Saturday, 13 July 2013

The New Evangelization of Canada

The same must be said for Canada. The first Christians to come to North America were Catholics. Arguably the first Canadian civilization fashioned by the French along with many of the First Peoples was in the Catholic communities in Acadia and Quebec.

So where does the Anglican and Protestant influence come in? With regard to the role of Protestantism Father Nichols explains:

"Protestantism was central to the attempt to remake English identity under Elizabeth Tudor; to the reaction against the Catholicizing tendencies of the Stuarts after the Restoration of the monarchy; and to the project of welding England and Scotland together as a united “Britain” over and against France, after the union of Parliaments at the beginning of the 18th century."

But the almost 1,000 years of Catholic Christianity that preceded any of that are responsible for the origins of the English literary imagination, for the principles of the common law, for the concept of a covenanted people under God which permeates the induction of a sovereign, and for the range of virtues which have been commended -- and sometimes practiced -- in English culture and society. 

What the faith of the Catholic Church can offer today is an intellectual, moral, and imaginative framework for the salvaging of these virtues, and their re-energizing by sacramental grace." 

The 'Protestant Principle' did indeed influence the formation of Canada as a country in the Western tradition of common law and parliamentary responsible government.  This influence was based, however, on the foundation laid over a millenium by the metaphysical principle of English Catholicism up to and including the 15th and 16th century exploration of the 'New World'.
Fr. Nichols goes on to explain why the current mixture of Catholic demographics within the UK and, by extension, other Western countries poises Catholicism to transform culture. 
" The example of the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England shows the efficacy of a missionary scheme that combines representatives of the indigenous population with canny outsiders. 

To convert or re-convert a culture one needs both the long, instinctive familiarity of the native, along with the more detached and objective critical gaze of the newcomer. 

In contemporary English Catholicism, there is a “native” community consisting of the descendants of recusants, converts and the anglicized Irish, along with a potpourri of recent, or fairly recent, immigrants from many parts of the world. 
As a reservoir for mission, that recreates the successful Dark Age formula." 

Think now of the Catholic Church in Canada as opposed to Protestant and other bodies and their varying and changing positions on the issues of the day.  
During the  years between 1845 and 1960 a number of Britain's leading artists, intellectuals and public figures became Catholic (Newman, Manning, Knox, Chesterton, Waugh etc.). Asked  what can be done to attract similar conversions
Father Nichols says: 
" The remarkable number of conversions of major or relatively major figures in the period . . .  is to be explained by their common perception of Catholicism as a presentation of truth, goodness, and beauty that was at once a powerful philosophy, a comprehensive ethic, and a vision of spiritual delight. 

. . . .  'So where does that leave truth?' -- echoing of fashionable human rights discourse -- 'So where does that leave goodness, at any rate in terms of a comprehensive ethic?' -- and liturgical banality -- 'So where does that leave beauty and spiritual delight?'

What the Church can do today is to reform herself by repeating like a mantra the words “only the best will do”: the best intellectually, morally, aesthetically." 

As in the UK, Catholics in Canada need to focus on the essentials for the new  evangelization to be effective. Father Nichols insists:

 " The single most urgent need is the re-launching of an adequate doctrinal catechesis at all levels [in light of the relativism purveyed by liberal Protestantism and the secular media]. Putting anything else first is like trying to make bricks without straw." 

Father Nichols goes on to outline three  possible responses to the growth of modern Arianism, Islamization and secularism. Paraphrased and adapted to the Canadian situation here is the gist of what we might take from his analysis of the parallel situation in the UK.
The possible responses are:
1) The first is communitarianism, which allows each faith-community (or non-faith community) its own version of public square, and seems to be the road along which many Anglicans, Protestants and some secularists would travel. 

He says, however, that communitarianism means the (further) inner disintegration of the Western cultural system. 

2) The second is a secular liberalism that would privatize religious aspiration in order to leave the public square clear of all religious claims. 

But that means the increasing exhaustion of the moral capital of the historic patrimony of the culture, the shrinking of the metaphysical imagination in public life and a declaration that agnosticism is now the religion of the State. 

3) The third is a recovery of the Judeo-Christian tradition as what is most foundationally form-giving in Western society and culture, while allowing that, on grounds of conscience, there are individuals and groups who cannot make that tradition fully their own. 
Fr. Nichols has set out a theological basis for the new evangelization in the West. His insights are critical to focussed and extensive re-evangelization in the UK, Canada, the USA, Australia, NZ and other societies built upon the foundation of Western Catholic Christianity.

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