Pavens fasterefleksjoner

Strength of Christians in Weakness

Sixth Reflections of Papal Spiritual Exercises

Today Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân focused the attention of the Pope and members of the Curia on the Catholic Church's condition as a "minority." The week of spritual exercises will end tomorrow with a final meditation.

Reality of Being a Minority

Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân pointed out that the Church's minority condition was emphasized by European bishops during their recent Synod. At the time, they expressed that "the Church in traditionally Christian lands finds itself in a minority situation."

The data cited by the Synod could be described as disheartening: "a decrease in religious and priestly vocations; in religious practice; relegation of religion to realm of private life, with the related difficulty to contribute the Christian message to customs and institutions, and to transmit the faith to new generations."

Because of this, Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân began his reflection by stating: "A characteristic of the Church in today's world is to be a minority."

In order to illustrate his point, the Archbishop spoke about his daily experience in his trips around the world using a Vatican passport, as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. "I often have difficulties with the police at airports. In general, the Italians don't cause any problems. In Germany, it is more difficult: 'What is the Holy See?' they ask. In Malaysia, it is much more complicated: 'Where is the Holy See?' they ask me. I reply, 'In Italy, in Rome.' Then they take me to a big globe in which obviously the Vatican does not appear. Then they make me wait half an hour with the illegal immigrants."

"To live as a minority calls for an effort in discernment of the new situation in order to understand God's plan for the Church in the today of history and, consequently, to know how we must behave. Then we won't feel inferiority complexes but, on the contrary, we will live in great hope," explained the Archbishop.

In order to explain this concept of a "quantitative minority," Archbishop Van Thuan recalled the story of Gideon, a "judge" of Israel in the 12th century before Christ. Gideon defeated his enemies with only 300 men whose weapons were only horns. He also recalled David's confrontation with Goliath, stating that "Goliath represents evil, in other words, ideologies and values that are against the Gospel. Goliath is hostile, threatening and provoking. This is true for the Church today. Faced with evil, it must confront Goliath, a terrifying giant who seems invincible."

In the beginning, David made the wrong decision. He dressed in armor of power and force, but his movements were hampered. "I cannot walk with all this; I am not used to it," he said, as the Church could say, when referring to the world's arsenal. However, the "Church has her own weapons to face the battle," the Archbishop said. "And they are the only weapons that really count."

David said: "Goliath, you oppose me with the sword, the lance and the arrow. I will present myself in the name of the Lord of the armies." For David, a sling and five stones were enough to defeat Goliath.

"Every giant has his weak spot. Suffice it to pay attention. A well placed stone defeated a giant and his sword was used to cut off his head," recounted Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân.

God's Strength

"David is the figure of the Church today. In many situations, we are in a minority as regards numbers, strength, possibilities, and means. But, just like David, we go forward in the name of God. Throughout history, both in its universal as well as its local dimension, the Church was a minority in face of the Roman Empire and the Barbarian invasions. It was weakened by divisions and the French Revolution in the modern period. During the century that is ending, she it suffered the abuses of Nazism, communism, and now consumerism. But in face of the Goliaths of all times, the Lord has sent many defenseless Davids: saints, Popes, and martyrs."

In order to bring his words up-to-date, the Archbishop used John Paul II's first expression at the beginning of his pontificate: "Do not be afraid!" The Holy Father's emblem has been the Cross, our "only hope," and Mary, "our life, our sweetness and our hope." John Paul II once said: "Communism is only a parenthesis in history."

The Vietnamese Archbishop recalled that "Many ridiculed him; they thought he wasn't realistic. They said the globe was already red in color. But communism in Eastern Europe fell and the Church is crossing the threshold of the third millennium."

Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân concluded with an exhortation: "Therefore, brothers, 'Do not be afraid!' Let us go forward in the name of God and the walls of the new Jerico will fall down!"

Forrige Innhold Neste

av Webmaster publisert 31.03.2006, sist endret 31.03.2006 - 18:18