The official blog of Rev. Francis X. Hezel, SJ

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Decadence: the Beginning of the End?
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Happy 100th Anniversary to Us!
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Jack Curran: The Fading of an Old Trooper
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Christmas 2020
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Farewell to Rosa Mormad
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When Did the Impasse Begin?
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So, Why Those Empty Pews?
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Whatever Happened to the Church?

Decadence: the Beginning of the End?

What happens when a society reaches its peak?  When the age of discovery—not just of far-off lands but of life-changing inventions—ends?  This is the subject of Ross Douthat’s recent book The Decadent Society.

“Where are you, Thomas Edison?” the author implores, sadly noting the drop in meaningful patents in the last couple of decades and the failure to produce life-altering changes like the electric refrigerator, the vacuum cleaner, the horseless carriage, the jet plane, the atomic bomb, and even the moon shot. But the last on this list, the moon landing, took place in 1969. What do we have to show for ourselves since then?

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Jack Curran: The Fading of an Old Trooper

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” Douglas McArthur used this saying to describe himself after his removal from the Korean War in the 1950s, but it could just as easily apply to Jack Curran. Jack did die, on January 4 this year, but only after a long decade of fading away due to his Alzheimer’s. He may not have intended it to happen that way, but Jack certainly made good on his promise to surrender to the Lord his “mind and memory” along with life and liberty. Not only that, but he did it with his characteristic good grace. His caretakers at Murray-Weigel loved him, people there say.

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Christmas 2020

You’ve heard enough about COVID and political warfare, one as toxic as the other and both of them shrouding much of the past year. I won’t mention them again. Instead, what if I just repeat a line that I often use at the close of these Christmas letters when I wish you… peace and a heart open to all.

That’s not just a pious wish. It’s a passionate pursuit of mine and a lifetime goal in my ministry from the very start—and that, my friends, is a long time ago!  Please permit me to track a few of the big steps along the way.

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When Did the Impasse Begin?

Bear with me, folks, but we have to go back to the 60s, when the big movement for freedom, at least in its recent incarnation, began. When those hippies, with their long hair and their outlandish dress, flourished. You might not have witnessed it yourself, but you must have seen it on the screen. Shots from the Woodstock Music Festival in 1968. Or in “Forrest Gump”  during flashbacks on the life Jenny, Forrest’s girlfriend, lived when she left him.

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So, Why Those Empty Pews?

Once upon a time all the Sunday services were filled—or at least so we imagine. Where did all those former worshipers go?

Let’s go back to the 1960’s when the drop-off in church attendance began. The ‘60s was a time of social revolution when people protested on all kinds of issues: Black rights, the Vietnam War, and free speech. By the end of that decade, however, the clamor was for the freedom of the individual person from social conventions and anything else that might confine it. “Give me the freedom I deserve to become whatever I wish. Let me be me!”

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Whatever Happened to the Church?

Ah, the good old days! When the pews were filled at Sunday mass. When the stores were closed out of respect for the commandment to keep holy the Lord’s Day. When we all knew clearly what was a sin and what was not. When the church music was commanding and the liturgy mysterious but devotional. Where did it all go?

We’ve all heard those laments for the church of the past—that is, the church of the 1940s and 1950s, before all the changes began to strip away the old features that many of us found so comforting.

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