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Church challenges are theme of St. Jude novena
October 4th, 2016
By Christina Gray

St. Jude is the patron of hopeless and desperate cases and the Dominican preacher set to lead the annual St. Jude Novena at St. Dominic Church in San Francisco Oct. 20-28 sees the church as one of them.

“Looked at from almost any angle, it seems possible to argue that the Catholic Church herself is a hopeless and desperate case,” said Dominican Father Robert Christian, master of students for the Dominican Friars of the Western Dominican Province and adjunct professor of theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology in Berkeley.

The church is in “institutional decline,” said Father Christian, and “not considered a credible institution.” Its leadership and body is divided and its “self-confidence in a multicultural world attacked” as faithful Catholics despair of a decline in Catholic marriages, baptisms and Mass attendance even within their own families.

Father Christian, a native San Franciscan, is consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. He was invited to guest preach at this year’s novena which takes place at St. Dominic over nine consecutive days, concluding on the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude on Oct. 28.

The Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus, a ministry of the Western Dominican Province, is domiciled within St. Dominic and has devotees around the world according to administrator Stedman Matthew. Thousands of pilgrims will travel from all parts of California for the novena and prayer intentions will come in from around the world. The week includes a pilgrimage from the Shrine of St. Francis in North Beach to the Shrine of St. Jude at St. Dominic Oct. 22.

In an interview with Catholic San Francisco from his residence at St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland, Father Christian said the theme of the novena is hope for the church, “the hope that our Lord promises.”

During twice-daily Masses, Father Christian said he will describe a different crisis facing the whole church and prescribe a way faithful Catholics can react to them.

“Each homily is designed to help the individual Catholic grow in the conviction that the Spirit is with the church, and that Christ established the Catholic Church as the unique instrument for the salvation for all of humanity,” he said.

Asked for an example of a church challenge he will address, he cited the various levels of response to the authority of church teachings.

“I am concerned to show that for the most part, those who disagree with this or that church teaching still have a place in the church, and cannot be judged to be bad Catholics on the basis of their disagreement,” he said. Nevertheless, a disagreement with a church teaching should not be accepted complacently. “One is always bound, by the virtue of religion, to seek the truth, even if for a time the church appears, in one’s subjective opinion, to be in error,” he said.

Father Christian said this is not the first time he has preached about the church as a “desperate case.” For some three decades he taught at the Angelicum in Rome, more formally known as the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He said his students loved the church because they knew it was founded by Christ, yet they “almost despaired of the church healing herself,” he said.

“I want to show that although we may find many aspects of church life to be undesirable or even deplorable, she is nonetheless worth our veneration because she is – and we are – the body of Christ.”

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From October 6, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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