In the last half of 2017, I had the pleasure of traveling to two Asian countries where our Congregation is experiencing phenomenal growth. The Philippines and Vietnam, along with India and Sri Lanka, are generating a very high proportion of our vocations worldwide.
I came away from these trips filled with a profound sense of the vibrancy of the Church in these lands. The Philippines, of course, is in a category all by itself, being the only majority-Christian (Catholic) nation in all of Asia.
The Catholic Church in Vietnam is growing steadily: estimates are as high as ten-million Catholics. Seminaries and religious houses of formation are full and the number of parishes is growing. Having been to both countries, I can testify that the churches are packed with committed, joyful followers of Jesus Christ who love Catholicism’s history, tradition, liturgy, and engagement. Don’t we all. . . .
It is commonly acknowledged that Western and Eastern peoples view history and life quite differently. I describe it in this way. Those of us in the West approach history episodically, as a series of discrete moments and experiences. And so we pass from one event to the next to the next with little or no apprehension of how they might be related. Moreover, anything out of our immediate “world” and experience holds little interest for us.
Those in the East, on the other hand, see the whole picture. Their cultures are generally older and often have a semi-continuous history dating back millennia. Instead of fixating on an event, they have the capacity to look at history in terms of epochs, trends, and trajectories.
How does this relate to the Church? And what does the Church have to say to both East and West?
Because of our faith and our rich liturgical tradition over 2,000 years, we offer the world and our contemporaries the idea of redemptive history. Redemptive history arises from the conviction that God is at work in human history and events, and is ultimately in charge. Those with “eyes to see and ears to hear” (cf. Ez 12:2; Mt 13:15; Acts 28:27) discern the subtle movement of grace in all things. Redemptive history looks to the deeper, transformative meaning of events across the ages from the perspective of faith.
Liturgy contributes greatly to our Catholic sense of redemptive history. The saving events commemorated in the Church’s public worship and sacraments (especially the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord, Pentecost, etc.) are re-presented not repeated. Thus, we can live in the power of what God has brought about by them and be sanctified and inspired to contribute to the great redemptive work of God as it continues to unfold in human history.
In This Issue
This issue offers diverse perspectives on the mysteries of Lent and Easter and on our efforts to live and proclaim them. You’ll find everything from Redemptorist Dennis Billy’s careful analysis of the very intentional Catholic philosophizing of G. E. M. Amscombe to Michael DeSanctis’ gentle musings on the existential journey of his oldest son and daughter, from Peter Riga’s essay on prayer to a few of my own thoughts on Eucharistic spirituality as “living as Jesus lived.” Enjoy, too, the beautiful seasonal scriptural reflections of John Barker, OFM. God bless you!
Anthony Schueller, SSS