Spiritual Defibrillator and Popes that Rock by Fr. Benjamin Bradshaw

Spiritual Defibrillators and Popes that Rock:

In 1969 a medical team from Sinai hospital in Baltimore began research on what would eventually become known as the cardioverter-defibrillator.  The defibrillator has of course saved thousands of lives by occasionally releasing an electric charge to the heart when it senses the possibility cardiac arrhythmia, leading to a possible heart attack.  Similarly, perhaps we could say there are times on a spiritual level wherein we may need some “spiritual defibrilation,” especially when we may have grown apathetic, lukewarm, or are perhaps simply encountering the prayerful dryness so common to spiritual growth.  Jesus Himself attests to this: “I wish you were either cold or hot.  16 So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16).  In 1992, Blessed John Paul II gave us a spiritual-defibulator of sorts in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which immediately became a best-seller in multiple languages.  Originally released in French, the man put in charge of compiling this massive work was our present Pope, Benedict XVI, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).  After seven years of compiling the work, the Catechism immediately added a much-needed spiritual charge to the Church, then only twenty-seven years out of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.  During this time there were people from varied theological perspectives and from all sides interpreting the teachings of the Council either inappropriately or assuming that they said something they never actually said, due in part because few had actually taken the time to read the sixteen Council documents firsthand.  Thus, Pope Benedict XVI has often said we now need a proper “hermeneutic [understanding] of the Council.”
In 1985, many of the Church’s bishops came together in Rome for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops held on the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council.  First on the menu of projects for the bishops was to adequately address the catechetical confusion that much of the Church found itself in in the mid-80s (Ratzinger Report.  Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Ignatius Press. 1985).  It was here that John Paul II decided to initiate the massive project of compiling a comprehensive Catechism of the Catholic Church as we approached the closing of the second millennia and the opening of the third, with the goal of realigning the catechetical sails so-to-speak.  In his Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum/Deposit of Faith (October 11, 1992), the Holy Father refers to the Catechism as “a sure norm for teaching the faith (#3),” which it has certainly shown itself to be in the twenty years since its release.  Not since the Roman Catechism, also known as the Catechism of the Council of Trent (16th century), has the Universal Church seen such a far-reaching and vast compendium of Catholic belief, doctrine, and practice.  While many of us were raised on the Baltimore Catechism, which had its conception at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1885), the Universal Catechism has been the ecclesial benchmark on Catholic doctrine for the Church as a whole since it exploded onto the world in the early 1990s.
Throughout the history of Catholicism, the Church has weathered the storms of many threats to her stability and unity: heresies, persecutions, attacks on religious freedom, clerical corruption, tyrants/dictators, schism, apostasy, tragedy among her members, and even times of anti-popes.  In his recent address to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Atlanta, Dr. John Garvey of the Catholic University of America underscored that perhaps the biggest threat to religious freedom in our country today may well be religious apathy and laziness: “Our society won’t care about religious freedom if it doesn’t care about God” (June 13, 2012).  This is a keen insight that, from my perspective, speaks to the need for a “spiritual defibulator” in our own Catholic culture and, perhaps more acutely, in some of our parishes.  Pope Benedict XVI has given us just that with this upcoming Year of the Faith beginning October 11, 2012 and continuing through November 24, 2013.  October 11, 2012 will of course be the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the birth of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei/Door of Faith (October 11, 2011), the Holy Father asks us to spend this upcoming year of the faith actively studying the sixteen Council documents and the Catechism itself.  It is worth noting, as George Weigel has pointed out, that no other faith at the turn of the third millennia found it important to publish a comprehensive work articulating its beliefs, and yet the Catholic Church did just that.
Properly understood, I would assert that inasmuch as the Catechism is indeed a reference source on Catholic doctrine for all Catholics, and not just catechists, it is also a book of prayer as well.  Found within its four sections there are profound spiritual insights and nuggets which are often best assimilated in prayer rather than study, though ideally these two should go hand-in-hand like spiritual salt-and-pepper (fides et ratio).  Section IV on Christian Prayer is particularly helpful for those who often find themselves struggling with temptations, distraction, dryness, or apathy in prayer, which is indeed most of us (#2725-2737).
By our human nature, most of us need a spiritual defribrillation from time-to-time to give a much needed jolt from the auto-pilot spirituality we are sometimes prone to fall into.  Praise God, that we have a whole Year of Faith coming up to help give us this much needed spiritual verve and electricity.


About thereserita

Happy Catholic seeking to share that happiness with others.
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