Traces N.3, March 1999

Being.... or Nothing!

"Christianity is over." This is the opinion of some of the most accredited laicist commentators hosted on the pages of the major Italian dailies.
Yes, they retain that the Christian experience has reached the end of the road and, having lost its original thrust and that hateful presumption of bringing the world the announcement of the truth, is ready to change into something else. There are those who say that now that all the ideologies that held society together are finished, Christianity will become a sort of civil religion for the western world, and there are those who consider it now no more than a rich deposit from which to draw useful guidelines regarding individual or collective morals.
Either way what we would see taking shape is a Christianity without faith, without any actual experience of the exceptional, and with a Christ reduced to the image of a brilliant founder of a moral philosophy or a suggestive personality of the past. All in all, a superficial Christianity, an appearance of reality, something "beyond the clouds."

There are two questions to be asked: Is it really true that the faith has disappeared? So why do the gurus of the front pages get so excited about the fate of Christianity?
We suggest two answers.
More than ever before the somber question of Jesus in the gospel appears in all its relevance, "When the Son of man returns, will He still find faith on earth?" It's true, even today a man who holds the Catholic faith has to fight against all sorts of external attacks and against a host of underhanded misinterpretation even from within, in other words from those who should be teachers of the faith. But Christ himself has laid down the definitive terms for His presence in the world and in history, and hence of His claim: "Where two or three meet in my name…."

This people, continuously generated, that recognizes itself united by the discovery of the humanly exceptional presence of Christ, is a phenomenon that probably escapes the so-called observers. But it is a fact even today, statistically tiny perhaps, but real: an "ethnic entity sui generis," in the words of Paul VI. Even at the beginning it was tiny.
Faith does not coincide with the sociological bounds of a subjective phenomenon, and not even with those most volatile aims of a presumed morality observed by a person or a group. Faith is all risked in that moment that St. Peter lived and, after him and just like him, men and women of every age have lived right down to our own day: "Yes, Lord, you know I love you."
With a heart brimming with contradictions and with our life today blemished as it was two thousand years ago, there are those who recognize in that exceptional Man something that evidently merits esteem and fulfills every desire.

N.B.: As regards the curiosity of Christianity: Could it not be that those cultured professorial observers experience, precisely in the moment they presume to block it, a nostalgia-infinite like that of every modern man-for an event, a face, of whose exceptional nature the stirring figure of this Pope is a tenacious sign? And perhaps they fail to take note of this out of preconception.