Springtime in West Philadelphia has a unique charm to it. The cherry blossoms emit a fragrance both sweet and fragile because — as so many things in life — they don’t last. Excited university seniors plan their escape to jobs, graduate schools, or service opportunities near and far. Young families tour the (very few) available homes, looking forward to putting down roots in a place with character.
In the church, too, spring has come upon us. The ordination invitations remind us that fresh groups of men will be ordained to the priesthood around the world. Students who gravitated toward groups like FOCUS in college decide that they too want to give a few years of service as a missionary. Communities emerge from the pandemic — occasional variants notwithstanding — with renewed vigor and vibrancy.
Or they don’t. I’m sure some readers are thinking that they don’t see many signs of life in their own journey of faith. Perhaps — like many — we are seeing the continued drifting apart of families, a loss of the practice of faith, even vocational crises in those we love. Maybe our own parish feels dead and lifeless. We might be left wondering: where has everyone gone?
They can both be true at the same time – the extended winter and the seeds of springtime. They can be true because while the church particular and universal offers us real signs of life and hope for the future, a painful realignment is taking place as well.