“I have a deep joy at the bottom of my soul because Christ called me to be a priest. Nobody can take that joy from me. Nothing. That joy remains.”

Grab a cup of coffee, and sit down to read this. You can thank me later.

Edgar Beltran, a writer for The Pillar sat down to talk with Cardinal Cardinal Wim Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht in the Netherlands — a corner of Europe that may be one of the most secularized in the world:

In the 1980s, 37% of Dutch children were baptized in the Catholic Church – today, fewer than 3% are.

Catholics were 40% of the population in the 70s; today around 20% of the population identifies as Catholic.

News of church closures and parish consolidation are common today, as the Netherlands dioceses address low church attendance. In the Netherlands, it is not unusual to enter a daycare, a store, or a restaurant only to quickly realize that the place used to be a church.

The Netherlands is also well-known for being one of the most progressive societies in the world, being the first country to legalize gay marriage, and also being at the forefront of abortion, euthanasia, legalization of prostitution and drugs, among other issues.

And yet, in the face of all that, Cardinal Eijk sees hope. At the end of the long interview — and you really should read the whole thing — he is asked bluntly, in the face of so many challenges, “Why are you hopeful?”

His answer:

I believe in Christ, and Christ will never let down his Church. That in the first place.

Even when the Church declines in the whole world – and we see that the number of Catholics will dwindle around the globe, not only in Holland – that does not make a difference to me.

My faith in Christ will remain the same.

I have a deep joy at the bottom of my soul because Christ called me to be a priest. Nobody can take that joy from me. Nothing. That joy remains.

Even when the number of churchgoers is dwindling, the joy of the priesthood remains in me.

So, I’m very thankful that God called me to represent Him in person, especially in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Again, what will remain in Holland? A small, but strong Church, because the people who still remain in the Church and continue to go to Mass every Sunday are convinced Catholics.

Once, my spiritual father told me that we have returned to the days of the Acts of the Apostles. The Church developed in very dire circumstances, and it was a very small Church.

How could you hope to spread the Gospel throughout the world with such a small number of people?

And then very fast, it did. Ten or 20 years after the Resurrection, the faith had already spread throughout many parts of the Roman Empire.

That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. When you look at the Acts of the Apostles, you might think that the main characters are Peter, Paul, the apostles.

But no. The main character, although a bit in the background, is always the Holy Spirit given to the Apostles at Pentecost.