Title: Archipelago Church
Publisher: Real View Books, Port Huron-MI, pp. 78
Italian translation: Arcipelago Chiesa, Fede e Cultura, 2008, pp. 80
Father Stanley Jaki is one of the most important philosophers of science alive and he has taught at major American academic institutions. Jaki is very well known as an epistemologist, his writings have already gained him numerous honoris causa degrees, as well as the prestigious Templeton Prize in 1987. Jaki the essayist, at least in Italy, is less well known. Archipelago Church offers an acute and pungent analysis of the Church and contemporary society. This short volume begins with a critical re-reading of the process of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council and Jaki has an approach that can be traced back to the ‘hermeneutics of continuity’ referred to by Benedict XVI in his by now famous address given to the Roman Curia in 2005. In a special way, Jaki with participation and extreme determination denounces the desacralisation of the liturgy brought about by those who, because of bold experiments, went well beyond the letter (and also the spirit) of the constitution of the liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. Understanding ecumenicalism, inter-religious dialogue and the active participation of the faithful in an erroneous way, many priests and Christian communities ended up by relegating the sacrificial and sacramental nature of the Eucharist to a secondary position.
The Christian lives of many people, because of the influence of ideologies that spread during the course of the twentieth century, seem to have abdicated their responsibilities at the level of witness and to have diluted themselves to the level of an indistinct activity of social promotion. In this situation it appears to the author that a reform of the reform of the liturgy, called for on more than one occasion by Joseph Ratzinger when he was still a Cardinal, could bring great benefits to the Christian life as a whole. Jaki then analyses the cultural and religious state of contemporary Europe and observes that despite the declarations on the end of secularisation and the return to God we are still in the presence of a profoundly secularised ethos which also reverberates around the renewed religious question, The most original part of the book is probably the last, from which indeed the volume takes its title. In this chapter Jaki observes the emergence of islands of authentic and renewed Christian life. History teaches that it has been specifically at moments when the Church has passed through its periods of greatest decadence and when society has undergone its most radical socio-cultural transformations, one need think here only of the low Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation, and the French Revolution, that islands have bloomed made up of saints and movements that have had the ability to bear witness to the vitality of the Church. What has been most indicative in such blooming has been not so much the number but the nature of these new ecclesial realities, which in many cases have been characterised by the wish to live out vocation and bear witness to Christ within a condition of secular life.
There seems to thus emerge a new way of being in the world without being of the world. Jaki also observes the emergence of great figures who were mystical saints, to whom John Paul II was very devoted, figures such as Padre Pio or Sister Faustina Kowalska, who with their lives of prayer and self-giving constitute the second lung of the renewal of the contemporary Church. The emergence of these islands of witness, the processes of morphogenesis that affect secular institutes and lay groupings, lead us to think anew about ecclesiology and the role of the Church in the contemporary world. In epochs marked by the greatest crises, such as, in Jaki’s view, the current epoch, the vitality of the Church has been expressed in the most unforeseen and surprising forms. History teaches us that specifically when corruption seems to be spreading everywhere, original ways are born of embodying Christian witness, ways that are ‘new’ and at the same time near to the lives of the early Christians. This book by Jaki describes in an evocative way the ambivalence of our epoch and the lives of Christians, denouncing their limits with great courage and force and bringing out those riches that are at times concealed which keep alive the light of Christian witness, a light that is always able to illuminate the world, even during what Hannah Arendt defined as ‘dark times’.