November 26, 2010


We must return to God and be open to transcendence

“God is the origin of our being and the foundation and apex of our freedom, not its opponent. ... How can it be that there is public silence with regard to the first and essential reality of human life? How can what is most decisive in life be confined to the purely private sphere or banished to the shadows? We cannot live in darkness, without seeing the light of the sun. How is it then that God, Who is the light of every mind, the power of every will and the magnet of every heart, be denied the right to propose the light that dissipates all darkness?”
- Pope Benedict XVI

In his recent visit to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Pope Benedict XVI challenged the people of Europe to return to God—“the origin of our being and the foundation and apex of our freedom.”

The Holy Father has made the new evangelization of Europe one of the signature themes of his papacy.

Where Blessed John XXIII called for the evangelization of South America, and Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II called attention to the need for missionary work in Africa and Asia, our current pope has made the Old World, the nations and peoples of Europe a major focus of his own and others’ missionary activity.

The pope is convinced that Europe—its leaders and many of its people—has forgotten God and lost touch with their Christian roots.

“Tragically, above all in 19th century Europe, the conviction grew that God is somehow man’s antagonist and an enemy of his freedom,” the Holy Father explained. “As a result, there was an attempt to obscure the true biblical faith in the God who sent into the world his Son Jesus Christ, so that no one should perish but that all might have eternal life.”

For the nations of Europe to find their way, the pope says, there must be a renewed openness to transcendence and a willingness to rediscover the Christian faith that underlies so much of what has distinguished European culture for the past 1,500 years.

“One cannot worship God without taking care of his sons and daughters; and man cannot be served without asking who his Father is and answering the question about him,” Pope Benedict says. “The Europe of science and technology, the Europe of civilization and culture, must be at the same time a Europe open to transcendence and fraternity with other continents, and open to the living and true God, starting with the living and true man.

“This is what the Church wishes to contribute to Europe: to be watchful for God and for man, based on the understanding of both which is offered to us in Jesus Christ.”

Many of us Americans can trace our ancestry back to Christian Europe. The waves of European immigrants who came to our country brought with them a vibrant faith. They were motivated by this faith to build churches, schools, hospitals and social service agencies in every region of the New World.

Where the faith of Europe was old and divided by schism—Protestants versus Catholics—the immigrants’ hope was to find freedom of worship and expression in the new lands that they sought out as pioneers and missionaries keenly aware that God was their foundation and their ultimate goal.

Sadly, too much in our American culture mirrors the decline in faith of the Old World.

We, too, have come to regard science and technology as the source of our hope in the future.

We, too, have forgotten that the foundation of our American way of life is the deep faith and vibrant devotion that our grandparents and great-grandparents carried with them as their most prized possessions as they left nearly everything else behind.

Pope Benedict’s words to the people and nations of Europe are words we should attend to. Without God, we are truly on our own, a people set adrift in the hostile waters of individualism, relativism and materialism.

Europe must be open to transcendence and return to its Christian roots, the Holy Father says. His words—and Europe’s response—is of vital interest to us here in Indiana and throughout the United States.

Will we return to God? Or will we go it alone?

Our future and the future of our children and grandchildren depends on our answer.

—Daniel Conway

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