70. It is also true that at times greater emphasis is placed on the outward expressions and traditions of some groups, or on alleged private revelations which would replace all else, than on the impulse of Christian piety. There is a kind of Christianity made up of devotions reflecting an individual and sentimental faith life which does not in fact correspond to authentic “popular piety”. Some people promote these expressions while not being in the least concerned with the advancement of society or the formation of the laity, and in certain cases they do so in order to obtain economic benefits or some power over others.
I wonder if I’m the only guy who thought of Medjugorge while reading this.
Nor can we overlook the fact that in recent decades there has been a breakdown in the way Catholics pass down the Christian faith to the young. It is undeniable that many people feel disillusioned and no longer identify with the Catholic tradition. Growing numbers of parents do not bring their children for baptism or teach them how to pray. There is also a certain exodus towards other faith communities. The causes of this breakdown include: a lack of opportunity for dialogue in families, the influence of the communications media, a relativistic subjectivism, unbridled consumerism which feeds the market, lack of pastoral care among the poor, the failure of our institutions to be welcoming, and our difficulty in restoring a mystical adherence to the faith in a pluralistic religious landscape.
This is all pretty good stuff. Our disregard for the liturgy fits squarely into the Pope’s last category. At the bare minimum, it acknowledges that there’s a problem. So many prelates seem to deny there is a crisis in the Church at all or offer decidedly non-Catholic remedies for combating it.
At this point, the exhortation diverges into a long discussion of city life, including the following statement:
This challenges us to imagine innovative spaces and possibilities for prayer and communion which are more attractive and meaningful for city dwellers. Through the influence of the media, rural areas are being affected by the same cultural changes, which are significantly altering their way of life as well.
Here’s an innovative idea. The people I know who live in highly urbanized areas desire peace and quiet and reflection more than just about anything else. I strongly believe that promoting the Traditional Mass in these areas, rather than ghettoizing it, would be a tremendous draw for those who want a refuge from the noise and clamor of the city.
78. Today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity. At the same time, the spiritual life comes to be identified with a few religious exercises which can offer a certain comfort but which do not encourage encounter with others, engagement with the world or a passion for evangelization. As a result, one can observe in many agents of evangelization, even though they pray, a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour. These are three evils which fuel one another.
Let me offer an example of this. This piece was written by the wife of a diaconate candidate. First, let’s look beyond the absurdity of her comparing her selfish frustrations with the process to Christ’s Passion. Second, notice what the primary concern is in all her reflections. Is it the work of God? No. It’s her own feelings and her getting a place at the table. She might as well have just gone around saying “Do you know who I am?”
This is also a phenomenon witnessed frequently among the disco liturgy crowd and anything that reeks of making “me” the most significant element of what the Church does.
80. Pastoral workers can thus fall into a relativism which, whatever their particular style of spirituality or way of thinking, proves even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism. It has to do with the deepest and inmost decisions that shape their way of life. This practical relativism consists in acting as if God did not exist, making decisions as if the poor did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist. It is striking that even some who clearly have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm!
I would disagree with this insofar as it reverses cause and effect. Doctrinal relativism is often at the root of the “lifestyle relativism” the Pope mentions. The Church’s social doctrine is, after all, doctrinal. Consider, though, the LCWR types who are fine with the murder of babies while thinking that our biggest problem is that homosexuals can’t have fake marriages. This is a doctrinal problem first.
81. At a time when we most need a missionary dynamism which will bring salt and light to the world, many lay people fear that they may be asked to undertake some apostolic work and they seek to avoid any responsibility that may take away from their free time. For example, it has become very difficult today to find trained parish catechists willing to persevere in this work for some years. Something similar is also happening with priests who are obsessed with protecting their free time. This is frequently due to the fact that people feel an overbearing need to guard their personal freedom, as though the task of evangelization was a dangerous poison rather than a joyful response to God’s love which summons us to mission and makes us fulfilled and productive. Some resist giving themselves over completely to mission and thus end up in a state of paralysis and acedia…
83. And so the biggest threat of all gradually takes shape: “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness”. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like “the most precious of the devil’s potions”. Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this, I repeat: Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!
But again, what is the source of all this? Is it just laziness? If so, where does the laziness comes from? This is all a product of not believing what the Church teaches. The saints evangelized because they wanted to keep people out of hell, including themselves. They loved so intensely that they couldn’t bear the thought of not participating in the Master’s mission or following His command to preach the Gospel and baptize the nations. With this motivation removed, it’s easy to slack off.
84. Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council, we are distressed by the troubles of our age and far from naive optimism; yet the fact that we are more realistic must not mean that we are any less trusting in the Spirit or less generous. In this sense, we can once again listen to the words of Blessed John XXIII on the memorable day of 11 October 1962: “At times we have to listen, much to our regret, to the voices of people who, though burning with zeal, lack a sense of discretion and measure. In this modern age they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin … We feel that we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In our times, divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by human effort and even beyond all expectations, are directed to the fulfilment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs, in which everything, even human setbacks, leads to the greater good of the Church”.
Can we just admit that Blessed John was wrong when he said this?
86. In some places a spiritual “desertification” has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. In those places “the Christian world is becoming sterile, and it is depleting itself like an overexploited ground, which transforms into a desert”. In other countries, violent opposition to Christianity forces Christians to hide their faith in their own beloved homeland. This is another painful kind of desert. But family and the workplace can also be a parched place where faith nonetheless has to be preserved and communicated. Yet “it is starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, by the example of their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive”. In these situations we are called to be living sources of water from which others can drink. At times, this becomes a heavy cross, but it was from the cross, from his pierced side, that our Lord gave himself to us as a source of living water. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!
Notice how contrary this is to the prevailing narrative of religion in society. We are increasingly told that religion is a private matter and not for public discussion and certainly not a basis for cultural transformation. How odd that the Pope’s call on this front has been ignored. What would Nancy Pelosi/Joe Biden do?
More to come...
Friday, February 28, 2014