PROPHETS OR SAINTS
Cardinal G. M. Garrone
People are looking for Prophets; they should be asking for Saints
Today the world is looking for its way. Everyone is confused and no longer knows in which direction to advance. They are all, more or less, looking around to discoverthe "prophet" who will bring the light.
God does not multiply prophets, and it takes time to test the value of their message. After an Elijah or an Elisha, the ranks of the false prophets increase. There are hundreds of them when they are gathered at Mount Carmel, but there is only one Elisha.
This appeal for prophets, which is heard everywhere, more or less muffled, cannot but cause "vocations". They are not all fraudulent. Many are illusory. Before using the resources, always rare and uncertain, that the Spirit puts at the disposal of His Church, the everyday ones must be used. The latter consist above all of a charity that God increases according to needs. It alone can work miracles. And the search for the right way is the result of the patient and hidden work of souls of goodwill, docile to the word of the Church and to the inner voice of God.
People are looking for prophets: they should be asking for saints. It is less necessary to discover new things in the Church than to become more aware of the newness of the old things, provided the latter are really God's.
There is nothing to be hoped for if, before seeking any other source, one has not turned to the true sources, and if the first instrument of this search has net been faith. Never so much as today, when the deep change in things calls for an equally important transformation of our habits, for the good of the Church and the good of each of us, is it so necessary that the essential truths of the faith should illuminate our lives, and trust in God and prayer should form the atmosphere in which every search takes place.
* * *
The difficulties of the present time are evidently new, like the times from which they arise. But they are not insurmountable for this reason. Nothing is impossible for God. The life of the Church is marked at every step by trials that are sometimes disconcerting. In the designs of Providence, these trials are to stimulate us at every moment to have recourse continually to Him who can enable us to overcome them. We must be convinced that God is our support. And we cannot be fully convinced unless things compel us to turn to Him incessantly.
It is inevitable that every generation should see something unique in this problem. It seems that nothing similar, and often nothing so grave, has ever happened along the path of the Kingdom of God. This feeling arises from the consideration that no difficulty is quite the same as the one that preceded it. Each of them calls for its own specific solution. But this feeling becomes fatal when it causes it to be supposed that today, for the first time, the Church is experiencing a drama that engrosses and deeply disturbs consciences.
The Church has, survived the tragic ordeals of the 3rd, the 13th, the 16th, the l9th century. The more one realizes men's trials at those times, the better one understands what grace can do today, and the lesson of those who bore the weight of the Church in those difficult situations remains an incentive and an example for us.
It would be harmful to think that today's difficulties are an event that has no precedents in the history of the Church. But it would be no less harmful to think that only one sector of the Church is in anguish. Here, too, there is an inevitable temptation to consider one's case unique. The truth is that no one, today, can evade the problem and the duty of living in a Christian way an existence that has no relationship with that of the preceding generation.
Any search for renewal must avoid two dangers: believing that the Church has never known difficulties of this kind, believing that we are the only ones that have come up against them.
* * *
The experience of the Council must serve as a rule. Under the impulsion of a lucid and calmly courageous pastor, the Church admitted to herself that her distance from the world ran the risk of increasing. She collected herself, she examined herself long and solemnly. She returned to her own sources, the Gospel and tradition; she repeated to herself what she already knew but needed to repeat to herself in order to face the future in full possession of her strength, and above all of her light.
Following the example of the Council, the Congregations must carry out a similar effort. The laity, the dioceses, the priests as well. Every portion of the Church must accomplish on its own account what the Church has done at her summit. This means that, in the first place, a return must be made to essential facts and to deep certainties.
It is always to be feared that, under the weight of confusion and anguish, people may renounce looking for the way in the eternal values and in the light that comes directly from God. It is to be feared that the Magisterium that teaches the eternal truths may appear a secondary source, while it is just in these essential truths of the faith that the force necessary for progress lies, from the Bishop who must recall them to those who must profess them. To believe in the essential things: this is the first law of work, today.
* * *
But adhesion to the truths of the faith is conditioned by a particular atmosphere. The words of God are not the words of men. They do not penetrate the spirit by means of the human gifts it may dispose of. The Father did not will to reveal his Son "to the wise and the expert".
There are a thousand reasons for being confused today. There come back spontaneously to our mind and create a kind of anguish the words of the Gospel: "When the Son of man returns to the world, will He still find faith there?" It is the mystery of souls. But one thing remains possible for us to observe: the degree of prayer, the sign and essential expression of a living faith. What is the level of prayer in the Church? Those who are responsible for delivering drinking water in a city never lose sight of the deep stratum from which the springs gush forth. Those who bear the weight of the Church are deeply distressed to see, from so many signs, the decline of prayer in priests carried away by action, having lost the habit of Eucharistic adoration, of prayer, even of the breviary. What will become of the faithful if their pastors are in this state? What can be hoped for from the researches in progress, from the new structures, if the inquiry is not nourished with prayer and has not yielded the solutions desired? The religious communities that are trying to renew themselves must be certain that their problems, which require the study of elements of every kind, will never be solved if the atmosphere in which their work is carried out is not the supernatural atmosphere of faith and prayer.
The Church feels the need of prophets to point out her way. But it is more necessary for her to feel the need of holiness. She must look to the models who in the course of the centuries have recommended themselves to her trust more by holiness than by exterior deeds. Then she will have nothing to fear. Then she will not run the risk of failing to recognize the value of patient investigations, observations and studies, but she will not confuse technical instruments with spiritual forces and, more or less, the end with the means. Then, above all, having established herself permanently in truth, she will draw new hope from it.
Weekly Edition in English
10 April 1969, page 11
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