Our Christian community is sometimes a bit pessimistic, as far as our future as Christians in Europe is concerned, which is understandable. Have we ever tried to see the positive aspects of all the change that is going on? Stefan Meetschen, a German journalist and expert on films, who is also experienced in Polish matters, has made a few very interesting personal notes on this phenomenon, which we will present you now in our Letter for Europe.
Let us make use of the occasion of the approaching Europe Day, to pray for Europe in a special way and thank you for being the leaven, that Jesus spoke about!
Your Europe for Christ – Team in Vienna
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Europe in the Light of Mercy
by Stefan Meetschen
The Polish philosopher Jòzef Tischner (1931-2000) once said, that in modern Europe there were no pagans any more, but only Christian pagans. The Christian spiritually shaping strength would be that deep, even though many people who are distant from the Church, would not be aware of that. And indeed, if you take a look into the cultural and political landscape of European countries, one can see people and institutions who define themselves and articulate as being explicitly opposed to Christendom, as if this opposition needed particular mention in our pluralistic age.
There are at least two options to react to this phenomenon: anger or mercy. Anger rises in many Christians when they see that everything that is holy to them and should be protected by the verdict of religious freedom is being smeared by the public and increasingly marginalized in our society. By legal reforms, which remove the Christian idea of man and family, by happenings on artists' initiatives, which show traits of blasphemy, by media's rituals, which serve as platform for Christianity bashing, thus brutally breaking a taboo in fact.
But there is also a very different reaction by virtue of mercy, namely merciful understanding. Tischner, who oriented his thoughts at Emmanuel Lévinas' philosophy of dialogue, and who felt deeply connected with Saint Faustyna's visions of Divine Mercy in his old age, inclined to this approach.
Perhaps this was the reason why he opposed the inclusion of Christian values into the Polish Constitution after the turnaround in 1989, thus rooting the system of Christian values in the secular state. Tischner was afraid, that Christendom could in this way become an ideology, Christian values idolatry. True faith, true conversion, Tischner formulated in his last work, "The Strife over the Existence of Man", were something completely different and only possible when being free, without application of force.
In this manner, the European Christians of the 21st century might even be faced by a historic chance, a special grace. After many centuries of socializing Christianity - often by imposign political and diluted civil methods - an era has begun where personal opting is necessary to "belong to Christianity".
A conscious choice which can be taken in personal freedom. A choice that costs something and does not offer profit, because prestige in society cannot be gained any longer by Christian faith or a ministry within the Church. It is thus the spirit of authentic imitatio Christi, that can flourish again.
Even more so, since many people no longer really know about Christ. They just think that they know what Jesus, the Church and the Pope mean. This does not keep them from making unqualified statements. Sometimes when being faced with such spectacular criticism addressed towards Christians, one gets the faint psychologically diagnostic suspicion that those who thus passionately bash the Christians, in reality deep inside long for a life in conformity with this faith and these values, as if one could suppress one's own feelings of guilt by applying new standards of one's own. What a huge fascinating vineyard Europe has become for Christians.
It is about time to re-explore this hidden shaping force by faith with Divine Mercy's eyes and Roentgen rays.
Dr. Stefan Meetschen is journalist and author. His book "Europe without Christ?" has been published by fe-Medienverlag.