Revelation in Our Age
Historians label every age. We can thank them for the Dark Ages, Middle Ages, the Age of Reason, and the Industrial Age. And, like the Greeks who created an altar To an Unknown God (Acts 17:23), they even labeled the age predating recorded history, the Prehistoric Age.
The Age of Disbelief
Now, think forward. Two hundred years from now, what will historians label our age? Many of our contemporaries think of it as Modern; some, as Post-Modern; and others, as the Information Age. But the title of a book written by Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) labels our age best. It assesses both our faith and our mission: Handing on the Faith in an Age of Disbelief.
In this Age of Disbelief, the currents of secularism dominate our culture and, unquestionably, damage a person’s faith. Published in May 2015, a survey by the Pew Research Center (1) measured that damage. Between 2007 and 2014, Pew found a 7.8% drop in the membership of Christian religions (Catholicism: 3.1%). Did we lose members to non-Christian religions? Yes, but minimally. Most former members simply chose…nothing. Pew recorded a gain (6.7%) in the Unaffiliated category, comprised of people with no religion (expressed as “nothing”) and of either atheists or agnostics.
Did the Nothings make a deliberate choice?
In the 1940s, Gretta Palmer, a war correspondent and editor/writer for New Yorker and Look magazines, grew disillusioned in war. She wondered, “How can we change the heart of man, so that he longs for unity and peace?” (2). Essentially an atheist, Palmer sought the answer in sociology and psychiatry, and in a swami of the Vedanta religion. She admitted in her testimonial, “I did not know it, but when I started seeking a new truth, I began my search for God.” (3).
And then, in 1947, Look magazine assigned her, providentially, to interview Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He turned down the interview, but met to discuss her faith. Within six months, she converted, explaining it this way:
“I became a Catholic because I was looking for the truth, and I had found it. It is that simple. I had found the strange and very wonderful key to all the problems that had bewildered me” (4).
Palmer pursued truth and found it in God’s Revelation and in the Church. According to her, “[N]obody ever left the Church because the best in him could not find fulfillment there” (5). Her experience dispels the idea that the Nothings of the Pew study left the Church for a lack of truth. More likely, they stopped their pursuit.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried” (6).
Although the Church encounters great challenges in transmitting the deposit of faith in this Age of Disbelief, man is always attracted to what is true, good, and beautiful. His “final and perfect happiness [is] the vision of the Divine Essence” (7). But unless we continue our pursuit, unless we try “the Christian ideal”, the thorns of secularism will choke out the seeds of God’s word (Matt 13:7). They will block out the light of truth, and our faith will wither.
Be a non-conformist!
Revelation is ever new. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). But the prevailing currents of our age require our active, engaged pursuit. St. Paul’s admonition two thousand years ago speaks to us with striking relevance:
“Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Open yourself up to God’s Revelation and “make the truth [your] own through faith”! (8).
How would you label our age, and why?
1. Pew Research Center, America’s Changing Religious Landscape, May 12, 2015
2. The Road to Damascus, Ed. John O’Brien, 35
3. Ibid, 41
4. Ibid, 46
5. Ibid, 47
6. As I Was Saying: A Chesterton Reader, Ed. Robert Knille, 271
7. Summa of the Summa, Kreeft, 381
8. Prayer in Practice, Romano Guardini, 137