God has no grandchildren

God has no grandchildren

19 November 2014

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God has no grandchildren

"Righteousness is not inherited. God has no grandchildren. So we work to bring His Kingdom to individuals"- Adrian Roberts

Sherry Weddell, co-founder of the Catherine Of Sienna Institute, has written a remarkable and provoking book on the state of Western Catholicism titled "Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus".

By no means an easy read, Weddell's extensive research reveals that, whilst globally the Catholic population is growing at an unprecedented rate, in the West nearly four times as many adults are leaving as are entering the Catholic Church. Moreover, and somewhat shockingly, her research also suggests that the best guarantee of a baptised Catholic regularly attending church in adulthood is through becoming a Protestant![i] *

Clearly something is amiss; but what?

Weddell argues that the issue lies in the fact that God has no grandchildren. Whereas traditionally Catholicism was something culturally passed on from one generation to the next through childhood catechesis and sacramental initiation, this no longer seems to be the case.

On the contrary, in the modern world, catholic school educated individuals appear no more likely to remain committed Catholics than their secularly educated peers. And as for the age-old assumption that the sacraments will eventually "bring them back", sadly, this has been reduced to little more than wishful thinking, as fewer and fewer baptised Catholics choose to marry within the church, far less raise their children in the faith.

Sobering reading indeed. Yet Weddell refuses to despair, insisting instead that we are living in times of both "immense challenge and immense opportunity". What is required is a change of strategy, pursued by a handful of committed men and women at parish level. She writes:

"In the 21st century Cultural Catholicism is dead as a retention strategy because God has no grandchildren. In the 21st century we have to foster intentional Catholicism rather than cultural Catholicism" [ii]

How "intentional Catholicism" can be achieved practically will be discussed in greater detail in the coming blogs. The "theory" behind it however, is rather simple: It's time to stop brushing the problems facing our church under the carpet, passively hoping God will "sort it out" and that the faith and traditions of our ancestors alone will carry us through this "rough patch". We only have as long as we live to win our generation for Christ and turn the tide of Catholicism in our country. We are His church, His chosen hands and feet. There is no plan B! He's given us the resources and provided us with the tools. Is it really so unreasonable to suggest it's time we get to work?

What do you think? Do you agree with Weddell that cultural Catholicism is "dead as a retention strategy"? Please share your thoughts and comments on this article.

*This research was conducted in the US however there is no reason to suggest it is not just as applicable to the UK.

 

[i] Weddell, S (2012). Forming Intentional Disciples:The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus. Indiana,USA: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Divison. p35.

[ii] Weddell, S (2012). Forming Intentional Disciples:The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus. Indiana,USA: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Divison. p39.

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