As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1990 that, "(n)evertheless, in this 'new springtime' of Christianity there is an undeniable negative tendency... Missionary activity specifically directed "to the nations" (ad gentes) appears to be waning, and this tendency is certainly not in line with the directives of the Council and of subsequent statements of the Magisterium. Difficulties both internal and external have weakened the Church's missionary thrust toward non-Christians, a fact which must arouse concern among all who believe in Christ. For in the Church's history, missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith."
So even though there has been strong negativism directed at Christianity and the Church as well as a waning of activities to convert nations, resulting in a long and dark winter, springtime is approaching (for some of us though maybe not in our lifetime). The question is, "how are we building up the body of Christ" - for the building up of others' faith is the surest way of renewal of your own faith.
In a 2003 interview by EWTN News Director Raymond Arroyo of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger we get a glimpse of how this new springtime will unfold.
Raymond: The Pope (John Paul II) has talked a great deal about the New Springtime and you, yourself have laid out your own ideas. Your vision is a little different from some. Some see the numbers growing and everybody believing and dancing hand-in-hand (the Cardinal chuckles) into the millennium. You see a different picture. Tell us what that picture involves. How do you see this Springtime evolving?
Cardinal: As I do not exclude even this dancing hand-in-hand, but this is only one moment. And my idea is that really the springtime of the Church will not say that we will have in a near time buses of conversions, that all peoples of the world will be converted to Catholicism. This is not the way of God. The essential things in history begin always with the small, more convinced communities. So, the Church begins with the 12 Apostles. And even the Church of St. Paul diffused in the Mediterranean are little communities, but this community in itself is the future of the world, because we have the truth and the force of conviction... But we will have really convinced communities with élan of the faith, no? This is springtime — a new life in very convinced persons with joy of the faith.
Raymond: But, smaller numbers?
Cardinal: Smaller numbers, I think. But from these small numbers we will have a radiation of joy in the world. And so, it’s an attraction, as it was in the old Church. Even when Constantine made Christianity the public religion, there were a small number of percentage at this time; but it was clear, this is the future... And so, I would say, if we have young people really with the joy of the faith and this radiation of this joy of the faith, this will show to the world, “Even if I cannot share it, even if I cannot convert it at this moment, here is the way to live for tomorrow.”
It seems to me that much of our negativism that spawns a nihilism in our youth and that gets transmitted along a number of generations who lose or barely maintain a faith is, as then Cardinal now Pope Benedict XVI identified, a direct result of us "building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires."
Pope Benedict XVI advocated in his trip to America this past April,
“We can and must believe, with the late Pope John Paul II, that God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity.”
This new springtime is ushered in by a mature faith. Pope Benedict XVI describes this as, "(a)n 'adult' faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth." This mature faith is fostered by passing it on, evangelizing and mission - by accepting your call to life in Christ.
Much of what I see as negativism is based on the "demise of the West" and there certainly is much to be concerned. Yet the West is not Christianity - the West sprung from Christianity and it is our sinfulness that has us clutching to the West and marginalizing Chrisitanity. I just cannot see where our call as Christians is to build up the West, as if the West is our salvation. The issue is our lack of faith and our unwillingness to be called out into spreading the good news. As Pope John Paul II relates; a "missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith."
To help the West, if I am not way off base, is to mature our faith similarly as our youth grow into adulthood and take up their vocation whether that be religious or laity (and by way of either procreation or as the supportive community) to sow the everlasting fruits, as Pope Benedict XVI says, "in human souls: love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord. So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God."
Here is another great way to describe what a mature faith looks, feels and acts like; it is by Gil Bailie from his January Emmaus Road Initiative:
Precisely because the content of the Christian revelation is the mystery of unimpeded giving and receiving of love within the Trinity, its transmission necessarily depends on a relationship of unguarded trust on the part of the recipient – which, of course, places a special onus on the transmitter, for if the recipient is docile to the transmission and the transmitter betrays the heightened responsibilities that this docility requires, he or she stands under the judgment of Jesus’ words: “If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of
the sea.” (Matt. 18:6)
Let us go forth and spread the good news!
PS: I can't help but think that "small, more convinced communities" is more apropos of distributism than of capitalism.