.- As questions of dropping numbers of church-goers, waning interest in confession, and lack of quality catechesis continue to be debated among prelates at the 11th General Synod of Bishops in Rome this week, one Cardinal, Ivan Dias, of Bombay, recalled how God has always raised up spiritual giants--like the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen and St. John Mary Vianney, in their own times--to build up and inspire the Church.
"These problems have been in the Church always," the Cardinal said, "albeit in different ways. On the other hand, the Church has also had persons who have tackled such situations in ways which can inspire us even today. Everyone knows of the saintly Cure of Ars and great apostle of the confessional, John Mary Vianney, and of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the brilliant speaker who reached millions of people through his television and radio broadcasts."
"The secret", he stressed, "of their resounding success was the many hours they spent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. They could well be role models for priests and bishops today."
Cardinal Dias suggested that, "As we are immersed in the darkness of spiritual and moral ills all around us, would it not be wonderful if bishops and priests all over the world would spend an hour in praise and worship before the Blessed Sacrament everyday interceding for themselves, for the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care and for the needs of the whole Church? Their flocks would certainly be edified and encouraged at seeing their shepherds practicing what they preach on devotion to the Blessed Eucharist."
On the topic of the Church in culture, Bishop Gabriel Mbilingi C.S.Sp., of Lwena, Angola, said that the high percentage of Catholics in his country and the years of violent civil war suggest a disconnect between the faith and daily life of his people.
"With such a high percentage of Christians," he said, "and in particular of Catholics, we must ask ourselves why did we experience so many years of civil war?"
"Insistence", he continued, "must be placed on the personal and ecclesial meaning of the Eucharist with reference to moral life, sanctity and mission in the world. From Eucharistic communion should arise a moral commitment that is a source of life to overcome sin, in the search for truth, rectitude of conscience and the testimony of the evangelical values that were thrown into darkness by the war."
"During catechesis," the bishop stressed, "we must insist on the link between the Eucharist and the building of a just society, through everyone's personal responsibility to active participation in the Church's mission in the world."
Likewise, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland said that "In a society marked by increased secularization there is need to give much greater place in our catechesis and in our parishes to formation in faith."
"In so many of our communities today," he pointed out, "we can no longer presume faith. The seed of faith needs nourishment, not just in the early years of the life of the Christian in the traditional catechesis of young people, but at every stage in life. The rapidity of social change means that faith formation of adults is more and more urgent to accompany them as they try, day by day and year by year, to live their Christian commitment in a changing world."
He suggested that, "The lay person imbued with Eucharistic spirit will be present in the realities of the secular world with a capacity to look towards the values that endure and to indicate the foundations of a hope which springs from a recognition of Eucharist as revelation and presence in our midst of God's gratuitous love for us in Jesus Christ who gave Himself up for us."