By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Institute
Welcome to 2021. We are so grateful to have you here with us.
As we launch into a new year, we want to assure you that you won’t find any list of predictions here. Any prognosticator who didn’t just quietly retire after the surprises of 2020 has lost all touch with reality.
But you will find a promise. And here it is: We are going to do our very best to help all of you, our readers, better connect your faith to your lives in 2021.
If that happens, we will definitely be going against a trend.
Active religious practice has been consistently declining since at least the 1950s. The cumulative effect has been huge. Before the coronavirus hit, only about a fourth of baptized Catholics attended Mass weekly. The percentage has obviously gone down as restrictions on worship from our bishops as well as our governors have gone up.
Of course, we know that’s not the only way to measure the intensity of one’s faith.
Today we have a great many people who say they are “spiritual but not religious.”
That may not be great news to those of us who continue to practice our faith in a religious body. But it certainly beats one alternative: that people have generally lost, as some surely have, all sense of anything beyond the immediately material.
That, clearly, is not the case. And so long as people remain “spiritual,” there is some hope we can reach them and serve them. We are certainly devoted to trying.
As it happens, not only are people continuing to abandon the active practice of their faith in religious organizations, but we Catholics find ourselves locked out and severely impeded from partaking of the sacraments and celebrating reception of the Eucharist at Mass.
So to a greater degree than has been the case for more than a century, if we are to continue to be Catholic, we are going to have to become more “spiritual.” That is to say, we are going to have to foster and nourish our own personal and familial practices to sustain – and perhaps deepen – our relationship to our Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That’s our focus in the year ahead – and quite possibly well beyond that.
To that end, we are making some changes in The Catholic Leader.
Beginning with our next issue, we will publish on the First Friday of the month. (That’s Feb. 5 for those of you who like to eliminate ambiguity wherever you find it.) But we will be more than a monthly publication. We will add special issues to correspond with key occasions on the calendar that don’t happen to fall close to a First Friday.
So, for example, look for a special Lenten edition near Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17) and Pentecost (May 23). In contrast, Easter arrives on April 4, just two days after that month’s First Friday, which also happens to be Good Friday, so an ordinarily scheduled issue will acknowledge those key dates on the Catholic calendar.
We hope this change allows us to explore the connection between our faith and our religion more closely and helpfully in the year ahead.
If you have other suggestions, we would love to hear from you. Just send your comments to Here4U@YeshuaLeader.com. The closest we will come to a prediction for 2021 is that we think it will be a good year, a grace, despite the inevitable pain and heartbreak – because God is with us.
All of us.
Happy New Year!