for the New Millennium
First 2,000 Years
issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
by Judy Ball
of us marked the arrival of the new millennium in some memorable way.
For some of us, such a moment in history called for bells, balloons
and hoopla far beyond the usual. For others, a quiet, reflective,
prayerful observance seemed appropriate. But more important than how
we may have marked the start of the year 2000 is what the Jubilee
Year will mean to us over time: the fresh energies we bring to it,
the resolve to change the course of our lives and of our society,
the renewed sense of spirituality we experience.
spoke with several prominent Catholics about their hopes at the dawn
of the 21st century and the new millennium. They express their hopes
looking through different lensesparish life, personal transformation,
the role of the Church. Clearly, they have enough hopes to carry them
through Jubilee Year 2000 and beyond into the next 1,000 years of
Mitch and Kathy Finley, the
Jubilee Year is a natural time to look back and to look ahead.
Married 25 years and with three grown sons in various stages of leaving
home, they see this as a time "to focus our vision on a broader scale,
like the view you get from up in an airplane." Such an aerial view
helps them get the bigger picture. For them, that includes a growing
awareness of the gap between "the haves and the have nots" as well
as the challenge of living simply in a society that keeps saying,
"The larger perspective
that the new millennium gives us," says Kathy, "offers us a chance
to take stock and realize that we can't continue to consume and squander
the earth's resources and that our life-styles and spirituality have
to shift." She and her husband see in the Jubilee Year an opportunity
to deepen their awareness of the choices they make each day. For them,
the year is likely to bring minor rather than major changes.
Mitch is the author
of 30 books, including The Catholic Virtues: Seven Pillars for
a Good Life (Liguori); Kathy is a freelance speaker and writer
who teaches and directs a parish marriage preparation program and
is an adjunct instructor in Gonzaga University's Religious Studies
program. For both of them, now in their early 50's, their parish of
St. Ann's in Spokane, Washington, is the natural starting point of
their hopes for the third millennium.
That is because
they believe the parish is where Catholics bring their most heartfelt
hopes and concerns, whether they be about relationships, marriage
and family; work and time pressures; the prevalence of violence; the
impact of the media and technology on values; the desire to address
pressing social justice issues. Mitch and Kathy believe the parish
must be prepared to respond to such fundamental concerns.
The thriving parish
of the third millennium, the Finleys believe, needs priests and lay
ministers who appreciate the family dimension in every part of parish
life. This includes homilies that speak to members of the congregation
not as isolated individuals but as members of various kinds of families.
The parish council must make a priority of nourishing and supporting
marriages and families. The same holds true for religious education
programs for adults, because learning about and growing in understanding
faith are best linked "to people's most deeply felt life experiences."
Likewise, youth ministry programs must nourish teen-parent relationships
in an explicit faith context. The parish's vocational efforts must
be family-centered, because most healthy vocations are rooted in "faith-filled
The Finleys hold
out the hope that liturgies, homilies and adult religious education
programs in their ideal parish show a respect for the "unique, complementary
and equally valuable characteristics" of both masculine and feminine
spiritualities and approaches to being Catholic. They also seek some
focus on the place that work has in the life of faith and in a healthy
invitation from God
Marie Chin, R.S.M., about her hopes for the new millennium,
and the president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas focuses
on the opportunity it offers for change rooted in the heart, for a
deep conversion and turning to God. One of the most powerful currents
running through the Jubilee tradition, she believes, is the theme
of "the transformative power of God at work, reshaping our hearts,
restoring our world."
Though the world
of the 21st century is filled with changes at every turn, Jesus calls
us to a different kind of newness. It is a newness, says Sister Marie,
which looks at "the human event as a divine experience." It is only
with eyes firmly fixed on God, she believes, that such deep-seated
change becomes possible. Sometimes it takes a jolttimes of disillusionment
and doubt, of betrayal and misunderstandingsbefore we hear God's
invitation to draw us closer. Other times, we seek out God in times
of retreat or choose to live in places of poverty or hardship. It
is at such timeswhen we allow God to take center stagethat something
happens to our hearts.
"As difficult as
it is, we must gain possession of our heart in order to be able to
give it," Sister Marie believes. "For this reason God lures us into
the desert, there to reclaim our hearts,...hearts that are willing
to be seared and made tender by the fiery touch of God's presence."
The Jubilee reminds us that we need not be afraid "to enter the wilderness,
for it is the Spirit's own home. It is the Spirit realm where we connect,
develop more consciousness, regenerate faith, hope, love."
The new hearts with
which we are invited to live the spirituality of Jubilee represent
"another chance, another opportunity to reframe our lives, to start
again." They represent an invitation to love tenderly and act justly
as men and women of mercy and compassion. "With our world rife with
hungry, homeless and hopeless people," says Sister Marie, "we cannot
help but see the suffering around us. This is the suffering we should
embrace: It is wrong to ignore it and to live as if it does not exist...
"When the stream
of mercy flows through our lives, our homes, our faith communities,
our institutions, they will become a place where connections are made
between faith and justice, between loving the world and hating its
incredible imbalance, carnage and cruelty....When the spirit of mercy
takes hold of us, we will passionately want to create space in which
people can grow humanly together, and where human events are changed
into experiences of God."
The arrival of the
new millennium brings with it the invitation to men and women to "participate
in God's enveloping mercy and creative acts" and to see our everyday
lives as the staging ground for the "crucially spiritual issues" of
love, generosity and compassion. The invitation has been extended
to bring God's merciful presence to the world in a new way in the
role of the Church
Francis E. George, O.M.I., looks at the Church of the 21st
century as unchanged in its fundamental role as the Body of Christ:
The Church will continue to offer the salvation that comes through
Christ to everybody in the world. But, Cardinal George suggests, more
attention needs to be paid to how the Church operates in the world,
with less emphasis on its role as "moral teacher" and more on its
role as "a network of relationships that makes us holy" and transforms
"We have to emphasize
the vision that is ours" rather than stressing the Church as the teacher
of morality, Cardinal George believes. "Faith offers us a way of seeing
things, but we have to be more creative in how we lead people to see.
We need more artists, more playwrightspeople of imagination who can
engage the culture." The old ways of evangelization are no longer
sufficient. New ways must be found to make sure that the Church's
voice is heard, says the cardinal, a member of the Vatican's Congregation
for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Propelling the need
for this change is the new reality of globalization. While it may
come as a shock to many white, English-speaking Catholics, they are
the minority within the global Church, notes Cardinal George. American
Catholics often need to be reminded "who is the majority and who is
the minority" because they still tend to see the Church in the context
of their country alone. But "the Church doesn't stop at the borders,"
he warns. Ours is not a national Church, but not everyone has "caught
the sense of universal communion, the visible relationship to one
predicts that Americans will likely be the last to appreciate the
need for change in our increasingly global society. Americans' idea
of globalization is "everybody being like us." But it is Americans
who are going to become more like everybody else as the new "world
culture" emerges. That is why Pope John Paul II, in preparation for
the new millennium, convened continental synods of bishops: to move
Church thinking beyond individual cultures toward a world culture.
In addition, the
conversation between Christianity and Islam is crucial. Though only
in the beginning stages, the dialogue will ultimately determine "what
the globe will look like a century from now." Cardinal George sees
that dialogue as "the most significant for the future of the human
race." Such are the challenges facing the Church in the on-line, high-tech
world of the 21st century. Leading people to Jesus Christ, helping
them come to know who he is, always requires serious dialogue between
faith and culture.
is hopeful that Jubilee 2000 offers the prospect of "a new beginning,
a springtime for the gospel"for himself as the archbishop of Chicago,
for his flock and for all believers and would-be believers. "I see
this as a moment of cleansing and restoration, with an emphasis on
forgiveness as we ourselves are forgiven. I see this as a moment when
new relationships are being bornall to put us in deeper contact with
At the dawn of the
new millennium, Cardinal George believes, the Church is being challenged
to be true to the vision of Church that emerged at Vatican II: engaged
in the world, transforming the world rather than "fitting in" to it,
extending the universal call to holiness. The Jubilee Year, he believes,
invites us to embrace a vision "that is truly global."
In his apostolic
letter On the Coming Third Millennium Pope John Paul II proclaimed
that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and always. Now, as
we begin the next 1,000 years of Christian history, the words of the
Holy Father take on a new and deeper meaning: The 2,000 years which
have passed since the birth of Christ represent an extraordinarily
great Jubilee, not only for Christians but also indirectly for the
whole of humanity. What lies before us now is a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity "to reconfirm our faith, sustain our hope and rekindle
our charity" (#31).
Ball is managing editor of Millennium
Monthly and of AmericanCatholic.org,
Web site of St. Anthony Messenger Press.