Sunday, December 19, 2021

This happened on our watch. . .

Watchmen not only watch, they guard and defend and sound the warning when the threat is great.  The duty of the watchmen is faithfulness.  Everyone who has been charged with the responsibility of the faith -- whether in the pastoral office and the Church or in the home -- is a watchman with a duty and a responsibility both to those who went before and to those who come after them.  Even greater, this duty and responsibility accords to the faith itself and to the God who has entrusted us with the sacred deposit.  It is not ours to do with as we please but to pass on as faithfully as it was passed on to us.

People my age look around and we are tempted to complain.  The world is going to hell in a hand basket.  We all know this.  When we argue over which bathrooms to use or when we treat nonchalantly the latest and newest perversion, distortion, or disconnect with the good things of God's Word and the culture that seemed to honor those things (at least on the surface), we know things are not good.  I do not think that anyone every where believes that things are getting better.  Anxiety is chronic.  Depression is rampant.  We are prisoners to our fears as much as we have been prisoners of our homes during this pandemic.  We seem to be more conscious than ever of all the things that were wrong in the generations that went before us but we have forgotten the good things.  We are more victims than masters of just about anything in our lives.  People my age are good about complaining.  But we have forgotten that all of these things happened on our watch.

Those who came of age in the 1950s and early 1960s must wake up to the fact that the things that have gone wrong happened on our watch -- during the years when we were responsible.  Believer you me, this thought haunts me.  I know that God has forgiven me my sins.  It is not that I am haunted by guilt but rather I am haunted by the things I might have, could have, and should have done to keep some of this from going so far afield from God's Word.  I hope and pray that I am not alone.  I hope that many of my age will own up not only to our failings but to what we failed to do.  What failed was our catechesis.

We presumed that the rather staid and reserved things of the past needed to be liberated from the dour dullness and that we were the ones to do it.  So we spent less time teaching the faith and more time asking people what they thought about it.  We spent less time memorizing the words of the faith and more time getting in touch with our feelings about the faith.  We modernized the liturgy before we even realized what we were doing and we updated the hymnal before we knew what songs we were singing.  We cast aside the organ and the great church musicians of our past in order to give church music a beat and a style fully in sync with our own.  And we were sure God was happy with this and we were doing a good thing for God in doing this.  God had given us an old and tired faith and liturgy and we knew what needed to be done -- we remodeled the liturgy, the creeds, the confessions, and the very faith itself.  We even forgot to offer it to God because we were so caught up with delight in offering it to the faithful in the pews and the curious  not yet there.  It was our watch and our responsibility and we screwed it up.

Therefore, we need to admit this failure so that those who are our sons and daughters and grandchildren and great-grandchildren might realize that this failure might well happen again on their watch.  We cannot go back in time to fix what we screwed up but it is not too late to undertake with the greatest seriousness and urgency the important task of catechesis.  I am nearing the end of my watch and so it is incumbent upon me to warn those who come after me not to walk in my footsteps.  That is the warning my generation ought to be sounding to a world in which foolishness parades as wisdom and the wisdom of faith is rejected as irrelevant or hate speech.  Catechesis is not simply the duty and responsibility of the pastors of the Church but of the parents in the home as well.  Together we cover all bases -- we teach the faith in the home, husband to wife, wife to husband, parent to child, child to parent, and we extend this catechesis to the Church where every age and status of people hear together the Word of the Lord.  

So please forgive my generation for its failure and do not walk in our steps.  Forge a new path of faithfulness and fidelity as your duty and delight.  It is not too late.  Every generation must turn over to the next the job of being a watchman.  May the Lord inform you of your calling and equip you for your vocation and bless your struggle to be faithful in a faithless generation.