..for our times.
One of the main things that people know about the Catholic Church - in fact for lots of people it is virtually the only thing they know about the Church - is that the Church opposes abortion, contraception, and same-sex unions. It is good that people know this. But they need to know more.
It is routine in many Catholic schools for a speaker to come in to talk about why abortion is wrong, but it seems more rare to have in a guest speaker to tackle Confession, daily prayer, Sunday Mass... or some aspect of Church history, or the glories of Christian achievements in art, medicine, science, architecture, exploration...or the Church's teaching on marriage, or the priesthood, or what Baptism is all about, or why we anoint the sick...
Church history, in particular, is important. I have met Catholic students who have received very little information on, for example, the Crusades, Church/State relations, or the Medieval Church. In general, they get - via the media and everyday culture, from folklore and from pub-gossip - what might be called the "Wolf Hall" version on such things.
Result: many young Catholics find that they know a lot about the Church being opposed to abortion - and they are glad to support the Church on this. But they don't quite know how to go on from there. They don't know how to share the message of repentance, forgiveness, and mercy.They havn't had a deep formation in the Christian faith that makes it possible to teach these things, and are left rather stranded when their Church is accused of being pitiless and negative. They know they should be able to offer a message of Christian hope and mercy, but lack the specifics.
A "Wolf Hall" version of how the Church operates, plus inadequate formation in the nature of Christ and the sacraments makes for a lethal mix.
Pope Francis' announcement about the Jubilee Year of Mercy is thus of crucial importance: will pro-life groups take this up and start promoting it? It could be one of the most important things to happen in the struggles to promote an authentic culture of life: a breakthrough with lasting consequences. Over to the pro-life groups.