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Bishop Héctor Aguer (retired).CanalTLV1 / YouTube

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(LifeSiteNews) — The history of spirituality records a mode of relationship with God known as spiritual childhood. The modern expression of this spirituality is found in the writings of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. In the patristic age, and in the Middle Ages, traces of this consideration can be found, which presents the Christian as a child in his spiritual dimension, in his relationship with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, especially in the field of Trinitarian Theology. Even today this aspect of the question can be formulated as follows: we are children of God the Father, participating in the divine filiation of Jesus, which is made possible in the imitation of Christ, animated by the Holy Spirit. But this is not the object of the present note. I propose to confront the authentic meaning of spiritual childhood with the infantilism that appears in some pastoral attitudes, whose “pastorality” is very debatable.

In general, it would have to be said that the post-conciliar pastoral proposals for children’s pastoral care are fruitless and useless, if compared to the common tradition expressed univocally in the most diverse sectors of society. That pastoral tradition consisted of preaching, catechesis, mass meetings and camps. Attempts were made, with varying degrees of success, to get children to persevere after First Communion. The Catholic Action had a section directed by the ladies of Catholic Action – the AMAC; the M stands for Women. Some priestly vocations came from this work. Along with the preaching, which had an adapted and popular character, there was the work in the confessional. This attempt at perseverance had a success that lasted for several years, until adolescence. It was a well-placed pastoral orientation, which implied a sensible reflection on the nature of the stage being faced. This pastoral care did not give way to a kind of imitative childishness.

Confusion reigns today. I cite an incredible example, an event that was only possible because of the devastation of the liturgy, and the loss of the sense of the Mystery. A priest of the diocesan clergy, in a city in the province of Cordoba, celebrated Mass dressed as a clown. In this way he thought to make the Mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice “fun” for the children. In reality, he took the children as imbeciles.

The pastoral attitude of some episcopates can be catalogued as infantilism. It is curious that this attitude ignores spiritual childhood as a value of Christian spirituality, which can enjoy full relevance today. Then we can speak of an infantile orientation insofar as the faithful are taken as incapable of seeing and assuming things as they are. This kind of pastoral infantilism is like the tip of an iceberg: the episcopate that develops its pastoral attitude in an infantile way, thinks this way because it is this way. It is totally incapable of recognizing the truth of the situation the Church is living. This is the place to affirm that progressivism usually incurs in infantile approaches. This observation does not mean that progressivism is innocent; its infantilism is guilty.

The alternative is seriousness in finding the right means and consistency in their development and application. The end is the pastoral Common Good, which implies a correct historical judgment. It is worth saying that it is necessary to beware of contempt for Tradition, which is the capital vice of progressivism. Contempt for Tradition can be due to ignorance, but more often it is due to ideology; ideology follows fashions, and the episcopal body is infected by the secular situation and drags the Church, the Body of the faithful, along with it.

The question is, then, seriousness or childishness, and seriousness is simply adulthood to perceive the pastoral Common Good as the end of all activity. When the perception of that end fails, the whole activity falls apart and it is easy to fall into childishness. In this context it is logical that the authentic spiritual infancy as the way of being Christian is unknown. Thus the faithful are left at the mercy of ideologies. There is always a dominant ideology, universally imposed as fashion.

Let us say, in conclusion, that from the pastoral seriousness that overcomes fashions, spiritual childhood, the authentic way of being Christian, which is ruined by progressivism, can be recovered and strengthened.

+ Héctor Aguer
Archbishop Emeritus of La Plata.

Buenos Aires, Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

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