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Institute on Religious Life

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Dear Members and Friends,

I believe the breakdown of religious life in the Western world is a phenomenon unique in the history of Christianity.

There have been, since the last half of this century, more departures from Catholicism, more closings of Catholic churches, more dioceses that have been secularized than ever before in the history of Christianity.

We are living in the most "de-Catholized" age of Christianity. And, the United States has been one of the main victims.

In general, one may say, the more academically educated a nation was, the more wealthy a nation was, the richer in this world's goods, the greater has been the departure from Jesus Christ.

Only God knows what the future may be. But judging from the last 500 years, there has been such a widespread breakdown of authentic Christianity. It began with the rise of Protestantism originated by a Catholic priest and a member of a religious order!

In the Catholic Church, we have witnessed a widespread breakdown of the priesthood. We have seen a widespread breakdown of authentic consecrated life.

In my thirty-fourth year of working with the Holy See, are a few things I can share with you. The Holy See seriously wonders how much of the Catholic Church will survive in wealthy, prosperous nations of the Western world like our own.

What then is the remedy? What can be done to stop this disastrous decline?

There is only one way that this revolution can be reversed. Professed Catholics, who call themselves Christians, must re-examine their faith.

We must be sure we believe that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. We must believe that when God became man He instituted the Holy Eucharist. We must believe that the consecrated life – consecrated poverty, consecrated chastity, consecrated obedience – is most pleasing to Jesus Christ. When God became man He made sure He lived a life of consecrated chastity, obedience and poverty.

Where do we begin to examine what has happened?

The Catholic Church will be preserved only where there are Catholics who are living martyrs!

Ordinary believers will not survive this revolution. They must be Catholics who are thoroughly convinced that God became man in the person of Jesus. They must be convinced that there is only one supreme authority on earth – the authority of Jesus Christ vested in the Vicar of Christ.

What the Church desperately needs is strong, believing Catholics. Otherwise one nation after another, like our own, will be wiped out as a Christian country.

To prepare ourselves to become heroic witnesses, we must first deepen our faith in and love of the Most Holy Eucharist. For Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is truly, the "medicine for the soul" and can bring healing to our troubled Church and devastated nation.

For this reason, Pope John Paul II asked that the Jubilee Year 2000 be "intensely Eucharistic." The Holy Father believes that "in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Savior, who took flesh in Mary's womb twenty centuries ago, continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of divine life."

How should we respond to the Pope's Jubilee request? We can do so by receiving our Eucharistic Lord worthily and by spending time in Eucharistic Adoration. For renewed belief in Christ's Real Presence and silent prayer before Him will give us the necessary grace to live as "martyrs in the new millennium."

The Institute on Religious Life has sent you the enclosed copy of a booklet I wrote, "The History of Eucharistic Adoration." This short treatise shows how the Church's understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has undergone a marvelous development over the centuries. As believers, we must study this revealed truth and spend time in prayerful adoration to draw on the infinite wisdom and power, available in the Eucharist. It is this power that will strengthen our faith in this troubled age.

This free booklet is our gift to you for your continuous interest in and generous support of the Institute's apostolate. We greatly depend on your prayers and goodness to continue promoting and fostering authentic religious life in this country and all around the world. Use the enclosed return envelope to make a tax-deductible gift. (If you would like to obtain additional copies to share with others please see the back page of this letter.)

May God bless you and your family in this Jubilee Year with the special graces you need to become true martyrs for the Faith. Please know of the Institute's continual prayers and remembrance in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for your intentions each week and on major feast days.


Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Vice President, Institute on Religious Life

Prayer for a Martyr’s Faith

Lord Jesus, we beg You, strengthen our faith in Your Divinity.
Deepen our conviction that You, God, became man to live
a consecrated life, to teach us what authentic,
honest-to-God Catholicism is all about.
Protect us, dear Lord, from the widespread mania,
which has penetrated countries like ours.
Dear Lord, how we need a deep faith, a faith of martyrs, today.
Because only those who will survive are those convinced that
to live a consecrated life, means to live a martyr’s life.
Dear Lord, help us to become more and more like You, living
examples of what the early Church showed the pagan world – that
You are our God and we are Your creatures, born into
this world to convert the pagan world to Christianity. Amen.

(composed by Fr. John A. Hardon)

Copyright © 2003 by Inter Mirifica

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