“The civilised communities of Europe were disintegrating. Hordes from the East were spreading their particular brand of death and destruction ever further westwards. The church was being torn apart by unrest, politics and deep theological divisions.”
Sound familiar? But that situation is not 2016; it’s describing Europe almost 1600 years ago. It was the Roman Empire that had collapsed and the hordes were Huns.
The encouraging thing is that it was into this turbulent time that St Benedict was born. It is nevertheless a world we can recognise which is perhaps why his Rule still has relevance today.
Well, that thought should cheer us up a bit.
Something else to cheer about is the Archbishops’ Wake Up call. “Thy Kingdom Come”—a great wave of prayer, including round-the-clock prayer marathons, during the week before Pentecost. Well, Halleluiah, say I. What’s more I’m sure ++Justin and ++John will pull it off.
Remember the doom and gloom before the Primates meeting? It was predicted, with, I suspect, a certain amount of glee, that dozens were going to leave the meeting fairly early on, and those left would squabble and fight and blab to the media. In fact, only one Primate left and all the other Archbishops behaved like the Christian gentlemen they are, with tolerance, generosity and respect and with not a single tub-thumping activist to be seen.
There’ll be hurdles and obstacles, of course, put in our way. Political Correctness and Secularism have already pushed the Church of England well down the plughole. The latest example of this is the demand for a woman to have the right to abort a baby for any reason and as late into pregnancy as she likes. So much for the sanctity of life. How long before murder is legalised if you can prove good reason—like “I want his biscuit.” Even arrogant, selfish elements within the church have done their best to ensure the baby goes out with the bath water.
There’s not much evidence of freedom of religion any more, either. Be choosey about the icing on your cake for religious reasons and you risk losing your bakery. Of course, religious freedom does rather depend on which religion. For some reason, Christianity seems always to be bottom of the heap.
Admittedly, even if another St Benedict were to be born this year it would be a long time before anyone noticed. Fortunately, with God we can have faith that anything is entirely possible. In the meantime we’d better pull our socks up. If we’re going to join this great wave of prayer we can no longer be apathetic, lethargic, depressed or hopeless. We need to pray with faith and fervour that, though there may be no tongues of flames on our heads, at least our hearts will be set on fire to answer this Wake Up call.