I have always taken a secret delight in being proved wrong. Once previous firmly held convictions give way to the possibility that they might not be so correct as envisaged, our minds are open to received alternative explanations and solutions. A sense of relief and quiet wellbeing comes into play with the realization that things are not so fixed and absolute.Many of our firmly held convictions are often no more than subjective judgements-based on our own life’s experiences. The secret delight comes in the form of quiet acceptance and willingness to soften and moderate views that eventually proved to be extreme. Unchecked ways of subjective judgements, embedded in human nature so often led to rash judgements which are the products of that moment’s life experience and solutions desired. Such judgements are so often moderated, changed and even renounced with the passage of time. Recently, as I boarded a city bound tram, I found a place near three rather boisterous youths, dressed as befits contemporary youth styles in faded tattered jeans, earrings and smart phones in full operation. What do you expect was my mental judgement? By the next tram stop that judgement was a regret. An elderly couple were struggling to board. Very quickly two of the lads jumped up and helped the woman and then the man to board and conducted them to their own seats. Proved wrong again! All personal appearances now discounted, I secretly rejoiced in the residual goodness of today’s youth. Yes, so many of our judgements are made under the influence of our feelings, experiences, and problems of the present moment when decisions are to be made. Now, what do we make of the 2021 Australian Census headlines, eagerly splashed across our mass media seemingly with delight by many who wish to dance on the grave of Christianity.
A lot has been said about the changing religion demographic reported by the 2021 Australian CensusDecline in number of Catholics in Australia, a prominent headline proclaims. So, what was going through the minds of Catholics as they thought about the question on the census form and decided to opt out? I do not believe that it was a complete renunciation of their Catholic heritage, but a personal reaction to some negative experiences and problems experienced in their relations to the Church. Was it the horrors of sexual abuse so poorly managed in the beginning by Church officials? Was it the gender inequality? The wealth and power of a clerical dominated Church? Often Catholics are hurt by what they deem to be coolness, or lack of pastoral care, when approaching the Church. Many are argumentative about parts but not the whole. As one well known drifting Catholic stated, “Of course, I am at times angry and argumentative: Catholicism is my religious home, not my religious prison”. All such personal misgivings, whatever the experience, would certainly influence decisions when ticking the well-known box requesting religious affiliation. Patience is here called for because like all convictions many will be moderated, changed and even renounced with the passage of time. Very few lead a faith life of 100% intensity: for most of us there are highs and lows as we travel our life’s road. It is difficult to maintain intensity and enthusiasm for most things. Religion and the spiritual are no exceptions. There are rekindling times in our life, when we fan the dying embers into flame. Times when yesterday’s negative religious experiences give birth to positive outlook upon today’s needs. As a self-pronounced atheist friend of mine says,” I have no need of a God, now, but I reserve judgement as to what my need will be in the future.” Yes, indeed, we have a patient God. Somewhere along life’s road He is waiting to meet us and then another box will be ticked in some future census.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of the Salesian Bulletin, which is available now!