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Crisis in the Catholic Church versus New Springtime

Never has there been such a growth in the life of the Church as is occurring today throughout the world.

The Church has entered a new era as many groups burst forth like a new spring. There is a virtual explosion of ideas and commitment as Catholics develop and utilize their skills in living out the faith in their daily lives. This development reminds us of initiation of religious communities of the past.

Catholics, especially young Catholics, are revolting against the usual life scenario to which we have been accustomed: Go to the university, buy a house (a nice house with a nice lawn), have babies, make money for their college, make money for retirement, retire, have a painless death and a nice eulogy. If one is lucky there will be some recognition for one’s wealth creation by church or state.

Many young people know that there is more to life. Making a living so we can buy things and care for our children is necessary, but not the ultimate goal.

Young people have a difficult time accepting a life style based solely on individualism or the idea that we can best serve society and the economy by pursuing our own individual gain, wants and pleasure.

Enlightened self-interest does not cut it. It is not based on the new Adam (Christ Jesus) and Catholic social teaching but on the Old Adam, and we know what happened to him.

The ways to pursue one’s economic goals is through the Gospels and Catholic social teaching. This new attitude is emerging at Catholic universities where they present challenging courses for the students. “A Faith to Die For” is a course at a midwestern university that is so popular that you can’t get signed up for it unless you know someone or are good at bribing.

There is a sense of vocation among young people. They realize that the split between the Gospel and our culture is the drama of our times. But they also know, as Mounier said, that one does not free persons by detaching them from the bonds that paralyze them: one frees a person by attaching them to their destiny. They realize that amassing wealth and wealth creation may not be the goal for studying economics at a Catholic university. As one of Peter Maurin’s favorite writers, Berdyaev, would say, “Not all creativity is good. There is evil creativity.”


At several universities small groups of young men and women, some of the best and the brightest, are attracted to courses like “A Faith to Die For,” but go one step further to take courses entitles “A Faith to Give up Sex for” and have decided to seek their calling in a different way in the priesthood or religious life.

The young celibates represent the kind of commitment non-celibates need. Celibates, with their strong commitment, can inspire non-celibates to a more profound spirituality. The flesh is given up-sowed, as Dorothy Day would say-that a good harvest may come. In the present culture of death, giving up sexuality is akin to a death wish. It demands generosity. Truly it is a form of white martyrdom. The culture of the flesh has attacked celibacy on every side and won’t stop until they have some kind of victory. The day Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy drop celibacy as a possible commitment in the Church will be a sad day.

The role of celibacy is one of the greatest witnesses in the history of Catholicism. It is not the giving up of love, but the transformation of love to a higher level. It is not the giving up of passion, but a transformation of it.

We can’t forget the millions of celibates of the past and especially religious women who made an awe-ful difference in our lives and gave reason for the faith that is in us.


The total commitment of the young celibates is a special witness for other followers of the Nazarene. The other followers can look to those who have given up all of this world and be inspired to follow Jesus with more commitment. Some have chosen to work out their lives and salvation in partnership with another. They find partners in marriage who believe that two people can work together to make a difference in society and in each other. In marriage, they believe they can not only make an impact on society, but they can be more and do more than they could do alone. The unity that flows out of being “two-in-one” in this sacramental living must penetrate every phase of their relationship, not just the physical, which is symbolic of the unity that must permeate it. It is this unity in which they are servants of one another that brings them to be servants of the community and the Church and the human family.

New Movements

We first knew about the impact of the many new movements when we met members of Communion and Liberation from Paraguay who visited us. Their spirituality, maturity and faith that affected their whole lives was impressive. When they met people, they asked, “What movement do you belong to?”

The aim of life in the Communion and Liberation movement is to propose the presence of Christ as the only true response to the deepest needs of human life in every moment of history, In the person who encounters and adheres to the presence of Christ there is generated a movement of conversion and witness, which tends to leave its mark on the environment in which he or she lives (family, work, school, neighborhood, society, etc.). The movement is now in 70 countries. Its founder, Father Luigi Giusanni began the movement in 1954. He is still very active. Born in the schools as a proposal to young people, CL today extends its call to everyone, irrespective of age, occupation, or social position.

The Focolare movement, founded in the midst of the destruction of World War II in Italy by Chiara Lubich, has spread to 182 nations and reaches 5 million people. The Gospel base of Focolare is from St. John’s Gospel and Jesus prayer, “May they all be one” (Jn 17:21). The movement has over 1,000 social programs and activities. Casa Juan Diego has featured their alternative economics: the Economic of Sharing. Based on a culture of giving, it is an innovative economic proposal now encompassing 700 businesses.

The Neocatechumenate movement has spread through the world and has success in bringing to a living faith many of our brothers and sisters who today live a Christianity of habit, and is giving to many people submerged in a secularized world the possibility of meeting Our Lord Jesus Christ through Christian communities which live their faith at an adult level: of love in the dimension of the cross and perfect unity. This movement was founded in Spain by Kiko Arguello around 1970 and is still led by him.

All three of the above movements exist in Houston.

The Encuentros de Promoción Juvenil, an international movement of youth retreats in Spanish in many countries is very present in Houston. The impact of these retreats and the related youth groups in parishes is impressive. These groups often visit Casa Juan Diego to share prayer and activities with our guests.

Jean Vanier founded the L’Arche movement and remains its leader. The four fundamental aspects of L’Arche’s identity as formulated by L’Arche USA are: The recognition of the unique value of persons with a developmental disability to reveal that human suffering and joy can lead to growth, healing and unity. When their gift is received individual, social and ecclesial change occurs. Life sharing where persons with a mental disability and those who assist them live, work and pray together, creating a home. Relationships of mutuality in which people give and receive love. Christian community that welcomes people from all faiths, based on the Gospel and dependent upon the Spirit of God where faithful relationships, forgiveness and celebration reveal God’s personal presence and love. Their mission is to create homes where faithful relationships based on forgiveness and celebration are nurtured, to reveal the unique value and vocation of each person, and to change society by choosing to live relationships in community as a sign of hope and love.

The Sant’Egidio Community began in Rome in 1968. Today it has more than 40,000 members, dedicated to evangelization and charity in Rome and in more than 60 countries throughout the world. The Community of Sant’Egidio is a “Church public lay association.” The different communities, spread throughout the world, share the same spirituality and principles which characterize the way of Sant’Egidio: Prayer, communi-cating the Gospel, solidarity with the poor, ecumenism, and dialogue.

The Christian Life Movement began in 1985 in Peru, also is international. This movement emphasizes a spirituality of sanctity, apostolate and service and seeks to contribute to the establishment of a “Civilization of Love” and to evangelize culture, taking the message of the faith of the Church to the furthest corners of the world. The Christian Life Movement believes it is very important to intensify the love and solidarity commitment to the poor, the bereft, the sick, and the forgotten; but always with the guidance of the Gospel as it is read in the Church, seeking to reach all people in whom the suffering face of Christ is reflected, to announce the love of God, to share they mystery of reconciliation which reaches out to every human being.

These are only some examples of the movements growing and bringing new life to the Church, not the mention the Catholic Worker Movement, which we believe brings the freshness of the radicality and possibilities of transformation of living the Gospel to our world.

We focus on these movements as a way of responding to two crises that confront us in today’s world: war– the opposite of the civilization of love–and the abuse of good priests by the media who have given up all to follow Jesus and remain an inspiration for all. It is our hope that we can also join in concern for the many new Christian martyrs throughout the world, especially in the Sudan and China.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXII, No. 3, May-June 2002.