I want to thank Frank Wessling for his invitation to share our thoughts on a “post-Christian” era, which was issued on the Opinions page of The Catholic Messenger on April 23.
I was fortunate to live and work for the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris in the 1970s. I can attest to the fact that the Cathedral of Notre Dame often seemed more like a museum than a sacred space. Tourists constantly drifted in and out and among the side chapels with cameras whirring and greatly outnumbered worshipers in the central nave. Completed over 700 years ago, it was a Catholic city of God in the springtime of our faith.
Western Christendom has since shattered into thousands of denominations. Scientists and entrepreneurs have become the high priests of our current civilization. But can the spirit be measured in numbers? Many great movements have begun or been carried forward by the few. I sometimes think of modern Roman Catholicism as a kind of impoverished aristocracy. We continue clinging to the land because we know it will endure and give us life even though many of our neighbors have vanished in order to pursue other things. This is no excuse to look down on anyone.
But we do need to look both ahead and behind us and acknowledge the apostolic tradition and truth of our faith. And that spirit remains as alive today in the little jewel of St. Mary’s Church in Nichols, Iowa, as in the great Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.