"The Signs of the Times"


MFS 27/2 (2021):

"To understand and to follow the “signs of the times”, a concept coined by Vatican II, remains a fundamental, though infinite task"

The first article in this issue of our journal examines how Pope Francis has established with his Apostolic Letter Antiquum ministerium in May 2021 a new “lay ministry”, that of the catechist, which since the promulgation of Spiritus Domini in January 2021 has also opened the ministries of lector and acolyte to women (see article in MFS 27/1, 2021, 8-35). According to Patrik C. Höring the new document does not fully eliminate remaining confusions concerning the function of sacramental ministries and the role of clericalized ministers. The issue of zeitgeist is also present in Bertrand Dumas’s article about the understanding of sacramental marriage in postmodern times. “Spectacularization” is his own phrasing to show that the new focus is now on “intensity”, “visibility”, and the “extreme” – a mindset that discounts the routine and everyday life of couples. The mystery of sacramental marriage is “turned into the spectacular, and the ordinary is lost in the attempt to make it conform to the remarkable”. Jesuit Ward Biemans sees in Amoris laetitia an opportunity to improve the pastoral accompaniment of couples before and after marriage. Empirical research proves, he argues, that premarital education has a sustainable beneficial effect on the relationship quality of couples. Part of his forthcoming research is to analyze how the settings of religiosity and spirituality could contribute to the new expectations. Rooted and educated in Indian culture, canonist Thou Ngaomi is convinced that love is a constituting and indispensable component of marriage at the very moment of the exchange of consent and must therefore obtain a provable juridical status. But familiar with the situation of “arranged marriage” in his native country, he argues that a loveless arranged marriage exclusively based on parental judgment and pressure is a “form of cultural aberration” – a provocative challenge that certainly invites further debates. Benjamin Elie David’s article turns to a different cultural area. He intends to explain what the position of Judaism was with regard to intrafamilial marriages and what the reasons were for its evolution over the centuries. Although the prohibition of consanguineous marriage was for a long time commonplace in Jewish communities, historical and sociological changes have contributed to a gradual decrease of kindred marriages. The coronavirus pandemic could help us to interrupt the sense of progress which has become so dominant in modern times and which pushes us always forward with the assumption that we have to produce, to invent, to improve, to perfect etc. – that is Samuele Francesco Tadini’s thesis. Referring to the 19th century philosophy and theology of Antonio Rosmini, Tadini proposes to deepen moral and spiritual life by adopting a new perspective on the “present” which includes a “look beyond time”, i.e. to eternity. Jan Loffeld concludes this issue of our journal with practical-theological reflections about the different grades of secularization which have now reached its highest phase and arrived also at the area of family pastoral care. While family rituals are still popular, they are coming up against the limits of what liturgy meant originally. The background is that transcendence as a place of “life in abundance” is more and more converted to “immanence”, i.e. the feeling that everything is achievable in the “here and now”. But what, then, is the sense of church rituals?

Read the Editorial by Thomas Knieps-Port le Roi, Editor

See the full Table of Contents