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The Bishop Writes

Faith in the Western World


Have we lost our way?


In October I went to China.  Not as a tourist but as a visitor.  I have been invited to visit the Catholic Church there.  China may still be a communist country and a one party state but the Catholic Church in China, despite many difficulties and hardships, is growing.  It is a similar story throughout the world; the Church is growing and flourishing in Asia, Africa, South America, Eastern Europe - everywhere, it seems, apart from Western Europe, North America and Australasia.


The countries of the prosperous First World see less and less need for God.  Those who practise religion of any sort are increasingly regarded as oddities.  We should know for we live in such a country.


The years of atheistic communist rule have not snuffed out the flame of religious faith in China; the endemic poverty which afflicts so many in Africa has not impoverished the religious fervour; the financial growth and material prosperity of South Korea has not stunted the growth of religion, for the Catholic Church is prospering there.


There are some who describe Western Europe’s faith as being tired - lacking the youth and enthusiasm of countries where the seed of faith has been more recently planted.


Certainly it does seem to have lost its way.  In a culture where anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s; in a culture where there is no absolute right or wrong; in a culture where each individual decides the truth for themselves; in a culture where choice is seen as the absolute human freedom - there is no place for a Church that proclaims the one truth, for a religion that asks us to submit our will to God’s, for a faith that involves a commitment to a power outside ourselves.


Yet God exists, and everyone is a child of God, everyone has a relationship with God conscious or otherwise, everyone is made by God and for God.


In the chaos of the modern world people find it hard to discern that their deepest longing is a longing for God, that faith and freedom go hand in hand, that the life they long for is the life God is offering them.


It is sad that in our country so many good people are missing out on life - because God is not a conscious part of their life.  Faith is a gift, a blessing, which enhances our life - it is sad when family and friends and neighbours don’t share that blessing.  Faith is a great insight into life, into its purpose and its meaning.  But above all faith brings alive our relationship with God.


Increasing numbers in China and elsewhere, where the Church is growing, are blessed because God is now fully a part of their lives.  If only the people of our country could likewise be blessed with the gift of faith!