The 10 Major Faith and Ecclesial Struggles of Our Age

My priest from church posted this in the bulletin and I’d like to share it. Any italics are my thoughts on it.


Several years ago, the superior of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Rome asked Fr. Ronald Rolheiser to compile a list of the major spiritual questions bubbling in the Catholic world, based on his experience as a writer and speaker. At NCR ’s request, Rolheiser recently took another look at that list, bringing it up to date in light of what he’s seen and heard in the intervening period.

The following is the “Top 10” list Rolheiser put together in late April.

1. The struggle with the atheism of our everyday consciousness, i.e., the struggle to have a vital sense of God within secularity, which, for good and for bad, is the most powerful narcotic ever perpetrated on this planet; to be a mystic rather than an unbeliever.

I do believe, in ways, that the secular world is turning its inhabitants to atheism. I’ve heard many times over that Europe is becoming more and more secular when it used to be the hub of Catholicism and Christianity.

2. The struggle to live in torn, divided and highly polarized communities, as wounded persons ourselves, and carry that tension without resentment, to be healers and peacemakers rather than simply responding in kind.

This speaks for itself. It is difficult to make peace with those around us who are struggling with each other on different opinions. I personally believe that attempts to understand both parties go a long way.

3. The struggle to live, love and forgive beyond the infectious ideologies that we daily inhale, i.e., the struggle for true sincerity, to genuinely know and follow our own hearts and minds beyond what is prescribed to us by the right and the left, to be neither liberal nor conservative but rather men and women of true compassion.

I do consider myself a conservative, but, for instance, if in the coming presidential election of 2012, I felt in my heart that the ideologies of the liberal candidate were more sincere and fair than those of the conservative, I would vote outside of my party.

4. The struggle to carry our sexuality without frigidity and without irresponsibility, i.e., the struggle for a healthy sexuality, to be both chaste and passionate.

This is a huge issue for me. It seems totally contradictory to be both “chaste” and “passionate” at the same time; in my eyes, that’s teasing. This is one of the biggest issues I struggle with in my daily life and it’s a challenge to figure out a good way to keep chastity and passion in balance.

5. The struggle for interiority and prayer inside of a culture that constitutes a virtual conspiracy against depth and serenity — to keep our eyes set against an infinite horizon.

There’s so much focus on the immediate in our world today. Nearly everything in secular life is based on instant gratification, which can be a devil. We need to focus on what is before us – our spiritual life once we are free of this world and its shackles.

6. The struggle to cope with personal grandiosity, ambition and pathological restlessness, inside of a culture that daily overstimulates them — to live inside the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable and to accept that in this life there is no finished symphony.

I went to a poetry reading one night at college and Alan Shapiro was giving a lecture at the end of it. One of the things he said has always stuck with me. He said that once you get published, you keep wanting more and more – you want to be famous, you want to be published in bigger publications, etc. I believe that’s exactly what #6 is referring to; the human need to want more and more.

7. The struggle to not be motivated by paranoia, fear, narrowness and overprotectionism in the face of terrorism and overpowering complexity, to not let the need for clarity and security trump compassion and truth.

I believe that most of our paranoia over terrorism, infectious diseases, and violence is fostered and encouraged by the media, who exaggerate the occurrences of violent acts.

8. The struggle with moral loneliness inside a religious, cultural, political and moral diaspora, to find a soul mate who sleeps with us at our deepest level.

I have this problem. I often feel old-fashioned because of my beliefs and I believe that nobody understands and nobody agrees with me and I will never find someone who does. Apparently, there are people who do.

9. The struggle to link faith to justice, ecology, and gender — to get a letter of reference from the poor.

In our secular society, we often forget to look to our faith in these matters – and often faith is pushed aside in favor of “reason.”

10. The struggle for community and church, the struggle to find the healthy line between individuality and community, spirituality and ecclesiology, to be both mature and committed, spiritual and ecclesial.

I worry about this, too. I’m an introverted person by nature, and find it difficult to connect to others. I know church is all about community and reaching out to others. I want to do my best to work on that.

Please respond if you have any comments on these ten struggles!