December 2006 - Vol. 3
Beacons of Hope
At a time when society is breaking down, I see God in his mercy creating an antidote and an alternative way of life for his people
by Rev. Patrick W. Egan, M.A., M.Sc.
[illustration by Gerry Rauch]
I was a Priest-Sociologist when the Lord initially drew me to community nearly thirty years ago. I was a believer, who treasured the transforming message of gospel grace for its effects in my own life and in the history of the West. I was also a trained and dismayed observer of the corrosive trends that were secularizing the traditional values of the western world.
Celebrating 35 years of Covenant Community Life gives me the opportunity to look to see how these trends have developed. It also gives me the chance to understand more clearly why God called Covenant Communities into existence at this particular time in many parts of the Western world.
By the early seventies urbanization, social mobility, and the spread of higher education had already destroyed closely knit local natural communities and many extended families There was a breakdown of social net-works. As a result of rapid change since World war II society existed in that classic state of anomie (lawlessness, normlessness, "do what you like") first described by the great German sociologist Max Weber (1). Thirty years later these trends have continued and the nuclear family itself, though not destroyed, is under the pressure of constant challenge. The massive rise in the divorce rate, the challenge of so-called "alternative life-styles", the constant bombardment of difficult and bad news from many and various media, the development of a distinct youth culture heavily influenced by MTV and drugs, and the marginalizing of the older members of society - traditionally the bearers of wisdom and providers of continuity in society, have all worked together to make it more and more difficult to raise children as Christian disciples.
The increased work load on fathers, brought about by the destabilization of the working environment and the computer revolution, have lead to a well-documented lack of role models and the erosion of authority within the nuclear family life that does remain (2). Working mothers and double income families have become the norm, where childcare is a commercial service provided by strangers, and women have less and less time for the works of service and refined charity that in past times often civilized a harsh society and taught youngsters to serve others unselfishly; now women will even kill to preserve the acquisitive lifestyle and sexual freedom to which they have become accustomed (3). Children are routinely deprived of life, and those that survive lack the consistent nurturing, stable context and self-sacrificing role models they rely on to grow in faith, love and unselfish service. The Spirit of the Age is selfish, individualistic, thoughtless and hedonistic.
God is building an army to stand against the Spirit of the Age. He has invited us to enlist in that army. He is calling forth a people to stem the tide of evil in the Church and in the world. He is building a bulwark against these evil pressures in society. Part of that bulwark is known as Covenant Christian Community. By design, its characteristics are completely and deliberately counter-cultural to the prevailing Spirit of the Age.
In Covenant Christian Community we treasure human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. We prepare people to die to themselves so as to live for others and for God. In an unstable world we prize stability. In an adult-oriented society we cherish the gift of children, and see them as the hope of the flock (4). We promote and sustain family stability in an age of easy divorce, cultivate simplicity in an age of acquisition (5) and self control in a season of hedonistic anarchy. We practice hospitality and acceptance in the face of calculating individualistic selfishness.
At a time when society is breaking down, I see God in his mercy creating an antidote and an alternative way of life for his people. A counter-cultural way of life that is salt of the earth and light of the world. A way of life that stands against the current tide of despair and dissolution. A way of life whose faith and wisdom constitutes a sign of hope in that harsh and barren world that one of our major poets has called a Waste Land (6) . That way of life is Covenant Christian Community. Chuck Colson has called attention to the need for contemporary faith communities of Wisdom and Light. Blessed be God for creating them! I thank God for associating me with this major work of salvation. And I thank Him for calling me to belong to one of these communities. May it be a blazing Beacon of Hope for all God's people and all those it was designed to serve.
[Fr. Pat Egan, ordained in
London, England, has been active for many years in church renewal, ecumenism,
and in lay movements in the United States and abroad. He is presently chaplain
at Dominos Farms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. He is the founder of the Ann
Arbor Catholic Men's Movement and a liason for the national Cathoic Men's
Movement and Promise Keepers. He has a weekday radio broadcast for
Ave Maria Radio; see Fr.
Pat's Homilettes online.]