Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Simple Daily Examination

I prayed a prayer this morning. It was simple. Something like this:

Dear Lord, help me to make you present to people today.

It's a tall order, especially for a hotheaded Celtic dude like me. But that's what grace is for. That's why I prayed.

As I was driving home today, this thought came to me:

Did you make Jesus present to others today?

Crap. I don't think I did much. I actually seemed to have had an abnormal amount of frustrating trials today, and I'm thinking I didn't exactly deal with them all as our Lord would.

But then I thought, hey, that's a good, simple self-examination to do each day. Wake up. Pray for the grace to bring Christ into the world. Live the day. Ask yourself if you did what you prayed for help to do. Make an act of contrition if need be and renew the intention.

Maybe eventually I'll get there. I imagine it'll never be consistent, but one can hope. And pray. And most of all (actively) rely on grace. Actively avail myself of the Sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Eucharist. Actually, that reminds me of Practicing the Presence of God. Good book. I should read it again.

Missing Backbone

I was just looking over one of my news sources (CWN), and one article quotes Bishop Lynch of my old diocese (thankfully), St. Petersburg. I met him once; seemed like a nice guy. Nice is not the main attribute we need in our bishops. Regarding Obama's record (in the context of the Notre Dame scandal), Bp. Lynch says:

Early “markers” are not encouraging in this regard but hope needs to spring eternal and while Notre Dame may have acted way too early and too generously, I am more alarmed that the rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child and they do not wish to be any part of that, and ill-serves the cause of life.

I really love it (what's the sarcasm emoticon again?) when old people try to foist their perceptions of how we think on us young folk. Okay, I'm not a spring chicken (tipped the 30yr mark last August), but I kinda think I'm a little more in tune with the young folk than our grandparents. What I see in this statement is more likely a reflection of how Bp. Lynch remembers thinking when he was that age than how we young'uns think today (not to mention it's a sweeping generalization in any case).

It strikes me that Bp. Lynch is of the hippie generation--those who cut their teeth during the cultural revolution and, as far as the Church is concerned, are largely responsible for the mess the Church is in today in terms of poor catechesis, drooping religious practice, and lack of Catholic identity. I'm not saying the Bishop is personally responsible but that his "pastoral" approach seems very in tune with that which put us where we are today. This seems borne out by the immediately following headline:

An analysis of Gallup surveys conducted in 2006, 2007, and 2008 has found that Catholics are more likely to believe that abortion, sexual relations between unmarried people, divorce, embryonic stem cell research, and homosexual relations are morally acceptable than are non-Catholics [who attend church, i.e., Protestants].

Bishops being nice is a nice to have. What we need--what is a must have--for our bishops is backbone, backbone to stand up uncompromisingly in the public square (and in the pulpit!) and defend and proclaim the Faith. Bishops like Archbishop Chaput of Denver, Bishop Martino of Scranton, Bishop D'Arcy of South Bend, Bishop Tobin of Providence, and actually quite a few more who've stepped up in recent times. (And let's not forget the Holy Father himself!)

So what if it doesn't make sense to "the world" (or your perception of college-age kids)? I mean, didn't St. Paul say that the Cross is foolishness to the world all the way back in the first century? That has not changed. You think that stopped him from proclaiming the Gospel in full fidelity? As he might say, God forbid! And as Bp. Tobin recently pointed out, our Lord wasn't exactly "apologetic" when confronting moral failure, either.

I'm not saying some folks don't go overboard on the other side, but really the line is not that fine. Proclaim the Truth in season and out of season. Period.

P.S. (Update) I forgot to mention that several student organizations at ND have voiced their own objections to the situation created by President Jenkins. So that, too, made Bp. Lynch's comments seem even more off base than just my own perceptions...

P.P.S. (Update 6 April 2009) I feel there's something off about this post, mainly just the tone, and I don't like to seem like I'm attacking anyone. This isn't meant as a personal affront against Bp. Lynch. I was mainly just using what he wrote as an example of what I think is too conciliatory an approach in this and other matters, and, specifically, I think he's off base in his perception of what youth think or want to hear (or, for that matter, need to hear). I approach the missing backbone topic in a more positive light in this post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Open Letter to "Catholics"

This is a short, open letter to those who claim the name "Catholic" in all but their actual beliefs (such as this fella).

Dear folks, I encourage you to discover your Faith. Somehow you managed to be raised in the Church without ever learning what it is we believe. That's sad. I'm sorry for you. No, really, I am.

The restoration of Catholic identity based on the tenets of the faith that is now occurring under our Holy Father Benedict and other upstanding bishops must be very confusing for you. It clearly upsets some of you who have wrongly come to think that the Church is some kind of social club or only some kind of social charity service.

The truth is that our social justice work and even the sacraments and liturgy itself that bind us together as a (social) community flow from our Faith. They do not exist on their own. You cannot cut off the Church from the Faith of the Apostles and just keep the feel-good, do-good parts. If you do, we are no longer a Church or a Faith but rather a club. If all you want from the Church is that--a club--I suggest you join one of the many that have no religious affiliations (or even those that do but that have creeds aligning more with your own).

The defining characteristics of the Catholic church are that She is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. There's a lot wrapped up in those words, including things like visible unity (Oneness) with our bishops and, especially, the Pope (i.e., submitting in obedience in matters of faith and morals and not, e.g., attacking them when they defend the Faith), and living not just a good life but working toward perfection in our lives (Holiness), and not just thinking and doing what I want as an individual but believing what has been believed by all, everywhere (Catholicity), and not just going with what feels good in modern culture or what we personally interpret Vatican II as saying but accepting the Faith handed down to us from the Apostles by word of mouth or written word (Apostolicity).

Why go through all the trouble, heartache, and (I promise) ultimate failure in trying to change the Church to conform with your own interests and preferences? If you don't believe the Church is who She says She is, the effort just doesn't make any sense. If you do believe, then you shouldn't be trying to change Her.

So the answer seems simple, either discover the Faith, humble yourself, and accept it, or just go on about your business and leave the Faith and the Church to be truly what they are. I don't want you to leave--the Church has the Sacraments, which confer grace you direly need, but it seems like you should be honest with yourself. I think it's worse to continue living in self-deception and potentially put your soul in more danger by receiving the sacraments unworthily.

That's all.

I truly hope you can come to know the Truth. He can truly set you free from all your worries, confusion, and pain.