensity is not about liberal Catholics versus conservative Catholics, or Traditionalists (pre-Vatican II) or Modernists (Novus Ordo), ordained or non-ordained, male or female and so on. The core appreciation and understanding of the matter at hand is an understanding and appreciation of our “Catholicness”, that which makes us unique followers of Jesus Christ and His Message. The Holy Father is not calling for a retrograde expulsion of Vatican II from the pages of twentieth century history, a return to liturgical mystery or a systematic rejection of the Novus Ordo…what he is calling for is a renewal and restoration of Catholic identity. That Catholic identity is best represented in our celebration of our sacraments, our constant call to prayer and holiness and finally as witnesses of our beliefs to a world shaken by fragile peace and broken promises. Benedict is asking Catholics on a universal level to take a detailed inventory of everything we hold as sacred and “walk-away” from things that truly do not reflect our teachings and traditions. In a sense, the aggiornamento of John XXIII, opened the windows of the Church to the fresh air of the Holy Spirit, the pontificated of Paul VI and John-Paul II presented the opportunity to sort out the “stuff”, and Benedict XVI calls us to throw out the “clutter” that distracts us from a faithful response to Jesus’ call.
 When the issue is examined most closely it is reduced to this: What do we believe? How can we express this belief? Finally, how do we preserve and spread our theological beliefs to others? Those three questions are “grass-roots” important to the members of our Catholic Church. As we examine our traditions, we will notice that Benedict XVI’s message has not changed in the content since the Council of Jerusalem. Our sacramental beliefs are firmly the same since Jesus’ life and ministry. We have just been overwhelmed with philosophical and theological clutter that obscures the clarity of our faith. This author believes the “going green” message that Benedict asks us to embrace has nothing to do with the carbon footprint each individual leaves behind in life. It has everything to do with the “anima” footprint that follows all of us into eternal life.
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