What a map provides above all is connectedness: an articulation of unity-in-difference which alone can disclose the meaning of the site the student surveys. Without such orientation, our errands risk being aimless and ineffectual. Compare the indomitable sense of identity and assurance of the pre-conciliar Church, or the hopeful fervour aroused by Vatican II, with current tendencies toward vacillation and fragmentation, in which the whole is so easily obscured by contending enmities and loyalties, repudiations and retrievals. Obscurity of the whole can in turn inhibit real engagement and vitality.
The apparent disconnectedness of past, present, and future sometimes confronts today’s seminarian in an especially intense way. His intellectual formation may look broken and discouraging, and as a consequence he entertains superficially attractive ‘solutions’: the Catholic past is repudiated in favour of a dogged adherence to ‘what we do now’, or alienation from the Catholic present inspires an attempt to recreate a pre-Conciliar ‘golden-age’. In both these ways, of course, the perceived ruptures are actually reinforced. They are reinforced, as well, if the continuity of past and present is left unexamined and blindly assumed, on the basis that this is what ‘orthodoxy’ requires. In all these ways the challenge to understand the Faith historically is refused.
But where can we find a map to help us navigate such a landscape?