Though the changes in nature which occur in autumn may not bring us the same feeling of vibrancy sparked by the new shoots of spring plants, there is beauty in both seasons. We know, too, that the renewed bursts of life in spring happen only because of the subtler changes of autumn. One wonders if the leaves would complain about these changes if they could. In the process of human growth, it seems the required transformations do bring about similar elements of complaint.
The Church’s renewal, originated by the Council Fathers of Vatican II, is a case in point. Even today it is common to find those who indicate they wish the Church had settled for a reform instead of a renewal. They would prefer doing the same things they always did, although better or more faithfully, rather than being involved in the exacting tasks required by renewal. However, a renewed Church, though its goals remain the same, calls for new attitudes, new approaches, new laws, and new ways of doing things. In other words, renewal entails much more work, and it involves the whole person.
If we want true renewal to take place in the Church, it has to take place first in our hearts. As popular song says, “It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance; it’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance.” However, as the lyrics continue, the seed that lies beneath the bitter winter snows conceals a rose. Just as the leaves of autumn must die in order to be transformed into new life in spring, or, to use Jesus’ image, the grain of wheat must die in order to bring forth fruit, so must we, individually, die to former ways of thinking and doing things if true renewal is to take place in the Church. Though spring may seem a better experience, perhaps autumn is a better teacher; its teaching can lead us to a more vibrant spring.
— Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB
Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.