Winter is holding on for dear life here in the Northeast. Nevertheless, it must lose its grip and die, because the spring will inexorably come. Hope springs eternal, but never more beautifully than in April and May.
In 1852, Blessed John Henry Newman preached perhaps the greatest sermon in English Catholic history. It was entitled “The Second Spring.” He recalled the vibrancy of the Church’s inception in England, and then lamented how She was ravaged during the Reformation. Priests were martyred, the hierarchy routed, and all that was sacred was razed to the ground. But that was not to be the end. God was not finished with His Church in that land. In Newman’s words, “The English Church was, and the English Church was not, and the English Church is once again.” It was, he announced, “the coming of a Second Spring,” a mirror image of the annual renewal of the natural world.
St. John Paul the Great, in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, proclaimed that “God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity.” He frequently repeated that conviction during his papacy. Here in the Northeast, with parish closings, failing church attendance and a dearth of vocations, cynics may laugh in the face of such optimism. The saints, and Mother Nature, teach us another response: hope. Newman captures that hope better than most, when he turns to the Mother of God: “Arise Mary, and go forth in thy strength into that north country, which once was thine own, and take possession of a land which knows thee not.”