The Church arose from the evangelizing impetus of her Founder, Jesus Christ, who gave the Apostles the power to cast out demons, to heal sicknesses and, above all, to proclaim the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 9:1-2).
The Redeemer’s last address to His disciples, as a corollary of His mission, was the cogent summons to the universal apostolate: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15), emphasizing that they should teach “all nations” (Mt 28:19). The Apostle to the Gentiles also insists that the proclamation of the Word is a necessity: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16).
The first martyrs sprinkled the nascent Church with their own blood, so that the sweet fruits of Christian civilization would germinate. Later, Saints such as Augustine of Canterbury in England, Boniface in Germany and, some time later, Francis Xavier in the Far East are examples of apostles who, imbued with “Christian daring”, carried the Word to every corner of the earth.
It is truly sad, however, to observe that so many efforts of the past were obliterated by “false apostles” (2 Cor 11:13), as in the case of the Western and Eastern schisms, as well as the Protestant pseudo-reformation that raged especially in the lands of Boniface and Augustine, by means of Lutheranism and Anglicanism. On the other hand, Providence was generous in sending Saints of the highest calibre, such as Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri…
Two centuries later, the French Revolution was only able to succeed with the crucial collaboration of the apostate clergy, in particular Fr. Sieyès. After supporting the nationalization of ecclesiastical property, he joined Louis-Philippe of Orleans in a conspiracy against the nobility and the clergy itself, in order to dethrone Louis XVI and provoke a relentless persecution of the Church. In requital, God raised up in the 19th century such luminaries of holiness as the Curé of Ars, Bernadette Soubirous and Catherine Labouré.
The post-modern era is a child of the follies of the 20th century, during which there were great moments for the Church, but also periods of the spread of morbid sentimentality and paganizing ideas in liturgical movements, coupled with laxity and self-indulgence in the religious sphere, as denounced by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in his work In Defence of Catholic Action, in 1943. This was followed by an enormous exodus of the faithful in the West, such as in Brazil, whose once-majority Catholic population is now less than half.
This phenomenon is too complex to offer easy solutions. Perhaps the most common is the naive adaptation of the Church to the world, combined with the suspension of any kind of evangelization. There is, however, an essential contradiction between the vocation of the apostles and the world (cf. Jn 15:19), even though we must act in the world, making use of its own tools, such as the wise use of communication media.
Thus, what the Church needs is not ill-fated “reforms”, but a restoration of all things in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10). This is always achieved through sanctity, the best and most effective means of apostolate. Therefore, rather than postulating a constant aggiornamento of the Church, her growing and continuous sanctification is called for: “Ecclesia semper sanctificanda”. Only in this way will Christ’s mandate to bring the Gospel to all be fulfilled. ◊