Nowadays we Catholics often despair of the present state of Faith and Church. And, indeed, there are reasons for concern. But it's so important to look at Church history. So often we can be surprised!
I was reading about the trauma the Church suffered in the 19th century when Pope Pius IX was exiled from Rome and the Church lost the Papal States in 1870 - which had long been a symbol of the Church's earthly 'power'. And yet, less than a generation later, the global Church was experiencing a surge of growth. Religious life had experienced a renewal and growth which would have been unimaginable a generation earlier, not merely by the expansion of existing Religious Orders, but by the creation of new ones, many of them dedicated to apostolic work in schools, hospitals and other charitable institutions.
By 1877, there were 30,287 male religious and 127,753 female religious in France alone, most of them dedicated to working with the most vulnerable sections of society.
So, what lesson are we to take from history? Well, the fact that history is not a linear thing, but ebbs and flows. We should also recall that Christian Faith teaches us, that in times of what may appear to be exile, God is preparing us for something new and life-giving.
In 2008 my own group of Religious Brothers around the globe began to embrace a new way of living and mission. Our Way into the Future is a programme of transformation of the way we work with those made poor in the developing world. Our Way into the Future is not simply attempting to adjust what we have been doing. It is presenting something totally different.