The Ongoing Challenge to read the Signs of the Times
The phrase “reading the signs of the times” gained notoriety a little over 50 years ago. It was a key part of the document from the Second Vatican Council called the “Church in the Modern World.” It signified a commitment on the part of the church to read the signs of the times.
Almost exactly 50 years later Pope Francis reminded us that “reading the signs of the times” is a task to be accomplished in each generation.
“How many people, in so many of the existential peripheries of our time, are tired and exhausted, and await the Church? They await us! How can we reach them? …
It is not the task of the Pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality, but to invite all the Church to grasp the signs of the times that the Lord continually offers us. … These signs … must be reread in the light of the Gospel; this is the moment of growth of God’s Kingdom.
How much poverty and solitude we see in today’s world, unfortunately! How many people live in conditions of great suffering and ask the Church to be a sign of the Lord’s goodness, solidarity and mercy. This is a task, in particular, for those who have the responsibility of pastoral ministry. … They are required to recognize and interpret these signs of the times in order to offer a wise and generous response.”
— Audience with Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, Sept. 20, 2014
Vincent read the signs of his times… in his life experiences.
Vincent anticipated that challenge in his life. The year 1617 was pivotal for him … and subsequently for the Church in France and beyond.
Frequent visitors to this site are familiar with how his experiences in the sleepy French towns of Follville and Chatillon brought home to him the spiritual and physical neglect of those who lived on the peripheries. [Vincent showed us] With the help of others he came to realize his mission of following Christ the Evangelizer of those on the peripheries.
For the next four decades, he continued to read the signs of the times as he experienced more and more people who lived on the peripheries even though they lived in geographical centers. Through those years his vision did not dim with age. He actually saw more clearly the challenges calling for a response. His response was exactly the “wise and generous response” called for by Pope Francis.
Our challenge to read the signs of our times … in our life experiences
What are the signs of the time today? Pope Francis speaks of them often. [Joy of the Gospel #2] But more to the point of this reflection is what are the signs of the time calling for our personal response?
What are the events in our lives that open our eyes to spiritual poverty? What are the events that bring us face to face with the sufferings we tend to be blind to?
- What might be my personal experience of the spiritual poverty of the Folleville experience?
- What might be my personal experience of the misery of the forgotten people of Chatillon?
- Who is helping me open my eyes to read the meaning of these events?