From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:
They said, “What have we ourselves done?”
One of them, the great Abba Ischyrion replied, “We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.”
The others replied, “And whose who come after us, what will they do?”
He said, “They will struggle to achieve half our works.”
They said, “And to those who come after them, what will happen?”
He said, “The men of that generation will not accomplish any works at all and temptation will come upon them; and those who will be approved in that day will be greater than either us or our fathers.”
Now, I do not presume to say that I understand what this “saying” means. Some of the things I read in that book leave me scratching my head!
Nevertheless, this little story makes me think of the times we live in now. The faith seems to have become so watered down in so many ways! In our times, we certainly see a church full of shepherds who do not accomplish any works at all, even though they are supposed to be leading us to holiness. We see our leaders succumb to various temptations, and the laity follows.
I have thought before that the holy monks and nuns of old were capable of much more suffering and prayer and penance than we are today. We are so soft! We cannot bear much discomfort. I should speak for myself, I suppose, and not the rest of the world, but I really do think that, in general, what I have said is true. Of course, there are people – bishops, even! – who do “accomplish works”, who at least direct us toward holiness.
Well, perhaps it’s always been that way…you know, we see the worst in ourselves as we compare ourselves to an idealized past.
Things are looking pretty bad these days, though. In my diocese, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of centralized plan for the Year of Faith coming from the Chancery; there wasn’t much direction for the “Fortnight For Prayer”; there does not seem to be any awareness that we are just a slipshod bunch of semi-Catholics going through the motions at Mass.
Even amongst the more active bishops and priests, I see mostly words, not actions. “We must” remember this, and “we should” study the Vatican II documents, and the Year of Faith “is an incredible opportunity”.
Sometimes I wonder how many of the “faithful” even know there IS a “Year of Faith” happening!
Ah well. I must start thinking more about what I myself can do to further the growth of my own faith…and holiness.