SAN FRANCISCO, June 12, 2009 – What the future holds has always been of
great fascination for people. It has also become a theme for Pope Benedict’s new book, Faith and the Future (Ignatius, 160 p. hardcover). With growing concern among believers about the future of faith, many wonder how in all the confusion of modern trends faith could subsist. How does man’s faith
affect how he lives now, and his eternal blueprint?
In his philosophical, very understandable, and surprisingly prophetic presentation, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) approaches this issue from a variety of angles and finishes off with a sketch of the future of the Church. The book’s five chapters were originally presented in 1969-70 by then-Fr. Ratzinger as radio addresses on German and Vatican radio.
“Faith is being shaken to its foundation by the crisis of the present …”, says the Pope. “How great is the fascination of the future in a period when we witness history
being set unusually in motion and see human possibilities beginning to develop, positively and negatively, along roads that lead we know not where.”
In Faith and the Future, the Pope addresses key issues that both synergize – and can work against – a genuine and loyal Church of Christ. They are knowledge, existence, philosophy, hope of men, and the state of the Church.
On the future of the Catholic Church, then-Fr. Ratzinger paints her scenario rather prophetically.
From the crisis of today, Fr. Ratzinger says, the church “will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to
inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes … she will lose many of her social privileges. …As a small society, [the
Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.”
Ratzinger goes on to predict that the Church “will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate… It will be hard-going for the Church, for the
process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek…The process will be
long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution – when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain… But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty …”
He wraps up his analysis with this.
“The Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the
end: not the Church of the political cult … but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”