Reflections on Belgium’s Decline of Faith

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Dear Friends,

Last month, I shared about the great inspiration of being at the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) in Rome, where Pope Francis again strongly encouraged us to keep sharing the gift that God is continuing to give us in this “current of grace” that is still flowing strongly. After our time in Rome, Anne and I went on to Belgium, where we had lived for four years and where two of our children were born (our little Brussels Sprouts we called them). We had been invited to give several talks to celebrate the Belgian celebration of the anniversary of the Renewal. We love Belgium. It is a neat and tidy little country with a noble history of faith and great missionary outflowing. Fr. Damian, who went to Hawaii to work with the lepers, is but one of the many Belgian missionaries and saints.

But how far this noble country has fallen! A great apostasy from the faith is shockingly apparent. As one priest said to us: “We have a beautiful seminary with only one problem, hardly any seminarians!” Church attendance is shockingly low, and hardly any young people are to be found at Mass. The country itself seems to delight in being on the cutting edge of abortion, euthanasia, and the explicit rejection of their Catholic heritage. Catholics are hardly having any children, and the flood of Moslem immigrants in some cities now comprise thirty-three percent of the population, and they are continuing to have many children. God bless the Moslems! God help the Catholics! May Our Lady of Fatima—the name of Mohammed’s beloved daughter—come to our assistance! May we pay attention to her continuing pleas to say the rosary and help her mission with our prayer and fasting!

Sadly, it seems that the Church leadership in Belgium has been intimidated by the aggressive secular culture and is almost accommodating itself to the situation, rather than challenging it with a vigorous proclamation of the Gospel. We went to the most dynamic parish in a large city where we were staying, and sure enough, it had an excellent choir that was in the center of the sanctuary, but the priest almost seemed to be a bit player in the performance. And it sure looked like a woman standing next to the priest on the altar was concelebrating. She said all the prayers with him, except for the exact words of the consecration, and she raised up the chalice as the deacon normally does at the appropriate time, etc. When our host remarked that this probably seemed a little unusual to us, he told us it was actually authorized by the bishop as a way to prepare the remaining Mass attendees for a church without priests! Oh, this is painful.

Lord have mercy on us. Truly.

In the meantime, we continue to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, when it’s convenient and when it’s not. I just returned from Fatima, where I was inspired as never before by the lives and examples of those three young children, and the sacrifices they were willing to make for souls after meeting our Blessed Mother. Perhaps in their example of loving souls and in their willingness to make sacrifices—and of “meeting” our Mother Mary and drawing close to her, and therefore, to our Lord—we can begin to help turn the tide that is overwhelming Belgium and so many other beautiful countries.

Alleluia! Jesus is Lord! And He’s coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead! May He find us busy with the Father’s work—according to each of our vocations.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries. He also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a “peritus” to the Synod on the New Evangelization. Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are The Urgency of the New Evangelization, The Fulfillment of All Desire, and Will Many Be Saved? He and his wife Anne have six children and sixteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.