(This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018-19 issue of Tau-USA)

By Mary Stronach, OFS

Setting the stage for a weekend of formation visioning, Fr. David Pivonka, TOR, provided a dose of reality.

“The world has profoundly changed in the last 25 years,” said the host of EWTN’s Wild Goose series. “Young people have no safe place. There is a sense of danger infiltrating every part of us.” He said that there are things that want to corrupt, to manipulate the spirit of faith.

He took workshop attendees through an historical view of God.

In the pre-modern world, pre-1600s, God is the starting point. The world is imbued with God. The truth is rooted in God, he explained.

From the 1600s through to the 1960s, the modern world view has man at the center of all things. “God is pushed off to the side. God might exist but there is no intimate contact. Humanity has the ability to make things better… fix the world’s problems. Right and wrong is based on the human vision.”

In the post-modern world – the last 50 years – there is no center. There is chaos. “The truth is whatever an individual believes to be true.” There are no boundaries. God is not a part of the equation. During this era, he said, many people have no identification with religion.

Youth talk about being “spiritual” but not “religious,” he said. They react to culture mainly by feeling. It is an era when you “can’t offend anybody.” He continued, “This is a non-reflective age. We are so busy, so consumed…We don’t reflect on consequences.” In the 24-hour news cycle, we are “bombarded with noise. Our interior life is suffering. We need to invite people to an interior life.”

“Words like ‘should or should not’ are foreign to this culture,” he added. “Truth and preference are largely the same. If I determine what’s true and someone disagrees, then it reflects on me… The world is so divided, so hostile, we can’t dialogue.” He referred to a quote in a school that said, “We will tolerate all things except what we believe to be intolerant.”

He offered three approaches on how to engage this culture. The first is “accommodation,” accepting that every- thing is OK. But, he said, using this approach “ultimately doesn’t respect the individual.”

The second is not to critique the culture. “This is an escape behind walls, and leads to isolation,” he said. “The church is counter-cultural. We must confront it.”

He provided a more hopeful alternative with the third approach – “Infiltration and transformation.” Engage the culture, he said. “Desire to create a fraternal world. When Francis embraced the leper, he recognized Christ…Recognize and see that, and help other people to see it. There are two conversions into Christ. The first is to leave the world and go to Christ. The second is to go back to the world with Christ to bring to the world what we discover… The power of the Gospel is an encounter of the love of God that changes us… Especially now, in the midst of chaos, they see in us something that can satisfy.”