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One year and counting into the lockdown caused by the CCP virus, the Church in the Netherlands is teetering on the edge.
Interviews with 21 priests across the Netherlands by Katholiek Nieuwsblad point to a concerning decline in numbers of churchgoers and sacramental services.
Hugo Bos, one of the leaders of Civitas Christiana in the Netherlands — a group devoted to family, faith and property — compared churchgoing to training in sports.
I've learned from sports psychology, because you've done [a new exercise habit] for more than six weeks, it becomes a habit. People — for not six weeks but six months — have not been attending Mass. So, then if [on] Sunday, you are in your bed, sleeping, relaxing, and you think, "Well, this is pleasant. Why not? Why attend Mass anymore?" And I think many of these people that were kind of already on the border of the Church are now lost forever.
Marriages and baptisms are being postponed. The deceased go directly to crematoriums without a funeral Mass.
"We've all lost parishioners," lamented one priest. "At some point, you get used to not going to church."
Extreme lockdown restrictions have made the Church's role even more precarious.
Bos explains how ridiculously far the restrictions have gone.
Bos: "For example, if you make the Sign of the Cross, you're not allowed to touch your head. You can make the Sign of Cross, but without touching your body."
Even before the pandemic, the Church was on a downward spiral, with churches remade into studio apartments and some even transformed into skateboard parks.
Despite the gloom, the light of faith brought to the Netherlands in medieval times by saints like Willibrord and Boniface is not extinguished.
Bos sees hope with young people coming into the Church.
Bos: "I don't like the word faithful remnant because it should be the faithful majority."
He also finds great hope in the words of Our Lady at Fatima and surprisingly, in the chastisement.
Bos: "The chastisement will lead to conversion. If the people are not shaken very harshly, they will not change their lives. Our Lady told us at Fatima the chastisement will come."
And just as St. Boniface held high the Holy Scriptures as spiritual protection while he was martyred by pagans in the eighth century, so too do the faithful — like Hugo Bos and Civitas Christiana — hold up the faith during these trying times.