Set the World On Fire
Posted on November 3rd, 2011
Curtis Martin also met with Gregorian Fellows in a special session.
By Curtis Martin, who founded the Fellowship for Catholic Scholars (FOCUS) on Benedictine College’s campus, gave Benedictine College students their marching orders in these Nov. 3 remarks.
It’s great to be home at Benedictine College. What a blessing it is to be back. I have travelled the I-70 many, many times from Denver, Colorado to be here and it’s a great joy.
I shared earlier with some of the student leaders that I don’t believe there’s any place on earth, literally, that is more primed for the New Evangelization than Benedictine College. I believe in this college and what you’re doing and the mission of this place in a very deep and profound way. I believe in it so much that of the only two kids that I’ve ever sent away to college, they’re both here and, God willing, their brother who is a senior in high school might join them next year.
So, I love this place. I’m grateful to you all for the chance to share with you some things I’m really excited about. I am really pumped about what it’s like to be alive right now in a world that is filled with poverty and brokenness and desperation and darkness.
There’s something amazing about darkness and light. Light shines farther in the darkness. In the daytime you can see the sun. At night you can see the stars. And you and I, we’ve been called to be the light of the world by Jesus Christ. And it’s a dark world out there. But that’s actually pretty good news for the light. I want to share just really four sentences with you tonight within the context of what does it mean to respond to the call of Jesus Christ in our lifetime.
Set Fire to the World
The theme of the talk, the title of the talk was “Go set the world on fire.” St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, one of the great saints of the church, a real man of renewal and intensity, somebody who would inspire anybody who looked at his life, as he was forming the Jesuits he would invite these young men who he’s going to send out all over the world and he would talk to them about Christ and what it meant to be a solder for Christ and as he would end—every meeting with them—he would end with one phrase. Before they’d leave, he’d say, “Go set the world on fire.”
I’d like to also weave that together with another theme that rhymes with it from another great saint, St. Catherine of Sienna. St. Catherine said this about you and about me. She said, “If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.” If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.
Jesus Christ Himself said “I wish that I could cast fire upon the Earth, that it was already kindled. “ And so I’d like to look at three passages from Scripture just a sentence each, and then I’ve got one more sentence I want to share with you and I’d just like to look at that and say what does it mean right now—what would it look like if I were the type of man or woman who was going to go set the world on fire? Obviously, I would have to be pretty much set on fire myself, because you can’t give what you don’t have.
So three sentences. Three sentences from the New Testament. I picked three different authors. Now, the author of everything in the Bible is God, but He also has a human companion so I picked different human companions.
The first one is human in nature but not in person because it’s Jesus, but Jesus said this in John 17:3.
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
He gave us the only definition in the entire Bible of eternal life. He told us what eternal life is all about.
It’s surprising to me, at least it was the first time that I read it because if you had asked me, “Well, Curtis, what’s eternal life?” I probably would have said, well eternal life is where you go if you say your prayers and behave. I would have probably answered it like a geography question. It’s, you know, someplace you go. Or I might have answered it ethically: Well, it’s the life that people who come to know and follow God live. They love God. I’d answer it ethically.
Jesus doesn’t answer it geographically or ethically. Jesus defined eternal life relationally. I don’t think we can set the world on fire if we miss this point. If we miss this point, everything is off just a little bit.
Now, there are really important things in life, but I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot more important than eternal life. We all want to be happy. What’s better than happiness? Lasting happiness. What’s better than lasting happiness? Everlasting happiness. Is there anything you wouldn’t trade for everlasting happiness?
Because in a sense, that’s the single proposition of the Catholic faith. It’s the single proposition of Jesus Christ. He says the kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field and when you find it you go and sell everything you have to buy the field. All in. Like Jesus is playing poker with you. Texas Hold’Em. And you’re looking at Him, and He’s like, “What are you going to do?” And you’re like, “I’m going to bet a little bit.” And he’s like, “That all you’re going to bet?” “I guess I’ll bet a little more.”
And whatever you bet, then He looks at you and He says, “I’m calling you all in.”
Want to set the world on fire? Got to be all in. This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he sent.
Eternal Life: Relational
But see, that sentence, as amazing as it is—it’s relational, it’s not ethical; it’s relational, it’s not geographical or any other way you want to answer the question, it’s relational; I don’t think we can realize how deeply relational it is until we take a deeper look at it because the key word there in some ways is “to know”, but the English word “to know” means a lot of stuff.
What do we mean by “know”? Spanish and some of the Latin language have different words, right? In Spanish they’ve got “saber”, to know a fact. “Conocer”, to be acquainted with a person. If Jesus was being translated into Spanish he would have been translated as saying conocer. This is eternal life that they may know (conocer) You as the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You sent. Not that we have head knowledge about God, that’s not eternal life. There’s nothing wrong with head knowledge about God, we’re supposed to love God with all of our mind, but that’s not the essence of eternal life. It is to know, be in relationship.
But Jesus didn’t speak Spanish. Jesus spoke Hebrew, or Aramaic, the spoken form of Hebrew. The word there is different than saber or conocer the word there is translated as “yada”. We would spell the transliteration as y-a-d-a. Yada.
This is eternal life, that they might yada You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You sent. To yada somebody is not to know that they exist or even to be acquainted with them. To yada somebody is to be in deep, intimate, personal life-changing, life-giving, covenantal, everlasting relationship with somebody. The first time the Bible uses Yada, Adam yadas Eve and she conceives a son. This is deep, life-giving, life-changing, life-transforming knowledge. This is eternal life-that we would be in that kind of covenantal relationship with God, so that everything changes.
I have friends. I like my friends, most of them. I like my friends. But I also have family. Family’s different. My wife, she’s my friend, but she’s also my family. There was a period of time when she wasn’t family. Then we got married and entered a covenant, and we became family.
You know what happened when I married my wife? She became my wife. But her mother became my mother. And her father became my father. And her sisters became my sisters and I didn’t even like all of them. When you enter into a yada relationship you know what you become? Catholic. We don’t go to church with our friends, we go to church with our family.
We don’t like all of them. But we’re related. And we’re called to love each other. I can’t be in relationship with God and not be in relationship with others, because immediately when I entered into a covenant with Him (entered His family), we have Jesus’ Father, God the Father is Jesus’ father, then He’s got to be my Father too. And if Jesus’ mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, is his mother then she’s got to be my mother, also. And I’ve got to honor my mother. It’s the fourth commandment. This is eternal life—that they would know (yada) You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You sent.
So that’s a sentence from Jesus. I’d like to take a look at 1 Timothy chapter 2, verses 3 and four. First Timothy two, three and four.
It’s for Everybody
“This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”
This is something that I find very interesting, in the Scriptures. So it says that God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. Who does God want to be saved? Everybody. But by that meaning all Catholics, right? So it says, that God desires all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. So, we can’t just sit back and say, “well, this is something just for us as Catholics, kind of like a tribal religion.” This is, from the earliest of times the Church understood this to be a universal religion.
It’s for everybody. In fact, that’s what the word Catholic means; to be universal. It’s open to everybody. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You sent and God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. So it’s for everybody.
Now, is that like everybody? Because the world is really big. There’s a lot of Catholics; there’s like a billion of us, right? But there are like seven billion people on Earth. So there’s still a lot of people who don’t know that Jesus is God. But here’s the challenge about the seven billion people: You know what they’re doing every single day? They die. And new ones are born. So it’s a moving target. Here’s the challenge: If you’ve got a catechism, my favorite index item in the catechism if you look up reincarnation, I love the little index on reincarnation, cause you look up, see ‘reincarnation’, it just says ‘no.’ We just don’t believe in reincarnation. So here’s the deal, you don’t a Mulligan.
God desires that everyone, that all men, would come to the knowledge of truth, and they’re not going to live forever and they don’t live again. They’ve got one lifetime. And we don’t know how long it is. Some people die when they’re little. Some people live a long time, I don’t know but we’ve got to hurry! But you know what, we can’t have like a 500 year plan because guess what? 500 years from now, everybody’s dead—that’s alive now. And a whole other group of people are alive. So we’ve got to be agile. We’ve got to be quick. You want to set the world on fire, it’s got to be a pretty intense fire because it’s got to burn all the way around the world in one lifetime.
Because God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. And we already know what saved is—this is eternal life, that they may know the only God. So God desires that everybody would know Him, would be in covenant with Him and Jesus Christ. That’s a marching order and we can’t have any solution that says “eh. We’ll take 2, 3, 400 years.” Because we don’t believe in reincarnation.
So what does that leave us? How are we going to do this? What are we going to do? How do we set the world on fire?
No Other Name
Here’s the third sentence: Acts chapter four verse 12. “There is no other name given to men by which they must be saved than the name of Jesus.” There is no other name given to man by which they must be saved than the name of Jesus. Jesus is the savior of the world.
But Gandhi was good, he was a religious figure. He was a good guy in a lot of ways and he has a lot of good things to say and we should listen to what he says and if it’s true then we should embrace that. But Gandhi never died for your sins. Gandhi never even claimed to be a savior. What about Buddha? Never claimed that. What about Mohammed? Never claimed that. Moses? Never claimed that. Jesus Christ came on Earth and said stuff like this, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father buy by me.” I mean, that’s a wild comment.
What if, like you know I got an invitation to come to Benedictine College and I cam up here and I said, “I just want to tell you one little thing about me: ya’ll, I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me, Curtis.” I mean, you might laugh at me, if I was really serious you might thrown something at me. If I was really serious, you might kill me-oops! That’s what they did.
The world of Jesus’ time heard the claims and they didn’t like what they heard. They were wild claims but here’s the deal: they rejected the claims and killed him and what did he do? He rose back from the dead. If you can back up a statement like that with a resurrection, I think we’ve got to take a second look at the claim. That’s kind of a big deal.
So we’ve got the only person on Earth –now look, you can sit back and say, “well, Jesus rising from the dead is not that big of deal. I mean, think about it, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. That’s true. But Lazarus died again. How’d you like to go to a funeral again for the second time for the same person? When Jesus rose from the dead, there’s no other death—that It, lives forever, he becomes a life-giving Spirit, we’re told in First Corinthians.
Not only is he raised from the dead, but those who were in contact with him are raised from the dead, too. Sometimes we think, “Oh you know, yeah I’ve believed that since I was a kid.” Realize that most of the people on Earth, most of the people in the history of the world, never believed this. We’re actually weird. You know what makes us really weird? That we actually believe this and live just like everybody else. That’s really weird. We believe that there’s a heaven and a hell that lasts forever, and we live just like people who don’t believe that there’s a Heaven and a Hell that lasts forever. What if we miss? And to have a sense of ‘oh my goodness’.
The Sentences Are From …
Now why do I share these three sentences with you? They’re just three verses out of the Bible, right? What does it matter? Where-why Curtis? Why? You know why I shared them with you?
Because they’re the first three sentences in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The first three sentences! The Catechism of the Catholic Church as 2,865 articles in it. 2865 articles that tell us what we believe as Catholics. So we have a deeper understanding of what we believe as Catholics. It’s awesome. I would argue it’s one of the most beautiful books ever written by mankind. It was written by God with mankind’s assisted authorship, but the most-it’s unbelievable, spectacular. 2, 865 articles and before we get into the body they have a little thing they call the prologue which tells us why they wrote the catechism. And before you get into the prologue they have three sentences that tell you why they wrote the prologue and why you should become Catholic.
And they are that eternal life is relational, it’s for everyone, and it’s found in the person of Jesus Christ. And then we learn what the Catholic Church teaches. And I wanted to share those three sentences with you because I’d like to read the next sentence in the catechism. I’d like to read that to you, and spend a little time with you on that. I think that this is the issue and this is the key.
With the foundational knowledge which we have that eternal life is relational, it’s for everyone, and that Jesus is the key, we read the very first article of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I love this sentence. It says this: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man to make him share His own blessed life.
The first three sentences weren’t even an article; they were just ahead of everything. This is why Catholicism matters. The first statement is a statement about God. God who is infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself.
Do you know how awesome that is? Do you think everybody believes that? No. In fact, I would argue that even many Catholic don’t believe that. That the world has spent from the beginning of time when Lucifer, when Satan first walked into the garden and said “Did God really say …” he was questioning God’s goodness.
And the Catechism starts out, plants the flag and says God, who is infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man so that we could share in His blessed life.
You say, well you know, there’s a lot of atheists in the world. I love going to college campuses. FOCUS serves on—we have campus teams right now, serving a little over 60 campuses, and I love going on college campuses. There’s so many reasons I love going on college campuses.
One of my favorite groups to meet with when I go on college campuses—I love the atheists. I just love the atheists. To me, it’s so much fun that there’s a club for atheists. Think about it. Really, think about it. Are there clubs for people who don’t believe in unicorns? Why would there be a club to not believe in unicorns? There’s no such thing as unicorns. Is there a club that doesn’t believe in anything else? No.
But you’ve got to get a club together and practice and get organized if you’re going to try to not believe in God. Why?
Because everything points towards the fact that there’s a God. You’ve got to work really-In fact, if you talk to an atheist—I love to talk to atheists. “Oh there’s no such thing as God. There’s no God. “ Oh really. Ok. So why don’t you believe in God? “Well, look at how broken the world is. It’s battered. There’s bad stuff going on the world!” And they start to get angry. And you’re like, why are you angry? Who are you angry with? I mean, if it’s just evolution then there’s no such thing as God; it’s just radical atheistic evolution, then might makes right. Don’t get upset if you’re not the strong one—that’s just how the game is played.
But they try real hard to be atheists, but they’re not really atheists, they actually believe in God; they just don’t like the God they believe in. And I’ll bet you, if you scratch the—I have a little bit of this in me too. Because the fact of the matter is, I live my life as a Catholic and sometime I just think “Oh come on! It’s not really worth the hassle! I mean, I believe all of this stuff; yeah, Jesus is God and there’s a Heaven and hell, but really can I just get on with my life and do what I want to do today? Does it really matter?”
We live in a world where the television celebrities of our world will sit down and they’ll have meaningful conversations with you on television. They do these interviews and they’re so sympathetic and they sit back and they say, “I just want you to know that no matter what you believe or what you’ve done I could never think less of you.” And it sounds so loving, until you realize that what they’re really saying is, “I couldn’t possibly think less of you. I just don’t care. I just don’t care. So tell me whatever you want.”
But Jesus Christ is exactly the opposite. He says, “Everything you do makes all the difference in the world. I not only care what you do, I care what you think. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes you do and think the wrong things, but I want you to know that more than I care about anything you do or anything you think what I really, really care about is you. And so even when you think the wrong things and do the wrong things I still care about you and I want to wipe the slate clean because you matter so much more than anything you’ve done. You matter so much more. And because of that, everything you do and everything you think makes all the difference because I couldn’t possibly think more of you.”
Love Is God’s Surprise
That’s the good news. Not that God is standing back and all-powerful and all-holy and pretty ticked off, which is what the world thinks, but that God is all-holy and all-powerful and absolutely crazy, mad in love with you. He’s also all-good. And we have to recognize that as long as we let the world make the accusations that God is either on vacation or not a good guy, and so we might as well eat, drink and be merry and do whatever we want—as long as we let that argument be made, then we’re going to find a culture that just is a sausage grinder of young lives. You know where you’re going to find that sausage grinder the most active? Where young lives are just ripped limb from limb, spiritually speaking? You’re going to find it on college campuses. Where people who just a couple of months before, a couple of years before were living at home with parents that love them, never wanted them to hurt themselves.
Now I know things are much better here; that’s why I’m here. No people say, “Oh, Curtis, you’re going to go to Benedictine College? You’re going to preach to the choir.” Absolutely. Because the choir comes to Church. And we’ve got to get the people who get it to really get it. If you want to light a fire that burns across the world, don’t go to where it’s already cold. Go where it’s already hot. I can’t think of a better place to be. Maybe a Carmelite convent. Thank God for those who have dedicated their lives to prayer.
The wonderful Benedictines throughout the world who are dedicated to prayer. But the two patrons of mission in the Church are St. Thérѐse, a cloistered Carmelite, who never went anywhere but stayed in a little house and prayed for the world, and St. Francis Xavier who travelled the world proclaiming Christ. They’re the co-patrons of mission. You can pick whichever you want cloister, monastery, or you can go on mission. Both are good choices. But to have a sense of ‘this is what it’s all about’ to live in such a way that if I became what I was meant to be, then I would set the world on fire.
And how do we do that? How do we live in such a way as to set the world on fire and to recognize that really, everything matters. Do you realize that God willed you to be here, right now. Not only right here and right now like at Benedictine College tonight, but in this culture, in this time he willed you in all the specifics in the generalities to be here at a moment.
At the Vatican
So let me share with you what happened a week and a half ago. I had a chance to go to the Vatican and meet with Pope Benedict. My wife and I went, and a couple of other associates from FOCUS went, and we hear the church appealing with renewed energy that we have to be an evangelizing people. We’ve got to live in such a way as though this is what matters. This is what matters. We have to recognize that all of the shiny stuff and all of the fun trinkets and toys are all good but they can be terribly distracting and here’s the problem: If God put you here for a reason, then no one’s going to do what you’ve been called to do if you don’t do it. He has no backup plan for you. Do you think there was a backup plan for Jesus? Jesus one day says, “That whole cross thing? I don’t want to do it.” Was there a backup plan—Jesus 2? Well you can say, “Curtis, that’s crazy. He was God.” But say the Blessed Virgin Mary, was there a backup plan? The angel comes to her and says “He wants you to the mother of our Lord.” And she says, “Nah, thought about it, and that just seems very inconvenient.” Think there was a Mary 2? If there’s no Jesus 2 and Mary 2 why do you think there’s a You2? Well, there is a U2, but it’s a whole different thing. That’s a band; we’re talking about you.
There’s no backup plan for you. The world is waiting for you to become as God intended you to be from the foundations of the world. Why do you think the devil hates you so much? I mean, he hates everybody, but he really hates you. He’s got it all, all out for you—just can’t stand you.
I don’t know what it is, but for example, the entire Christian church—all the Protestants, all the Catholics—for 1930 years all of them were totally, totally committed to life. Contraception was wrong and all of them agreed. All of the Jews also all agreed. 1930, some of the first Christians said, “Maybe in some cases of emergency contraception will be okay.” And within weeks, months the culture had changed. The “emergency clause” was gone, and contraception became the norm of the land. In fact, it was illegal and condemned by all Christians, and in the United States, it was illegal here until the 1960s. And then, all of a sudden court case! It’s now legal and guess what? Now, if things go the way they’re going, it’s going to become a fundamental human right to contracept. What was once condemned and evil has become a fundamental right. Why? Because the Devil is really freaked out that there will be more of you conceived.
You don’t believe that? What happened to the ones who were conceived? The greatest Holocaust in the history of the world. One out of every three babies ripped from the womb. Destroyed. Why? Because the Devil is freaked out by you. Because he knows what’s true, to the people that St. Catherine of Sienna was first speaking to was more true of you than it was of them. If you were to become what you were meant to be, you would set the world on fire. He knows that. He just doesn’t want you to know that.
And so what has he done? He’s piled trinkets and toys and more stuff—he’s the king of this world, you know. Jesus is not the king of this world. When Jesus came and the Devil tempted Him and said, “I’ll give you all the kingdoms” Jesus didn’t say “What are you talking about? They’re already mine.” No. There was a bad bet that the devil won, called original sin, and we live in enemy territory. But we’ve been called to be part of the resistance movement. To be those who would sit back and say, “I’m going to be loyal to the true King. Not the temporary king of this world, but the true King.”
And so let’s say you were lucky enough to be born. Well then, what happens? Well, you’ve been born into a culture that has had a breakdown of the family like never before. You’ve been brought into a culture filled with drugs and pornography, every possible distraction both amoral and immoral, all to get you off your game. Oh, but you don’t understand—I really like Xbox 7 or whatever the newest gadget is. Again, is there anything wrong with Xbox 7? No, because it gets you to have really strong thumbs. And that’s good. But it’s not that good. And if you’re distracted, then it becomes a bad thing.
So he’s just heaped one obstacle after another. And what’s happened? What happened? Do you think God has given up? Oh no, God hasn’t given up. God’s going to birddog you all the way back. He’s going to be after you, He’s going to encourage you, He’s going to draw you back. He’s the hound from Heaven. He hasn’t given up on you. It’s not going to happen. He comes after you. And look what’s happened. I’ve been in this church on a couple of different occasions in the past few years when I’ve heard priests say, “This is the largest gathering of people that have ever been here.”
Look at what’s going on at Benedictine College. People all over the country are talking about what’s going on at Benedictine College.
I shared with the leaders earlier tonight, I was with a gathering of people in Arizona just last week, people who are very concerned about the culture, and they said, “We’ve been trying to invest money”—and these are very wealthy people—“hundreds of millions of dollars into fixing stuff and everything seems to be broken and no matter what we do to fix things we just seem to be paying more money for more broken stuff. Is there anything that ever gets fixed? “ One of the other people in the room said, “have you ever heard about Benedictine College? Because you had a college there and it wasn’t broken, but it was struggling. Enrollment was down, clarity of vision was down, it wasn’t Benedictine’s problem–they were actually doing better than most—the whole culture was down. And then all of a sudden something happened here that, other than Franciscan University of Steubenville, I’m not sure it’s happened anywhere else. And it was that planting of the flag. We will stand for Jesus Christ. And things changed.
Enrollment’s gone up, I think every year. It’s certainly gone up consistently over the years. The vibrancy and the vitality. But it’s not so that you can be comfortable at Benedictine, because what would that be? It would be a giant, Benedictine Jacuzzi. And we’re not made for Jacuzzis. Jacuzzis are kind of like the Mount of Transfiguration; it’s nice that we’re here, but we can’t build tents and live there. So we’ve got to get off, climb off the mountain, hop out of the Jacuzzi and say right now, you’re going to launch. “You mean I have to leave Benedictine?” “No, you’re going to leave Benedictine. It’s called graduation. It’s going to happen in another three or four or five or six years. But it’s going to happen. And when you go, are you going to go with a sense of “that was great” or “now I’m ready”? Because you need to leave with an attitude of “now you’re ready. I had an experience at Benedictine College that changed my life not so that I had a changed life but so that I became a life changer.”
Do you know that there are going to be people in your life who are going to make all the difference? Maybe your favorite teacher, maybe your mom or dad, hopefully your mom and your dad. Maybe it was a coach. Maybe it was a roommate in college. I don’t know who it was, somebody who has spoken into your life and you sit back and say, “wow. That person left an impact in my life that will ripple into eternity.” You’re not supposed to be a person who has people like in their life. You’ve been called by God to be the kind of person who has that kind of impact in other people’s lives. They’re waiting for you. Not as many on this campus as used to be, although they’re here. They’re here tonight in this church. And they’re here on this campus. But they’re all over the culture. They’re all over the culture. And so my hope, my prayer is that we see that the great things that have been happening for many years since Fr. Matthew came here and the Pro-Life Ravens Respect Life group began to take off and the Knights of Columbus and so many other things, now Community and Liberation, CL, all kinds of great things going on. It’s awesome. And FOCUS is so pleased to be part of that, but that we recognize this is nothing but a great start.
Why do I know it’s just a great start? Because the world isn’t on fire yet. But things are changing.
My last thought, and then I’d like to take some questions, is I just want to encourage you to not let your past dictate your future. Do not, please do not, let your past dictate your future. Either personally—“Oh, you don’t know what I’ve done, I made some bad decisions.” That’s ok. Christ can forgive anything and has forgiven everything. But what I mean by that is something more and more cultural. To sit back and say, “well, actually, most of the kids I grew up going to church with, they’re actually not practicing their faith anymore. And actually, a lot of their families aren’t practicing their faith anymore, and the Catholic Church—I don’t know if you’ve been reading the headlines, but it hasn’t been a good decade for the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church seems to be shrinking. Maybe even, some say, dying.”
Don’t let your experience of the past shape your understanding of the future. The Catholic Church has done something very unusual in your lifetime. It has been pruned and shrunk in some ways. But don’t think that that’s the direction it’s going to take for the rest of your life. After pruning comes new growth. You know the Catholic Church never does..there’s not a single century that the Catholic Church has done this. The Catholic Church has never shrunk for a century. Even in the year of the Protestant Reformation, when nine million people left the Catholic Church in Europe, you know what happened in the same ten year period of time? Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico and nine million people entered the Catholic Church. In the same decade. The Church doesn’t shrink. But it has temporarily, so that it can experience an unbelievable explosion of growth in the next part of your lifetime.
I don’t get that from the newspapers. I get that from the Holy Father. And he wants you—I love the Holy Father but forget the holy father for a second—Jesus wants you. He’s placed you. I’m going to get quoted, I know, “Founder of FOCUS said forget the holy father.” I’m hoping for good media. But Jesus wants you. In fact, he’s place you here and now so that you would drink deeply of what it means to be a Catholic in a Benedictine environment. So that as Benedict I, the Great, the Saint Benedict evangelized his culture and changed the world he knew, that you would ride on his coattails and do the same. I don’t think we’re alone. It’s very clear that Pope Benedict XVI took his name for the same reason: because he viewed that now is the time to call for a calling forth of the Church out of the Dark Ages so that darkness wouldn’t prevail, but light would shine. And you, you’re a light of the world.
So go set the world on fire.