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Crisis and the Future of the Church

Antonio Spadaro, SJ - La Civiltà Cattolica - Tue, Apr 11th 2023

Crisis and the Future of the Church
Does the Church have a future? What is the Church’s relationship with the passage of time, that is, to its history? The risk of going astray in answering these questions is very high. We can either fall into a merely sociological view, or make a purely abstract theological analysis, that is, embrace the ideology of the “youthfulness” of the Church with her “magnificent good fortune  and progress” in times of crisis.

“Ideology,” Pope Francis once warned, “is not a good option. In ideologies there is no Jesus. Jesus is tenderness, love, meekness; ideologies, of every hue, are always rigid.”[1] Ideology is rigid, even that dependent on perpetual youth. Some people think that our world is ceasing to be Christian; how then can we talk about the youthfulness of the Church? Her insignificance seems to be the problem, yet we talk about the future.

We seem to be caught up in an endless debate between traditionalism and modernization. Certainly, one of the serious problems of the Church today is what the pope, using a neologism, has repeatedly called “indietrism,” that is, to be backward-looking. He calls it a “fashion” that does not “draw people from the roots to move forward,” but to opt for “an indietrism that turns us into a sect; it leaves you ‘closed’ and cuts off your horizons; it puts you in charge of dead traditions.”[2] The real question is: If the gospel were not proclaimed, would something essential to human life be missing?

Are we capable of thinking about the future?

Between 1945 and 1946 the Swedish writer Stig Dagerman published his first novels.[3]  Among other magnificent reflections, he has this to say, “I lack faith and can never, therefore, be a happy man, because a happy man cannot have the fear that his life is just a senseless wandering toward certain death. I have inherited neither a god nor a fixed point on earth from which I can draw the attention of a god. Nor have I inherited the well-concealed fury of the skeptic, the desert taste of the rationalist or the ardent innocence of the atheist. Therefore, I dare not throw stones at the woman who believes in things I doubt or at the man who worships his doubt as if he were not also surrounded by darkness. Those stones would hit me, for I am convinced of one thing: the human need for consolation cannot be satisfied.”[4]

The impossibility of “consolation” (tröst, in Swedish) nails Dagerman to the fear that his life is just “a senseless wandering toward certain death.” He cannot be a happy man, then. There is a need for consolation that cannot – rightly – be satisfied by the pure calculating projection of the data of past experience. Here is the point, here is why this reading is useful for reflection: the future is missing. Dagerman cannot think the future into being.

The inability to think of hope fixes the gateway out of despair in an absolute present that becomes an absence of time (and therefore also of future), because time “touches exclusively the outer walls of my life,” Dagerman wrote.

These are his words: “Everything important that happens to me, everything that gives my life its marvelous content – an encounter with a loved one, a caress on the skin, help in need, moonlight, a boat trip on the sea, the joy a child gives, the thrill of facing beauty – all this takes place totally outside of time. Whether I encounter beauty for a second or for a hundred years is a matter of total indifference. Not only is bliss located outside of time, but it also denies any relation between time and life.”[5]

This is an extraordinary reflection. The insight of the marvelous, the challenge of the eternal do not enter time, do not become thinking of the future. This is extraordinary because it answers the implicit question: what is the marvelous? For Dagerman, it is “an encounter with a loved one, a caress on the skin, help in need, the joy that a child gives, thrill in the face of beauty.” All situations that generate a future because they are “events,” are promises of the future, as only the thrill and the caress can be.

For Dagerman, these “wonderful” situations are rooted in a hic et nunc that admits of nothing but the touch, the heat, the instantaneous direct contact, the absolute present. He writes, “It is not true that a child who has been burned stays away from fire. He is drawn to the fire like a moth to the light. He knows that if he approaches it he will be burnt again. And nevertheless he draws near.” Indeed, in the experience of being burnt there is also a purifying force of truth: “We must bless volcanoes, thank them for their light and fire. We must thank them for blinding us, for only those who have been blinded can truly see.”[6] Vision is blinding, burning, not generative.

Dagerman’s experience is the cry of a despair that has experienced grace and wonder, but without believing that this is possible as a moment of history, as an open future. It is a total present outside of time, leaving in darkness and without grace the thought of time passing and erasing the moment.

Here we catch a glimpse of an answer to the question about the Church’s youth and its future: keeping alive the conviction that the experience of grace and wonder is possible as history, as a future. Hope challenges nihilism.

The Gospel message escapes us

The Church’s time is the future, what is to come. When the past and the present dominate without the horizon of the future, the Gospel message becomes a commodity to be sold. Even tradition becomes a commodity. A noble commodity, of course, of values and ideas, but still a commodity. The Gospel message cannot be so used; it is not marketable, ready at hand to be exploited. It escapes us, escapes any organization, any form of manipulative propaganda. The Gospel is projected into an unknown future, into the time that is to come.

Pope Francis, in a Message addressed to the Pontifical Mission Societies in 2020, about the disciples who followed Christ, wrote: “He is about to bring his Kingdom to fulfillment and they are still caught up in their own ideas.” Today as then we are lost in conjecture, as if we are the ones who are “planning for the conversion of the world to Christianity,” the pope wrote, or the life of the spirit itself. If the Church is not a mere organization, then the priest cannot be reduced to a spirit bureaucrat or “mission official” who trades salvation by preaching values.[7]

‘Dwelling in Possibility’

Openness to the Spirit lives on in the possibility of thinking of the future. If one is unable to think of an afterwards, a tomorrow, something that has yet to happen, then it is impossible to speak of generating the future. It seems obvious to think about the past that is already accomplished, and the present that is unfolding as we think about it. Yet in order to generate the future – and therefore hope – it is necessary to imagine, to project ourselves into a possible future, to reflect on what we do not yet see with our eyes  or touch with our hands.

Bear in mind that classicism saw itself as a cycle of eternal return. The circle, in fact, is a symbol of completeness and perfection. The classical authors, suspicious for the most part of utopias and the future, anchored their identity in their origins and the past. They had idealized the past; they had  myths of origins. Some had absolutized the present: carpe diem! seize the day!, the hic et nunc. The classical vision lacked the future and, therefore, lacked hope, which Seneca understood as a dulce malum, a spell, because it projects life into a future that is not certain. The classical world needed and lacked security and stability. Hope – we could say – was really born with Christianity.

So, talk about the future and hope is not at all an  obvious course. To talk about the future of the Church requires an openness to uncertainty. Certainly, however, there are those who think that the future may be inferred: given certain conditions, something can be inferred about what will happen. But this has nothing to do with what Christians call hope. A future entrusted to statistics is not open to hope, but to calculating probabilities, to calculated thinking, capable of making more or less reliable predictions. The future (including that of the Church) would thus be the logical continuation of the present on the basis of the past. There is no leap, no gap, no abyss, no desire, no restlessness, no revolution.

The hope of the Church, on the other hand, involves immersion in a story that comes to us, within which we are called, without being a product of our own calculations, much less of “pastoral plans” made by “operators.” If one has this attitude of faith, then the doors of hope can open. It is possible to generate a future, to “dwell in possibility,” as Emily Dickinson writes in one of her splendid poems: I dwell in possibility. It is not a matter of believing in probability, but in possibility, that is, in the possibility of experience not bound by the limits of what is statistically probable. Hope is the territory of the possible, which goes far beyond the realm of probability. It is the territory of grace, the only possibility of “youthfulness” in the Church. It implies uncertainty, indeterminacy. Not order, codification, the solid, but rather the formless, the becoming, that which is not yet solidified and defined.

There is a chasm to cross, then, to live hope. There is a need for faith. Its field is not that of calculation or algorithm, but that of gratia gratis data. The abyss is that of trust in the possibility of a future history that we do not know and that is not deducible from the present and the past as if it were a logical conclusion, a history that is “other” than us and our known limitations. In this sense, the future is not the combination of our desires and expectations. It would be an error to make hope reside in the pure projection of our desires. Hope is the not yet known, which is capable of surprising us, overflowing. The engine of hope is ultimately the fear of not receiving what is expected, thus doubt, uncertainty, restless precariousness.

The restlessness of open thought: between utopia and maturity

This is why Francis often speaks of “healthy restlessness,” which is the true frame of mind of youth. Because he thinks about the future, the unheard of, the unpredictable. And here is the key definition Pope Francis provides of the Jesuit (and therefore of himself) in the interview he gave me in 2013 for La Civiltà Cattolica: “The Jesuit must be a person of incomplete thought.” And again, “The Jesuit is always, continuously thinking, looking at the horizon toward which he must go, having Christ at the center.”[8]  But – as he said in a letter to priests in 2007, when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires – one must be careful that the horizon does not get so close that it becomes a cage.[9] The horizon must be truly open. And to this openness there corresponds an “incomplete thinking,” an “open thinking.” Francis once asked, “Do I let myself be ‘unhinged inside’ by paradox?” He was referring to the power of the Beatitudes, and we can also refer the question to the Gospel in its entirety. The alternative is to remain “within the perimeter of my ideas.”[10]

“God is creative; he is not closed, and that is why he is never rigid. God is not rigid!”[11] Francis said in one of his addresses to catechists. So our lives must not become rigid. Human existence does not follow an already written score, an “opera libretto,” Bergoglio says. There is a dimension of uncertainty, of incompleteness that is an integral part of a life of faith, which is – as Francis said in his interview with La Civiltà Cattolica – an “adventure,” a “search,” opening new spaces to God. This generates “healthy restlessness.”

Bergoglio loves Augustine’s existential stance. In the Mass for the beginning of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine in August 2013, he spoke of the “peace of restlessness.”

From this view follows a vision of maturity that no longer coincides with adaptation. The theme is really important for an educator. “Jesus himself,” says Bergoglio provocatively, “for many people of his time could have fitted into the paradigm of misfits and therefore was immature.”[12] But, without falling into the praise of anarchy, he argues, “If maturity were a pure and simple adaptation, the purpose of our educational task would consist in ‘adapting’ the children, these ‘anarchic creatures,’ to the good norms of society, of whatever kind they are. At what cost? At the cost of censorship and subjugation of subjectivity, or, even worse, at the cost of depriving them of what is most proper and sacred to the person: freedom.”[13]

Bergoglio continues, “A ‘restless’ child […] is one who is sensitive to the stimuli of the world and of society, one who is open to the crises life poses, one who rebels against limits but, on the other hand, claims them and accepts them (not without pain), if they are right. This is the child who does not conform to the cultural clichés that worldly society proposes, a child who wants to learn to argue.” So, it is necessary to “read” this restlessness and value it, because all systems that try to “appease” us are pernicious: they lead, in one way or another, to “existential quietism.”[14] In restlessness the future is generated.

Instead, today we sense a strong temptation – sometimes even in the Church – to “close ranks.” There is a temptation to oppose perceived chaos with the response of an intransigent and identity-based Catholicism. We recognize today that a “Catholic civilization” is not a bubble closed in on itself, nor does it feed resentment toward a world that to some now seems lost and adrift, abandoned by God. Catholic civilization is not one built on the intransigence of the pure, which kills the spirit. This temptation is the necrosis of Christianity.

In this sense, Bergoglio does not reject “utopia” as a mere abstraction. On the contrary, he recognizes its positive charge and its political value. He states, “Utopias are primarily the fruit of the imagination, projections into the future of a constellation of desires and aspirations.”[15] Utopia takes strength from the dissatisfaction and malaise generated by current reality, but also from the conviction that a different world is possible. It is not pure escapism, but a form that hope takes in a specific historical situation and that is accompanied by a specific search for new paths. There is a radical task here: to reconstruct the vision of faith and human coexistence in a changing society where symbolic and cultural references are no longer what they used to be.

If there is no sense of vertigo, if there is no experience of the earthquake, if there is no methodical doubt – not the skeptical kind – the experience of uncomfortable surprise, then perhaps there is no experience of Church. If the Holy Spirit is in action, Francis once said, then he “kicks the table.”[16] The image is a happy one, because it is an implicit reference to Matt 21:12, when Jesus “overturned the tables” of the money-changers in the temple.

The time of suspension

Do we not feel the need for a “kick” from the Spirit today, if only to wake us up from our torpor? Merchants are always around the “temple”, because there they do business, there they sell well because of training, organization, structures, pastoral certainties. Merchants pride themselves on being “in the service” of the religious. They often offer schools of thought or ready-made recipes and fix God’s presence, which is “here” and not “there.” They pose the alternatives: Either future or commodity, either possibility or commerce.

Let us think about the ecclesial process of the Synod on synodality. It is striking, for example, what the General Rapporteur, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, in his greeting during the inauguration on October 9, 2021, stated: “I must confess that I still have no idea what kind of working instrument I will write. The pages are empty; it is up to you to fill them.” It is necessary to live the synodal time with patience and expectation, opening our eyes and ears well. “Ephphatha  that is, ‘Be open!’” (Mark 7:34) is the key word of the future. “I still have no idea….” How much future there is in these words! It is not indeterminacy, but expectation, tension, listening, awareness of the future. We need to endure suspension, preventing our planning about the future from becoming a gossipy Pelagian activism or a pastoral operation marked by the charisma of frenzy. Could suspension identify the shape of the Church of the future? Of course, at least eschatologically, A suspension that is uneasy.


One form of  healthy restlessness was defined by Francis by a verb used in a message to young people in the West Indies: desinstalarse.[17]  This means, literally, “to uninstall oneself.” It has been translated as “to abandon the situation of being settled.” A useful, but stylized translation. Here are his words in Spanish: “Si están instalados la cosa no va. Tienen que desinstalarse los que están instalados, y empezar a luchar.” Francis calls for “uninstalling.”

By evoking “uninstallation,” Bergoglio leverages an Ignatian principle that guides his Petrine ministry in a particular way: mobility. It is diametrically and charismatically opposed, as well as being complementary to the Benedictine criterion of stabilitas. Benedict establishes monasteries and stabilizes monks, so that monasteries then become centers of irradiation. Ignatius sends us on missions; he wants professed Jesuits to live, not in colleges but in stationes.

If the Church were flattened to this spatial dimension, if space were its fundamental criterion, it would become just one form of power like any other. Of course the Church exercises “power,” and of course it has done so for better or worse. But the argument does not end there. If that were the case, the Church would already be dead and buried,  like all empires, for that matter. It is convenient to think so, because that leaves us comfortable. But it is not so. The youthfulness of the Church is to be found elsewhere.

With Francis, St. Paul has ascended the throne of Peter at a time when the Church lives in a great Corinth, in an imperial Rome, the one described by Pasolini and identified by him with  New York City.[18] Thus Francis has elevated the tension between spirit and institution in a healthily disturbing way. He wrote that the Church is “a people of pilgrims and evangelizers, transcending any institutional expression, however necessary” (Evangelii Gaudium, No. 111).

This is why Francis radically rejects the idea of the inauguration of God’s reign on Earth, which had been the basis of the Holy Roman Empire and all similar political and institutional forms, down to the “party” dimension. Constantine’s assurance of success: “In hoc signo vinces” and “In God we trust,” inscribed on the U.S. dollar are, in one way or another, always at risk of promoting idolatry. We remember with anguish the “Gott mit uns.” The Christian theology of history has nothing to do with political eschatologies that promise heaven on earth, making earth a hell. The Church is called to desacralize secular ideologies, but also any attempts to ideologize Christianity. Imagining the ecclesia triumphans on this earth turns faith into coflict, faith into struggle. Unfortunately, the dynamics of Russia’s war of invasion of Ukraine are not alien to this temptation.

The “chosen people,” once they become “empire” or “party,” enter an intricate web of religious and political dimensions capable of making them lose awareness of their being in service to the world, pitting them against those who are distant, those who do not belong to their side, that is, their “opponent” institutionalized as such. They are tempted to seek conquest and practice colonization. The future would be mortgaged, youth betrayed. Instead, the future time of the Church is suspense.

The logic of the Gospel proclamation is not expansionist or neocolonial. Francis loves the small Churches, which, however, are seeds for the universal Church: from the Asian Church in Bangladesh to the one in Mongolia; from the European Church in Sweden to the one in Estonia. This is not exoticism; it is the force of a process of fertilization. “There is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a small flock,” Francis said in Kazakhstan. It consists in the perception of not being “self-sufficient” and of being instead “a community open to God’s future, afire with his Spirit. A community that is alive, filled with hope, open to the newness of the Spirit and to the signs of the times, inspired by the Gospel’s example of the little seed that grows and bears fruit in humble and creative love.” This is for him the “Church of the future”: to be “like leaven in the dough and like the smallest of seeds sown in the earth,” inhabiting “the joyful and sorrowful events of the society in which we live, in order to serve it from within.”[19]

Discernment is about understanding where the seeds are for all of the universal Church. It is the reverse of the colonial operation, the “uninstallation.” Thus, the time of process, of growth is more important than space, the seed understood as determinative of the future more than trees and branches. Time matters.

The rhythm of the Church

However, not only the tempo is important; rhythm is too. The rhythm of the Church is not that found in a symphony, but rather what we evoked at the beginning as the rhythm of the reasoning we are developing: that of the jam session of a jazz concert. This genre sees disparate musical traditions converge and is characterized by improvisation and polyrhythms. A characteristic example is seen in the gatherings of musicians who come together for a performance without having anything prearranged, improvising on known chord patterns and themes. These are “genius” situations, where the challenge consists precisely in creating a form which is not preordained from a chaos of sounds.

Here, one should not imagine the Church as a construction of different Lego bricks that all fit together at the right place, according to due proportions. That would be a mechanical image of ecclesial communion. We might better think of it as a symphonic relationship, of different notes that together create a composition. It is not a symphony where the parts are already written and assigned, but a jazz concert, where we play following the inspiration shared in the moment. This is the rhythm of the future: jazz.

Let us refer to an actual experience: those who have followed the Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops in recent years have certainly realized how much the sonorous diversity that shapes the life of the Catholic Church has emerged. If at one time a certain latinitas or romanitas constituted and shaped the formation of the bishops – who, by the way, understood at least some Italian – today diversity emerges forcefully at every level: mentality, language, approach to issues. Far from being a problem, this is a resource, because ecclesial communion is realized through the real life of peoples and cultures. In a fragmented world like ours, it is a prophecy. This is why there is a need for attentive listening of the ecclesial communities in the confrontation and discussion of experiences; it is on experiences that discernment can be made, and not on ideas. It is the Holy Spirit who originates the jam session of the Church, the rhythm of its youth.

What point in our reasoning have we reached? We have tried so far to indicate how the youthfulness of the Church lies in the ability to imagine the future, in openness to a future that is not a mere deduction from the data of the past, but openness to the possible (not the probable), which generates a “healthy restlessness.” The posture of the soul is that of “uninstalling” from the “colonial” coordinates of space and power, which would make Christianity a thing, a commodity to be sold. The space of the Church is that of the seed. Hence Peter’s, the pope’s, interest in the less established realities, the “smallest” realities. Listening to these peripheral or marginal realities produces a sound environment in the Church that – when lived in communion – is that of a jam session, where the conductor can only be the Holy Spirit.

The future comes from the past

It is time to take a step further by delving into the relationship between the future and the past. The future is never abstract: it cannot be. It is we ourselves who hope! And we are what we already have been and are. The future comes to us in the forms of our present tensions. The future comes from the past, so does its ability to be conceived. We are able to wish, because we are what we are, just as our lives have shaped us. This is not in the sense that the future takes the now-empty forms of the past, but, on the contrary, the future absorbs the past into itself. In the future, in fact, we can somehow recover what has been, integrating it, restoring it. In the present, the memory of the past acquires unforeseen meaning in its direction.

How often does a new experience make us see a past experience in a different light? How often does it happen that we understand what happened in our lives in a different perspective,  and thus change its meaning and value?

We can describe the path of the future by reference to time lived. The question is: how can we  put back into motion and change a past that is no longer there? How to make up for a lack of love, education, success that may have been denied during childhood? How to undo our ways and make up for lost time? How to convert the past? Conversion is giving new meaning to lived experience. Conversion is not pure openness to the future, change of mindset turned toward the life to come. Conversion is first and foremost a metanoia of our past, bringing Christ who comes into the patterns of our lives to see how much he was already present all along in illo tempore, “in that time.” One of the most beautiful experiences of love, for example, is to see how the gaze of the beloved (or at least its traces) was present – even if only in the form of desire – in the past life.

The temporal process described in classical physics is composed of a movement of past-present-future. In the dynamics of hope, the direction of the timeline is not the physical direction, but the direction of meaning, which does not link the future to the present and the present to the past in an inevitable direction, but rather links the future to the past.

This is a problem that emerges with particular urgency, for example, in psychoanalysis: were it not so, the truth of analytic interpretation and the effectiveness of psychoanalysis in its therapy  would be irreparably compromised. Memory should not be regarded as an immutable transcript. If the past determines the present, it is because it in turn is taken up and thus reshaped by the present.

In-depth “conversion” is possible only if the past is not already determined and is not removed entirely from the possibility of change. The past must remain open. This is “youthfulness.” It is neither a transient condition, nor a nostalgia to be chased clumsily and hopelessly, as if on a treadmill. Youthfulness consists in not sealing the past, in leaving it open to interpretations (and their conflict). Why? Because the memory of lived experience in the past acquires in the present an unforeseen meaning – nevertheless, it is alive current and effective – in the form of an expectation of the future. Religion is also a re-reading, a rethinking of lived experience.

Thus one can act on the past in view of a future. It is the thread of desire that leads this process, which is above all anticipation of a different future. We cannot leave ourselves behind as memory, because then we would not only leave behind our past, but also our present and our future. What is to come continually modifies our memory, even selects its contents.

To live is really to “dwell in possibility,” as Dickinson wrote. For the believer, life is openness to possibility, which does not depend on a person’s own strength. It is, in fact, as St. Paul writes, “encrypted” in God (cf. Col. 3:3). Spiritual people do not believe they know their own destiny, but they know that God – and only He – holds the key. Even the most contradictory or negative events of the past have their intelligibility in a password that is known only to God. Believers know that their lives are protected by that password. They also know that a “deciphering” of their destiny awaits them. The youth of the Church is protected by this password, encrypted in God, preserved from voluntarist and Pelagian tendencies.

A Church that does not separate itself from life

There is one Gospel episode where this experience of décryptage unfolds. It is that of the disciples  on the way to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-35). The episode helps us reflect on this dwelling in possibility. The disciples go toward Emmaus, desolate, like Dagerman. They see no future. They meet, however, one who illuminates the past they had experienced and projects them into the future. He converts the experience they have had, revealing its reality: “Were not our hearts burning?” they acknowledge, referring to when Jesus explained to them the meaning of what they had experienced.

Pope Francis has often referred to these two disciples as a model for the Church having a future. The two disciples flee Jerusalem, scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped. Here we can read the difficult mystery of people leaving the Church, who feel that it can no longer offer anything meaningful and important.

Faced with this situation, what to do, then? What Church would “serve” the people of today who are like the two disciples of Emmaus? Pope Francis describes in broad brushstrokes the Church of the future: “We need a Church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a Church that accompanies them on their journey; a Church able to make sense of the ‘night’ contained in the flight of so many of our brothers and sisters from Jerusalem; a Church that realizes that the reasons why people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return. But we need to know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture. Jesus warmed the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus.”[20]

One thing is worth noting: the confidence in recognizing with fine discernment, in an acute and perhaps unpredictable way, that the reasons why people turn away from the Church “already contain in themselves also the reasons for a possible return.” Here the pope says that we must give credit even to centrifugal temptations, those that push people to leave the Church, which may contain a desire for authenticity that must be preserved, guarded and remains important for a conscious and full Christian life.

What is the point of this attitude, which is so open that it knows how to find – sub contraria specie – in what drives one to leave the Church an authenticity that can then lead to a return? The point is discernment, which consists in knowing how to read the traces of the lived experience, of the past, in order to change its meaning, discovering the footsteps of grace. It is about “deciphering the night,” Francis says. That is what Jesus does with his disciples.

So the condition of the spirit of a Church open to the future is one that preaches a Gospel capable of converting the past, of changing the meaning of what has been, that does not fear contradiction, or crisis, and rather ventures into it in search of the traces of God.

The future of the Church, in this sense, lives not only as openness to the future, suspense, restlessness, a rhythm of harmonic diversity, but also as full reconciliation with all the dynamics of the human, including those centrifugal to the Church itself. Only in the eschaton will the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the Church appear in all their fullness. The Church is not a societas perfecta, parallel to civil society. It is not a “world unto itself.” It is God’s faithful people on a journey, a communio viatorum. Its youth and future consist in recognizing where the Lord is already present in the world, understanding where he has made himself found and where he is: now encouraging, now calling to conversion. It is necessary to reread the experience of the world in the light of Providence and Grace, to recognize the semina Verbi, without ever falling into the temptations associated with desolation and loneliness.

We have sketched a restless, unstable, “uninstalled” Church, as it were, which, however, in the light of the tension regarding the kingdom of God and thanks to the Gospel, knows how to make sense of human affairs. Thus we will discover the truth of the words Julien Green wrote in his Diary, “I believe that we are all on our way to Christianity, and that is about all we can say.”

DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 7, no.1 art. 11, 0123: 10.32009/22072446.0123.11

[1].    Francis, Homily at Santa Marta, October 17, 2013.

[2].    Id., Greeting to participants at the conference “Lines of Development of the Global Educational Covenant” sponsored by the Congregation for Catholic Education, June 1, 2022.

[3].    Cf. A. Spadaro, “Il nostro bisogno di consolazione. La narrativa di Stig Dagerman”, in Civ. Catt. 2005 II 248-260.

[4].    S. Dagerman, Il nostro bisogno di consolazione, Milan, Iperborea, 1991, 17.

[5].    Ibid., 24.

[6].    Id., Bambino bruciato, 2001, 285.

[7].    Cf. A. Spadaro, “Rompete tutti gli specchi di casa! Papa Francesco scrive alle Pontificie Opere Missionarie”, in Civ. Catt. 2020 II 471-479.

[8]  .   Id., “Intervista a Papa Francesco”, in Civ. Catt. 2013 III 449-477.

[9]  .   Cf. J. M. Bergoglio, “Lettera ai sacerdoti, ai consacrati e alle consacrate dell’arcidiocesi”, July 29, 2007, in Id., Nei tuoi occhi è la mia parola. Omelie e discorsi di Buenos Aires 1999-2013, Milan, Rizzoli, 2018, 558.

[10].   Francis, Angelus, February 13, 2022.

[11].   Id., Address to the participants of the International Congress on Catechesis, September 27, 2013.

[12].   Id., “Messaggio alle comunità educative in occasione della Messa per l’educazione”, April 6, 2005, in Id., Nei tuoi occhi è la mia parola…, op. cit., 369.

[13].   Ibid.

[14].   Id., “Messaggio alle comunità educative”, April 23, 2008, ibid., 627.

[15].   Id., “Messaggio alle comunità educative”, April 9, 2003, ibid., 193.

[16].   Id., Meeting with Participants in the Convention of the Diocese of Rome, May 9, 2019.

[17].   Id., Videomessage on the occasion of the Triennial Youth Assembly organized by the Bishops’ Conference of the West Indies, July 17, 2018.

[18].   Cf. P. P. Pasolini, San Paolo, Turin, Einaudi, 1977.

[19].   Francis, Address to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men, seminarians and pastoral workers, Nur-Sultan, September 15, 2022.

[20].   Id., Meeting with the Brazilian episcopate in Rio de Janeiro, July 27, 2013.

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