Almost a year has passed since the divorce referendum was held. The contentious debate leading up to the referendum revealed the marked change that is transforming Malta’s once predominant Catholic identity.

Religious education usually stops with one’s Confirmation at an age when the individual is usually unable to be truly aware of his choice- Klaus Vella Bardon

Despite the popularity of religious events such as those just recently associated with Easter, one cannot escape the reality that loyalty to the Catholic faith is for too many, only skin deep.

This is reflected at the highest levels. One has only to follow the dismissive attitude of so many of our parliamentarians to anything the Church has to say on issues such as the family, in-vitro fertilisation or Sunday trading. This attitude is backed by an increasing number of people writing in the media who, if not outright atheists, are intensely anti-Catholic in their outlook on life.

Many people, especially the young, claim they are losing their religion. In reality, one must question what they are losing. Very often, even among the educated, their awareness of their religion is superficial if not downright confused.

This should not be too surprising, as religious education usually stops with one’s Confirmation at an age when the individual is usually unable to be truly aware of his choice. It tends to be based on custom rather than conviction.

This was all very well in the past when people tended to respect authority rather unquestioningly. This has changed radically over the years with the increasing impact of mass media that has eroded the influence of the pulpit and the home.

Nowadays, to affirm the existence of truth leads one to be accused of dogmatism and intolerance. The late Jesuit, Jean Danielou, points out that the mystery of life and death, the riddles of human destiny, seem unfathomable to modern man for a number of deep-rooted reasons.

Firstly, the modern intellectual expects science to give him all the answers. He fails to realise that different techniques are required to investigate metaphysics and faith. Put simplistically, science can study created things but not the Creator.

Secondly, we mistrust one another’s word. Man has been duped too often by political propaganda. In order to cure the disorder of gullibility, we have gone to the other extreme and are unable to exercise considered trust, even when justified by all the circumstances. That there are many lies does not mean there is no truth.

Thirdly, we have more admiration for the subjective viewpoint of sincerity rather than the objective viewpoint of truth. However, possibilities of misplaced sincerity should warn us against such an attitude. A doctor, in all sincerity, may give the wrong diagnosis. The possibility of error is countless. Yet, this does not deny the existence of the truth.

Fourthly, we live in an era where people judge by results. Due to the mediocrity and unfaithfulness of Christians, their faith has often been discredited, and in the minds of quite a number of people is not the answer to their deepest aspirations.

As G.K. Chesterton once said, the best argument against Christianity is Christians. That is certainly true of Catholicism. Pope John Paul II, putting it politely, says, “The Catholic Church does not forget that many among her members cause God’s plan to be discernible only with difficulty.” The sad reality of high-profile cases of disloyalty in the Church is a case in point.

But is that really an argument against the truth of the faith? Besides, to argue that Catholicism is untrue because it doesn’t transform the lives of those who don’t practise it is illogical.

People outside the Church also tend to focus on the apparent drudgery of prayer and external religious observances.

But anyone who has seriously attempted pursuing anything worthwhile knows that discipline and difficulties are the keys to a liberating experience.

No serious athlete considers his training as a chore; no outstanding musician decries his regular and lengthy back-breaking practice. This applies to any discipline. The redeeming end result more than justifies the hard work.

Hopefully, the recent Easter experience will be for many of us an opportunity to rediscover and strengthen our faith.

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