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Second Spring is the fruit of ten years of preparation. It was at the beginning of the 1990s that we became aware of the need for a forum to explore, from within the Catholic tradition, the beauty that inspires conversion to Christianity and the creation of a Christian culture. We wanted to respond to the call of John Paul II for a "new evangelization", in gratitude for the gift of faith we had ourselves received. We began to visualize a magazine that would imbued with the spirit of faith and of the joy that comes from faith, but which would not dwell exclusively on the Church and theology, but turn its attention to the world of science, of literature, of economics, of art and architecture, of history.... It would not be afraid of tackling theology, but it would do so in a way that was open to human experience and would relate theology to the deepest concerns of the human heart. It would be about spirituality as well as culture, about social action as well as intellectual analysis. It would be committed to truth wherever we could find it.
The gap between faith and culture, which Paul VI called the "drama of our times", cannot be addressed by an attempt simply to recover a world that has been lost: a mythical golden age set back in the 1950s, the 1870s or the Middle Ages. Yes, we need to restore and retrieve much that has been lost or forgotten in the rush to be "modern" - now that Modernism itself has become passé. But we must do it within a new cultural moment. We must learn from the past, not merely repeat it. In particular, we believe that the Second Vatican Council, for all the disasters associated with its aftermath, was an act of the Holy Spirit that made possible a new springtime of the faith in the twenty-first century. Its true fruits are only now beginning to be manifest.
Between 1992 and 1999 "Second Spring" appeared as a quarterly supplement within the Ignatius Press magazine Catholic World Report. From 1994 we were building up the Centre for Faith & Culture in Oxford, together with its twice-yearly Faith & Culture Bulletin, as the supporting structure for the forum we wanted to create. In 2000 we established the Second Spring website. Through all these means, and the conferences we organized each year, we were making contact with others who felt the same need we did. Friends, old and new, became collaborators, and a complex network began to form, of individuals and institutions in many countries that all wanted roughly the same thing: a thing that is hard to put into words, but which we all recognize when we see it. It has something to do with hope, and something to do with beauty. We hope you will catch a glimpse of it when you read these pages.
Centre for Faith & Culture, Plater College,
Pullens Lane, Oxford OX3 0DT, UK
Selected contents for online archive:
– Anna Rist (poem)
Faith & Culture, Plater College, Pullens Lane, Oxford OX3 0DT, UK
SECOND SPRING ISSUE TWO
We had intended in this, our second issue (originally intended for publication at Christmas 2001), to print a selection of papers from the 2001 Plater Summer School on the "Mission of the Baptized". Unfortunately, we are still waiting for several key papers to arrive, so this theme has been postponed until the third issue, in six months’ time. Instead, we are featuring a number of articles on liturgy, and specifically on the cosmic aspects of liturgy. Some of these are taken from a conference that also took place in the summer of 2001, at Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland. Other papers from this conference will appear in future issues also, for liturgy is, after all, the meeting ground par excellence of faith and culture. We are particular pleased to be able to include in the present issue a homily by Cardinal Ratzinger, which was delivered at another liturgical conference around the same time, this one at Fontgombault Abbey in France. (Stratford Caldecott’s paper from that conference will be appearing in the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, Antiphon, mentioned elsewhere in this issue.)
A second theme that has emerged in these pages is due in part to the events of 11th September 2001. Last year’s attack on the World Trade Center and the beginning of the "War on Terrorism" have led to much discussion of the so-called "clash of civilizations". It has given a new impetus to the study of the Crusades, and a new urgency to inter-faith dialogue. The Pope has again called religious leaders to Assisi to pray for peace. Several articles in the present issue reflect these concerns, including our Letter from America. On 25-26th January, Cardinal Arinze spoke in Oxford at an Inter-Faith Symposium designed to initiate a continuing conversation between the three Abrahamic religions in particular. There will be more about this subject in later issues.
From the Centre of the Church
Are we on the Left or the Right of the Church? We would much rather avoid those terms altogether. G.K. Chesterton once said: "The whole world is dividing itself into progressives and conservatives. The job of the progressives is to go on making mistakes. The job of the conservatives is to prevent those mistakes from being corrected."
If more needs to be said, then it has been said by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, one of the new generation of gifted bishops and cardinals appointed by John Paul II. Cardinal George traces the differences, and similarities, between liberal and conservative tendencies in the Church back through the Enlightenment to the Middle Ages. The end result is that both suffer from an obsession with law, choice and social control. "Just as liberal Catholicism is frequently uneasy with the Church’s understanding of the gift of human sexuality when her teaching runs up against the popular Freudianism of the sexual revolution, conservative Catholicism is often uneasy with the Church’s understanding of a just society when her social teaching draws conclusions about social services and the distribution of wealth from the premise of universal human solidarity."
Cardinal George’s remarks were part of a series of reflections in Commonweal prompted by some thoughts of John Henry Newman. The full text may be found on the Archbishop’s own website, but here are some more extracts:
"We are at a turning point in the life of the Church…. Liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project. Essentially a critique, even a necessary critique at one point in our history, it is now parasitical on a substance that no longer exists. It has shown itself unable to pass on the faith in its integrity and inadequate, therefore, in fostering the joyful self-surrender called for in Christian marriage, in consecrated life, in ordained priesthood. It no longer gives life.
"The answer, however, is not to be found in a type of conservative Catholicism obsessed with particular practices and so sectarian in its outlook that it cannot serve as a sign of unity of all peoples in Christ. The answer is simply Catholicism, in all its fullness and depth, a faith able to distinguish itself from any cultures and yet able to engage and transform them all, a faith joyful in all the gifts Christ wants to give us and open to the whole world he died to save. The Catholic faith shapes a Church with a lot of room for differences in pastoral approach, for discussion and debate, for initiatives as various as the people whom God loves.
"But, more profoundly, the faith shapes a Church which knows her Lord and knows her own identity, a Church able to distinguish between what fits into the tradition that unites her to Christ and what is a false start or a distorting thesis, a Church united here and now because she is always one with the Church throughout all the ages and with the saints in heaven....
"The faith of the Apostles and martyrs, of Irenaeus and Augustine, of Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, of Thomas of Canterbury and Thomas More, of Elizabeth Ann Seton and John Neumann, of Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe, of our parents and grandparents cannot be set aside to make our contemporaries happy or ourselves free of personal responsibility and its consequent guilt. When the apostolic faith is preached in its integrity to the young, to those who have not grown up in a Church which confined them and who have found themselves, instead, trapped in our secularized culture, they take notice."
This is undeniably in some ways an evil time, yet more important than this evil is the good that lies beyond its grasp. "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Second Spring is intended to lift up hearts and minds in the direction of those abiding things – truth, goodness and beauty – which outlast and inspire a civilization.