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The American Catholic Council, established at Pentecost in 2011 is a “grass roots movement of faithful Catholics” who seek to build on the past as they shape the future.

Blessed John XXIII said, “It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have were faced with new tasks in the social order at the start of the century; those who, like me, were twenty years in the East and eight in France, were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.”

Pope Benedict has declared that a Year of Faith will begin this year on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and yet rather than embrace this movement of the Holy Spirit, some members of our church seem intent on taking us back into the past.

There are priests insisting that Deacons wear birettas in Mass; others regularly hold Mass in the Old Rite which rejects the presence of women anywhere near the sanctuary and insist on wearing the lacy vestments of a bygone age. Others force children to receive Holy Communion on the tongue when Canon Law clearly states that individuals have a choice. One Archbishop is dictating the ancient hymns that are to be sung at a forthcoming Confirmation Mass for teenagers who have no say at all in the style of liturgy for this most important of sacramental celebrations.

Our Church today, in the West is suffering from a chronic exodus of Catholics of all ages and a subsequent drop in income which is reducing the opportunities available to evangelise. The laity has little say in what happens in the Church, with diocesan commissions and parish advisory councils being little more than talking shops. Meanwhile the hierarchy are reduced to insisting on fasting from meat on Fridays whilst at the same time abandoning a handful of Holy Days because so few of the faithful bother to turn up.

Jesus on the other hand, welcomed the children, wore the clothes of his people and spoke in his native tongue. The disciples at Pentecost left the upper room and each person present was able to hear the Good News in their mother tongue. Thousands were converted. The disciples didn’t hide behind authority or remain in the temple not wishing to be disturbed. No, they went out and risked life and limb to tell the world about Jesus Christ.

In the West we need courageous leaders, clergy and lay who are prepared to challenge the old guard and who are willing to take Jesus out of the box and present Him to the world as the saviour that he came here to be. How long will it be before we actually listen to and act upon the prophetic words of Blessed John XXIII all those years ago?