Hope in Ratzinger’s Prophecy

He foresaw a smaller but more spiritualized and simplified Church



Disappointing election results may prompt Catholics to retreat to the Church for reminders that the world hasn’t gone completely mad. But, then again, certain worldly attempts to solve spiritual problems within the Church — the global Synod, for example — give the impression that the world’s worst excesses have invaded the Church. A sense of frustration, if not hopelessness, can creep in: Not just our nation but the Church seems headed in the wrong direction!

Father Joseph Ratzinger, in a 1969 German radio broadcast, spoke on the Church of the future — including our time. His remarks have been called prophecy; although he predicted a shrinking Church, he offered true hope.

An article in Aleteia (June 13, 2016; linked here) offers extended quotes from Ratzinger’s address. Below are five excerpts which foresee loss but end with great hope:

The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality.

From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges.

But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.

The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek.

But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

We do well to keep this in mind.


Barbara E. Rose is Web Editor of the NOR.

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