I did not grow up living among Catholics. Yes, we lived in a large and vibrant parish in Leeds where the Masses each Sunday were full of families. But the culture we lived in was the tail-end of God-fearing British culture that was fast adopting the materialist approach to life that has marked just about everyone's lives during the past few decades.
But what if Catholics did live together - not in the same house - but as a community who pray, share and build something of their lives together. The old reasonably Christian-friendly culture died in the 1970's and we are beginning to be aware just how vacant materialist culture is, and where it has lead us. But more importantly, we are beginning to realise how much we need to be a part of a community of faith.
While speaking to young people on 6th April 2006, the Holy Father placed a new vision before them. This is what he said:
Since a consumer culture exists that wants to prevent
us from living in accordance with the Creator's plan, we must have the courage
to create islands, oases, and then great stretches of land of Catholic culture
where the Creator's design is lived out.
What an extraordinary wake up call! Indeed, this is how Europe was once first civilised and evangelised at the same time. Our communities today are indeed driven by consumerism and by the lack of vision which follows in its wake. Young people, especially young spouses, who maybe discerning right now how to establish and develop your family life - hear what the Holy Father is saying. You have a new opportunity to seek and build community with like-spirited Catholic spouses and families.
You may have come across the book "Christendom Awake" by Aidan Nichols. In it, one of the chapters entitled "A society of households" proposes anew how grace can have a social face and how parents can build a concrete Christian spirituality for their home and their family. Young Catholics today - young people of the new evangelisation - already share so much in common. Don't reduce your faith to a private sphere (which is so easy to do), but make God present again in our society. Do this together. Seek one another out and ask God how you can together become builders of a Catholic culture. Live near one another, open up your homes to one another, share much of yourselves with one another. Invite others and invite good priests you know to be part of your fellowship. Make sacrifices in favour of the faith and take responsibility for building, first islands and oases, and then great stretches of Catholic culture.