Archbishop Justin on the tragic death of his daughter
In an age of political superficiality, spiritual relativism, economic depression and cultural fragmentation, it is sometimes difficult holding things together. In some ways, the task of the Church in this country has never been harder - at least pastorally. The cure of souls - the cura animarum - has always been the task of Christian leaders, from archbishops to lay readers: the calling is to be a shepherd who cares for his individual flock as the Good Shepherd cares for His universal Church. But the old certainties - those rooted in the Judæo-Christian tradition - have gone: we do not merely dispute the integrity of the shepherd, but the Truth of the Shepherd. We inhabit a different country, one in which theology, public worship and human fellowship have been replaced by psychology, counselling theory and Facebook. Community reality has given way to individual isolation; communities of faith to the Twitter hordes of secularism, mysticism, intuition and unbridled emotion.
We are much wealthier in the West than we were 50 years ago, but hope has diminished. And so has happiness, if statistics on mental health and social breakdown are taken as measures of a society at ease with itself. The pervasive sense of fragmentation and despair has a profound effect upon the task of pastoral care; of how we integrate our faith and praxis, and how the transcendent power of God may be communicated to the self-confident, self-governing, self-mediating homo autonomous.
Into this crisis God raises up a man called Justin. He has no substantial experience of church leadership, no great insights in anthropology or political science, and no impressive doctorates in theology or philosophy. All he knows is Christ and Him crucified. He understands the twisted power of sin and the joy of a salvation that releases people into a new relationship of dependence upon God. He has grieved deeply in his suffering and profound loss, and the memory still chokes him.
What more could God have given to His Church at this time than an archbishop who is relational, rational and authentic? What better gift of leadership could He have bestowed than one who seeks to understand, mediate and reconcile? What greater shepherd could He have raised up than one who knows the Truth and how to express it in analogies of movement in space; in certainty and speculation; in declaration and dance?
Archbishop Justin has come to build, teach, preach, train, supervise, maintain and act. And the task is urgent, for we are sinking in a morass of cant, hypocrisy, double standards, cold formality and the denial of reality - not only outside the Church but within it. No wonder those who are being lost reject the Faith of love, and the One who died in agony in order that they might live with joy, hope and peace.