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RESURGENCE: Revitalising Western Catholicism, by Fr James Grant
Fr James Grant’s call to arms
Fr James Grant, a priest of the Australian Ordinariate, has written an important analysis of what is wrong with contemporary society, and the relevance of Christianity (specifically Catholicism) in addressing these challenges.
Fr Grant is well placed to make a socio-religious critique of Australian society. After serving in the Commonwealth Police, he studied theology at Melbourne University and was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church.
He served the West Indian community in Britain, and later had short-term assignments in Berlin (West Germany) and Budapest, capital of Hungary around the time of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
He returned to Australia, and held senior chaplaincy posts at Geelong Grammar, St Michael’s College and the Peninsula School in Victoria, and later was a parish priest in Richmond and Jika Jika, both areas with substantial refugee populations.
He was a leader of the traditionalist wing of the Anglican Church, and supported the Anglican Ordinariate which joined the Catholic Church in 2012. He was a foundational member of the Ordinariate, with responsibility for Ordinariate schools.
He founded Catholics in Business in 2012 and Catholics in Mission and Renewal in 2013.
Resurgence examines the current state of the Western world, using Australia as a prime example, but with insights taken from contemporary eastern Germany, China, Dubai, and with historical snapshots of different societies down the ages, from the ancient Greeks and the Roman Empire, to the Byzantine era, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, down to the present age.
His focus, however, is Australia.
His first chapter, “The State of Play in Modern Australia”, begins with the words, “Australian society in the last ten years has revealed a notable degree of angst over the quality of life and community coherence that we currently experience.”
He set out the symptoms of this social malaise, and at the very outset, put forward the solution: “Australia needs an overhaul and restoration of its religious dimensions, if it is to again contribute to the full life required by its citizens. Yet most importantly, this restoration can only be activated, sustained and brought to fulfilment by the Roman Catholic Church in the Australian context.”
He added, “Significantly, in my view, Catholicism has drawn back from this essential public role, and failed to resit its removal from public life with sufficient vigour.”
This book is, in the words of its author, a “call for Australian Catholics to grasp in all its fullness the historical mandate commanded by Christ for the transformation of society and culture alongside its commitment to the health and welfare of the individual.”
He identifies what is special about Catholic Christianity, how it has engaged often overwhelming odds over 2000 turbulent years, and learned how to convert it.
Fr Grant discusses the impact of modern educational thinking, the secular media, vacuous TV programs, corrosive popular culture and rampant individualism as the symptoms of the contemporary malaise. Despite the promise that material wealth will bring happiness, he diagnoses a society which has, in some respects, lost its moorings, and additionally, is characterised by deep unhappiness.
Over six chapters, he examines several of the great contemporary challenges to the Christian world-view, and the Catholic response. He discusses Catholicism and beauty, Catholicism and the economy, the influence of the Greens’ ideology, Catholicism and Australian culture, the issue of free will, and Catholicism and government.
In each area, he points out that Christianity faces grave challenges, and must respond with a particular perspective which is truly human, truly compassionate, and based on the religious principles on which our society was built.
His final two chapters constitute his call to arms: he puts forward a vision of a new Catholic future, in which the Church seeks to occupy the public space, particularly the workplace from which Christianity is largely absent, to evangelise among young people, to rediscover Christian spirituality, and challenge the secular media with an authentic Catholic media.
He challenges us to build “a parallel universe” in which the Church is present as a sign of contradiction, alongside the secular, agnostic and self-orientated society which has now become common in Australia, and ends with specific proposals as to how these might be achieved.
This is a most informative and challenging book, and will be read by all concerned about the future of our Church and country.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 28 No 4 (May 2015), p. 9
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