During the proclamation of the Creed, often, at the moment of stating his faith in the resurrection, the loudness of the voices of the audience becomes a murmur. And for good reason: only 58% of people declaring themselves Catholic believe in the resurrection of Christ, 10% in the resurrection of the dead (1)! Even among practitioners, a third say they are skeptical of the resurrection of Jesus (2).
More broadly, the Resurrection seems to have become a confused notion, as evidenced by Agnès Charlemagne, in charge of pastoral work with young people, author of How to Talk About Spirituality with Teenagers (ed. Salvator): “I am going to resuscitate myself, said a young girl who had just been confirmed, explaining to me that she was going to live another life in a dog, then in a man…! she says. Many people believe in the Resurrection but do not know how to talk about it, also regrets Agnès Charlemagne: “Today the Resurrection is like a distant concept, harped on during the Credo, but not shared aloud. »
“From the start, the resurrection of Christ was hard for the apostles to believe. »
This difficulty in believing does not date from today. “From the start, the resurrection of Christ was difficult for the apostles to believe,” explains Father Guillaume deMenthière. Some doubted until the day of Pentecost. The Gospels underline these resistances well. “Nowadays, in a way, we would be in a better position to believe, thanks to the Gospels and the testimonies of the martyred apostles as they announced the Resurrection. The fact remains that we belong to a secularized society, the result of a progressive dechristianization, dating back at least to the 18th century.
According to historian Guillaume Cuchet, author of How our world ceased to be Christian (ed. Seuil), France, the leading Catholic country in the 19th century in demographic terms, saw its numbers of practitioners plunge in the mid-1960s: whereas in 1965, 94% of this generation was baptized within three months after birth, today there are only 30 to 35% baptized between birth and the age of 7 years.
The desire for eternity is still there
This secularization is accompanied by a rise in power of the scientific explanation of the world, even of a scientism incompatible with faith in the Resurrection. “Science offers us only one obvious thing about death: the decomposition of bodies, decrypts Jacques Arènes, himself a mathematician and psychoanalyst. For our society, the idea of a resurrected glorious body is particularly complicated to think about. To believe supposes to pass to another mode of reflection, which is demanding. »
Nevertheless, this rationalist domination is not so clear cut. Thus 64% of declared Catholics believe in miracles(1). Similarly, more than 30% of French people believe in life after death(3). Even if in this field, Buddhist beliefs are becoming more and more essential, and particularly reincarnation.
Reincarnation, which postulates that the soul migrates into another body, goes hand in hand with this “very current conception of a clear separation of spirit and body. »
“In the minds of children, the idea of having six lives gives one more chance of a successful life,” says Agnès Charlemagne. Moreover, reincarnation, which postulates that the soul migrates into another body, goes hand in hand with this “very current conception of a clear separation of mind and body”, stresses Jacques Arènes. According to him, the Christian vision of an intimate relationship between the soul and the body, the basis of faith in a resurrection of the body, is weakening: “in our time, the latter is thought of more as an envelope of the spirit. It is therefore difficult to believe that we will be resurrected with him. »
Another difficulty specific to our time: to think about the Resurrection, you have to think about death. However, this is less present than before in everyday life. Formerly, for example, the door of a building stricken by bereavement was draped in a black hanging. “Parents no longer take children to funerals,” notes Agnès Charlemagne. The 21st century places us under the illusion that life has no end. »
“The desire for eternity is always there. »
In addition to these major social trends, there are developments in the Church: the weakening of preaching on the Resurrection from the mid-1950s to favor subjects of social justice could explain part of the current misunderstandings about the Resurrection. Strengthening the formation of believers would then be a way forward. Just like the discussion with non-believers, now lacking in religious culture. “The desire for eternity is still there,” concludes Agnès Charlemagne. It must be awakened and faith will be given in addition! »
(1) CSA survey- The world of religions s of 2007.(2) Survey Life -Opinioin Way of 2013.(3) IFOP survey- Pilgrim 2018.
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