The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith.
It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment, or from those who merely criticize others, and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.
To put this more positively: the future of the Church, once again as always, will be re-shaped by the saints, by people, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone a man's eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered….
Let us go a step further. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge ― a Church that has lost much. It will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. It will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices it built in its palmy days. As the number of its adherents diminishes so will it lose many of its social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision.
As a small society it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of its individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry, and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Alongside this the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly.
But in all of the changes at which one might guess the Church will find its essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at its center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer it will again recognize its true center, and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. "Dedication to the Church." from Faith and the Future (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1971).
Reprinted with permission of Ignatius Press.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI is the author of Jesus of Nazareth, Vol II, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol I, Caritas in Veritate: Charity in Truth, Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi, God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est,The End of Time?: The Provocation of Talking about God, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, Salt of the Earth: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church at the End of the Millennium, God and the World: Believing and Living in Our Time, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, The Spirit of the Liturgy, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Introduction to Christianity, Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, Behold the Pierced One, and God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life.Copyright © 1971 Ignatius Press
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