Beware of ‘secular Catholicism’

by

Archbishop Nienstedt

I hope you had a joy-filled Easter! A priest friend of mine from Detroit gave a most thought-provoking and challenging homily to his parishioners on Easter Sunday. I found his description of a “secular Catholicism” to be quite perceptive.

He also commented on the impact that this movement is having on our college-age sons and daughters and how imperative it is that we communicate to them the beautiful truths of our faith, especially regarding human sexuality, marriage and human life.

I share his homily here with you in the hopes that you will find it equally stimulating:

“Jesus is Lord”

This was a particularly difficult homily for me to prepare. I wanted all of you to embrace the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . and with it, his victory over sin and death without reflecting on a single negative. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that you and I must confront a kind of spiritual death that is embracing our church and our society.

For some time now, there has been a secular Catholicism which has been slowly replacing the passionate, strong and enduring faith that many of us received from our parents. Secular Catholicism is more a social religion than a religion that comes from a deeply seated faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It invites people to have a causal relationship with the Catholic Church . . . a church Jesus founded for us as a gift for all ages.

Secular Catholics are casual about many things. They are casual about church attendance, casual about the importance of a prayer life, casual about the commandments, casual about authentic church teaching and casual in the ways they pass faith on to their children.

It doesn’t seem to be so bad when we hear the word casual. Yet, it is bad because when one generation falls into that trap, the generations that follow have even less faith or no faith at all . . . and the church is diminished. So why is this important enough to take time and space in my Easter homily?

The answer is simple. There is spiritual warfare going on in our church and in our society and, as faithful Catholics, you ought to know about it.

This year I re-read parts of Dinesh D’Souza’s book “What’s So Great About Christianity?” In that book he warns about a new atheism that is infecting our society as a whole, but, more importantly, it is affecting many of our young people in colleges and universities.

In his chapter “Mis-Educating the Young: Saving Children From Their Parents” he says, “The atheist strategy can be described in this way. Let the religious people breed them, and we will educate them to despise their parents’ beliefs.”

When I was growing up, there was only one prominent atheist, Madelyn Murray O’Hair. Back then, every Catholic, indeed every Christian, ignored her as an oddity. Today’s atheists are legion. They have an agenda and their names are familiar.

Christopher Hitchens . . . God called him to Judgment last year.

Carl Sagan.

Daniel Dennett.

Richard Dawkins.

Sam Harris . . . and many, many more.

They are on my list because they are all highly acclaimed authors whose works are commonly read in realms of higher learning.

In his book, D’Souza says “Atheistic educators are now raising the question of whether parents should have control of what their children learn.” And you and I know that in public schools parents are losing more and more control each and every year.

Richard Dawkins in his book “The God Delusion” asks “How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents? It is one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like.

But should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? Isn’t it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessions of beliefs that they are too young to have thought out?”

Daniel Dennett goes further. “Parents don’t own their children the way slave owners once owned slaves, but are, rather, their stewards and guardians and ought to be held accountable by outsiders for their guardianship.”

What he is saying essentially is that outsiders do have a right to interfere.

My friends, you and I are living in a new kind of world and if we want to overcome that kind of thinking, we have to take our faith in Jesus Christ and in his church much more seriously. This celebration tells us that we do have the power to make a difference. We have within this church the transformative power of Jesus Christ.

To understand that power we have to first understand that Easter really did happen. We believe that because the Scriptures of the New Testament are filled with eyewitness accounts. Those accounts tell us over and over again that Jesus did die on the cross . . . that he was buried . . . that on the third day he did rise from the dead . . . and, finally, that he is Lord and Savior and the Son of the Living God.

During this Easter celebration we ask only one question. Are the witnesses reliable? Their later actions say that they are. Almost every one of them suffered a martyr’s death rather than deny what they had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. If you and I believe that they are reliable, then all of us must pay much more attention to our faith in Jesus Christ and in his church.

St. Augustine tells us that faith is given to us as a sacred trust. It must be protected. It must be developed. It must be allowed to grow.

In his book “The City Of God,” he says: “There is a sanctuary of conscience inside every person that is protected from political control, and that kings and emperors, however grand, cannot usurp authority that rightly belongs to God.” In our society, that statement is equally true when applied to congressmen, senators and presidents.

Today we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. We are called to think about our own sinfulness and, as we do that, to remember especially that Christ died for us while we were still in our sin. He went to the cross for each of us to reconcile us to God and to each other.

I pray today that through the cross of Jesus Christ, God will give us the Easter power to be inflamed by his love and to share that love in every possible way with everyone within our reach.

May God give us the grace.

God bless you!

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27 Responses to Beware of ‘secular Catholicism’

  1. kathleen says:

    But should they [Christians] be free to impose their beliefs on their children?”

    Looks like that ‘roaring lion’ St. Peter warns us about (1 Peter 5:8) is on the prowl. It is certainly extremely ominous when atheists start asking such questions!! Strange how teaching our children other things our own way…….. e.g., table manners, customs, languages, politics, any type of art or culture etc., are not put into question, only religious beliefs. And of course, they mean Christianity here. They wouldn’t confront the Muslims over their faith….. might get to be a bit risky ;-).

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  2. toadspittle says:

    “…but you can condemn Christianity with impunity – and people do – in the press – all the time.” says Marj.

    “..And of course, they mean Christianity here. They wouldn’t confront the Muslims over their faith….. might get to be a bit risky .” Says Katholeen.

    Two posts within minutes of each other. Bit of the old paranoia suspects Toad.

    I doubt if the notion that Christiaity alone is attacked is true – I read a good deal of criticism of Islam in various “media,” and well deserved it generally is. Seems more like religion in general.
    Which doesn’t mean people don’t attack Christianity. They do. With impunity. It’s the price we pay for living in an open society. We are equally free to attack Atheism as much as we want too, and nobody will roast us alive.
    If Christianity seems to be more attacked, it’s probably because, as we are always being told, we are a Judeo-Christian society. Or used to be.

    Anyway, if Kathleen is correct – that atheists are frightened of Muslims – maybe Catholics should start cutting off a few heads again themselves. That would shut up Dawkins, one way or another!

    Didn’t notice many people attacking Catholicism in Spain in the Generalissimo’s day!

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  3. kathleen says:

    Well, I was certainly a bit worried this morning when Toadspittle changed his tune and started ‘agreeing‘ with my comments!! (Help! He’s either being more sarcastic than usual, or I’m doing/saying something wrong!) Now with his typical ‘paranoia‘ against anything Catholic, everything’s back to normal I see.

    Catholics are not afraid of criticism from the God Haters, whose main passion is spitting venom towards the God they believe does not exist, but it niggles us when they try to tell us how we should educate our children!

    And I think you got it the wrong way round Toad (of course)…… it’s the extreme Muslim fanatics who are particularly partial to cutting off heads, planting bombs etc.

    Didn’t notice many people attacking Catholicism in Spain in the Generalissimo’s day!” Wrong again I believe. (Not firsthand experience, but from what I’ve heard from those who lived through those years.) Even Franco’s Spain took little notice of anyone criticising the Church……… unlike in Communist countries; anyone who attacked the system was in for it!

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  4. marcy says:

    Complacency has got to be the biggest problem in the Church today.

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  5. toadspittle says:

    .
    “Now with (Toad’s) typical ‘paranoia‘ against anything Catholic, everything’s back to normal I see.”

    Kathleen, do you really believe that?

    Why, I’m far more paranoid about gay Scottish policemen than I am about Dear Old Catholicism!(And a great deal more about fanatical Muslims with big swords.)

    “God Haters, whose main passion is spitting venom towards the God they believe does not exist,”
    What is faulty about Kathleen’s logic here?
    Yes, that’s right, you’ve got it!

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  6. toadspittle says:

    .
    I’ll reassure Kathleen even further – far from being paranoid about Catholicism, which I have known in some form or another, for as long as I can remember – I regard it as a potential force for good in the world, particularly during these interesting and testing times.

    But the endemic smugness, exclusivity, intolerance and arrogance lead me to believe it needs a little loving smack round the head every now and again, just to keep it honest.

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  7. kathleen says:

    Kathleen, do you really believe that?

    No, I don’t Toad….. truthfully. And I really do apologise for flinging the word ‘paranoia‘ back at you. I was just feeling stroppy (or any of your other qualifications mentioned above) after reading your unfair criticism of Catholics being paranoid. Especially as Catholics are usually the victims of the paranoia of others.

    We are not blameless though, you’re right there – fallen human beings that we are – and the Catholic Church is full of a whole lot of sinners (Kathleen being near the top of the list :-(, no doubt about it)…….. and some amazing and wonderful saints too. Don’t forget that Toad! The Holy Spirit is as alive in the Church today as on the day of Pentecost and following. (Wonderful daily readings from the Acts of the Apostles at Mass during this Easter period.)

    I believe that underneath your teasing and provoking to one and all here (especially me) you have a deep seated attachment to the Faith of your youth….. and that’s why you hang around CP&S. Right? Unfortunately you have discovered that we Catholics carry our ‘treasure’ in clay vessels ;-). They’re pretty fragile I’m afraid.

    (P.S. Just editing my post to add that the article above is a good ‘wake up’ call to any of us Catholics who might have got a bit laid back about our Faith. If we want to pass it on to our children and neighbours, we must pull up our socks…… starting with me!)

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  8. toadspittle says:

    .
    Very true Kathleen and graciously put. Little peace offering. (If it works)

    Happy Mayday tomorrow to one and all!

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  9. shieldsheafson says:

    St. Augustine wrote, 16-centuries ago:-

    It is incredible that Jesus Christ should have risen in the flesh and ascended with flesh into heaven; it is incredible that the world should have believed so incredible a thing; it is incredible that a very few men, of mean birth and the lowest rank, and no education, should have been able so effectually to persuade the world, and even its learned men, of so incredible a thing. Of these three incredibles, the parties with whom we are debating refuse to believe the first; they cannot refuse to see the second, which they are unable to account for if they do not believe the third. City of God XXII. 5

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  10. toadspittle says:

    .
    Human beings are partial to believing incredible things, if it suits them.

    And if a credible thing doesn’t suit them, they won’t believe that, either.

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  11. Elisabeth says:

    Says Toadspittle: But the endemic smugness, exclusivity, intolerance and arrogance lead me to believe it needs a little loving smack round the head every now and again, just to keep it honest.

    I do not really understand this point of view. Maybe it is a generational thing, or a regional thing. I don’t think I am alone in my experience that being or growing up Catholic in the modern culture is sometimes exceedingly difficult. You are made to feel that you must be intellectually lacking; you might be teased, shunned, ridiculed, or ignored. Picking on the Catholic viewpoint is not a bit creative; it’s simply what everybody does. It isn’t that easy to develop arrogance and smugness in those circumstances. Around here, professing Catholic belief takes quite a bit of mettle, a lot of forgiveness, and a thick skin.

    Honestly, I think sometimes the older generation just doesn’t get it. Toadspittle, if you think a smacking around the head is anything more than just one more instance of what we deal with daily from everybody, all the time, you are just out of touch.

    If you want to do something truly bold and countercultural, try actually becoming a professing Catholic and see what happens to you. You’ll get your eyes opened.

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  12. teresa says:

    Elisabeth, I agree with most of what you wrote above, though I don’t care about being taken as a “bigot” or being called names any more. I just state my position and my conviction firmly, and my friends, whether liberal or conservative, accept me just as I am, and what other people than my real friends think of me, is for me totally irrelevant. To be honest means to say what you think. In order to appear nice before the modern world and so disguise one’s true convictions, is hipocracy and dishonesty. And to be honest with oneself is the most difficult thing in the world, but also the most important thing.

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  13. toadspittle says:

    .
    Well, this is a very thought-provoking post, Elizabeth, which does not surprise me at all, as you are very perceptive, for your age.

    “Picking on the Catholic viewpoint is not a bit creative; it’s simply what everybody does.” You think. True. The thing is, people don’t pick on Catholics to “be a bit creative,” they do it for a bit of fun. Nothing wrong with that of course. We all like a nice laugh as long as nobody gets too bent out of shape.

    Yes, I suspect there is a big generational, and possibly regional, gap between your viewpoint and mine.
    As a boy, more than half a century ago, in London, I was assured that, as a Catholic, as opposed to everyone else – I and I alone – was at least a dimly possible candidate for Eternal Bliss, (if I could only stop masturbating, they said) but the Anglican family Smith next door, however nice and “good” they were – could not expect the same bit of entirely unmerited good fortune..

    This struck me, at about age 14 – as idiotic. Still does. But nowadays, post Rahner – I have been told that not only the Smiths – but even the naughty old Atheists are candidates for Heaven, always provided they comport themselves decently and honestly. Who knows? Who cares? I no longer know what I’m supposed to believe.

    So, I don’t know, but am prepared to wait and see.

    As to doing something “bold and countercultural “ why on earth should I even want to? What does it mean? Counter to what culture? What do I care?
    And as to becoming a professing Catholic once more, the big drawback for me is that I can no longer believe six impossible things before breakfast each morning – as I did when I was eleven.

    But you never know what might happen. Do you?.

    Still Catholics are interesting, and fun to chat to. And, if I’m out of touch, that’s exactly where I’m comfortable – and where I want to spend my few remaining days in the Vale of Tears.

    (You pompous, bloviating old fart, Toad)

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  14. Elisabeth says:

    “As to doing something “bold and countercultural “ why on earth should I even want to?” I was only speaking in an illustrative way, Toad, I was not making a suggestion to you personally. However, my point is that what you know of Catholics and Catholic life is probably very limited by your cultural milieu, and that is something to be aware of. By taking on “Catholics” in general, you may be helping to keep certain ones honest, as you claim is your intention, or you may be adding one more discouraging element to the lives of those who are already being bullied. We live in a world where in a moment we can discuss ideas between regions in which those ideas are praised or commonplace and regions in which the very same ideas can even get you killed. That is the world of today.

    I confess that the background you describe is so far from my own reality and that of my friends and family that it takes great imagination even to picture it–it’s almost hard not to suspect you could be making it up. As for the present day, it is extremely common where I live for people to think that by taking on the Catholic Church they are being really free-thinking and bold, when in reality it is so commonplace and easy it is simply banal.

    The last and most important thing, Toad, that I have to say is that you do not understand the Catholic Faith properly and that is at least partly why you think it is impossible. You are really tilting windmills. This makes me sad because God loves you so much.

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  15. Elisabeth says:

    Teresa, I appreciate what you are saying, but hope you realize that for many people it is more difficult and painful, and that is not to say that is somehow their fault. Jesus never said our crosses wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, hurt.

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  16. toadspittle says:

    .
    “However, my point is that what you (Toad) know of Catholics and Catholic life is probably very limited by your cultural milieu, “

    Indeed it is Elizabeth, and so, I suggest is yours – and everyone else’s on the planet. We are all prisoners of our “milieu,” are we not?
    However, I will also suggest that your comments on me – while gratifying and flattering to myself and possibly amusing to one or two others – are not really the point of CP&S, which is a forum on Catholicism, rather than on the numerous shortcomings of Toad.

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  17. teresa says:

    Elisabeth, it is curious that you infer that if someone is speaking out his mind he must hurt. I’ve never hurt my friends and I come along quite well with them, we have sometimes differences in opinions and we do have a good discussion, I talk with my leftist liberal friends quite frankly about my standpoint on contraception and I talk with my right-winger friends about my rejection of fascism. And nobody is hurt only because I think differently. So I don’t really understand what you mean. Perhaps you mean that I should be “nice” to homosexuals etc. Among my friends there is only one homosexual person and he is one of my best friends, he was together with me at college and he had a very difficult life, not because of his homosexuality but because he lost his parents very suddenly. It never occurred to me that I should talk with him about his homosexuality and condemn him, we have some other things to talk about. Neither do we have any occasion to quarrel, because he never talked against the Church, as a born and raised heathen, Christianity is something so remote to him that he never thought of attacking Christianity only because the Christians have a Bible which says something which displease our Gay activists. Of course he knows that homosexuality is condemned by some religions, and he, being raised in a very conventional society, knew also that his parents, whom he loves dearly, would have problem with his sexuality, if they had lived longer to get to know about it.

    Yes, on the blogs and internet fora some commentators react in a most furious way if you disagree, but that is a symptom of internet-addiction. In the real world, people know you and your character and they know why you are saying this and they take you as an equal human being. On internet, people don’t know each other but they still discuss or better quarrel with each other, and they see only black and white, you are either with them or against them. I find, through my experience, that internet discussion is in most cases quite fruitless.

    So I am living quite in peace with my friends and the world, disregarding the nagging and bullying I get occasionally from internet commentators I am quite happy with the real world. One doesn’t have to get angry or hurt only because of something so irrelevant as internet quarrels. On internet there is a problem because you never know who is reading your opinion, if you don’t want to “hurt” it is better to keep silent and throw the computer away, because among the milliards of internet readers there is always one who will take issue with you, whatever you write or say. And in our narcissistic society it is really too easy to “hurt” someone. People think: “If you disagree you are hurting me, that is ME ME ME who is at the centre of the whole universe”. That is also the reason why there is so much bickering and fight in the blogsphere.

    I find our blog to be a good tool for evangelisation but I’ve lost any interest to engage myself too much with the comment thread.

    A chauffeur from Romania told me something interesting when he was taking me to a factory of his company in the Alps, he said: “I have to pick up many different guests from the airport and have to converse them during the car drive to their hotel, I learned that one should never talk with them about politics, religion, football, or one will get into trouble in seconds”.

    It is perhaps better not to talk with strangers (and among them internet users) about politics, religion, football, if you don’t want to “hurt” or get yourself into trouble. But then, there is nothing really interesting left to discuss any more. Of course one can talk about culture, but even on youtube you will find that under a video showing Irish folk songs played by a Serbian folk band the discussion thread turned out to be a furious fight among nationalists. Such is the virtual life on internet. Perhaps people should all get out more.

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  18. toadspittle says:

    .
    “Perhaps people should all get out more. “ says Teresa.
    Enthusiatically seconded by Toad.

    ..who suggests long walks on the Camino with dogs.

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  19. kathleen says:

    Teresa, if I may speak for Elisabeth, I think she was not so much saying that we can hurt other people by our comments, but that Catholics are the ones who are on the receiving end of the hurtful attacks from the bullying anti-Catholics that abound in her neck of the woods….. and yes, on the internet too. That is why she said “professing Catholic belief takes quite a bit of mettle, a lot of forgiveness, and a thick skin“. She was trying to make this point to Toad who was calling Catholics some hurtful names. (As you will see from the above comments, I lost my cool and made a stormy response to him!) But Toad too admits that Catholicism ‘has the potential‘ (I say it is) a “force for good in the world“.

    I know you are living in a very respectful and Catholic area of Germany – which is wonderful – but many people are not so lucky.

    Speaking personally, I believe that discussions on the internet can definitely be fruitful, even if they not always are. I think you will agree that in the past we have had many interesting debates on CP&S……. and yes, a few scuffles with some commentators too. The good fruits brought through some of our erudite visitors: Jabba, Manus, Golden, Pillarsdelaterre, Robert J, Sed etc., etc., (too many to name them all) outdo the difficult moments we’ve sometimes encountered IMO. The articles on our blog, and most other Catholic blogs, are real tools for evangelisation, and I believe some discussions can also be extremely enriching and inspiring. I just avoid the blogs (like the Daily Telegraph) where there is a lot of useless bickering.

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  20. toadspittle says:

    .
    “Toad who was calling Catholics some hurtful names. “
    When?
    What names?

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  21. teresa says:

    Kathleen, indeed I understood Elisabeth the wrong way round and I offer my apology if I wrote anything which is inappropriate. As for the region where I live yes the Catholics are majority here but they are not exclusive or intolerant. In our parish there is a Thailand family (with a German husband) who are practising Buddhists and I often see monks with them. But they are living in a good relationship with the neighbours. But of course there are also anti-catholic forces here, especially at the University. Secularism has also advanced here, and I had a lot heated discussion with my liberal friends. They are for example against prayers at school and crosses in classrooms. We have also liberal feminist theologians here, who are troublesome. There are also Catholics who left their Church and became bigoted Anti-Catholics, one of them told me that he found it good that under Stalin that religion was suppressed with force. But why shall we let us hurt by them? Just shrug your shoulder and say a prayer. I can remember the furious atheists one come across on online-fora and I am glad that I never saw any of these in real life. If one has the misfortune to encounter such a person in real life, it would be a difficult situation, I am sure. But again, in real life people don’t talk about religion so frequently.

    As for online debate you are right that we have had a lot of fruitful contributions. On the other hand, I find that online discussion can be only fruitful when people share the same interest and objective are discussing with each other. People with very different sets of beliefs tend to quarrel senselessly on the web, and that is the situation on Daily Telegraph.

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  22. Elisabeth says:

    Catholic means universal. From those very first debates chronicled in the letters of Paul and in Acts, when it was decided that the Gentile converts to Christianity did not have to become ‘Jewish’ in their external practices, the Catholic Faith has spread over the entire globe and has been inculturated everywhere. We share one faith and one Spirit, but we express our love and worship of God in widely different ways. We also live in tremendously different political and cultural environments. My only point was that it can be helpful to be aware of that; sometimes being unaware or dismissing the wide diversity among us Catholics across the globe makes discussions somewhat confusing. I meant no criticism of anybody on here; indeed I don’t have any to give!

    Toad, in answer to your question, you used the words, “endemic smugness, exclusivity, intolerance and arrogance” in characterizing Catholics. It would be wrong for me to claim you have not had that experiences of Catholics, but it seems fair and correct to show that these characteristics may not be as universal as the faith we are discussing. It is not my interest to point out any shortcomings, as you say, in anybody, but when certain ideas or attitudes seem to be impeding us from understanding and seeking truth together, it is right to take a look at them. Don’t you yourself take that attitude when you are trying to ‘keep people honest’?

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  23. kathleen says:

    Thank you Teresa for your interesting comment. You make some very good points!

    —-

    Well Toad, you did say that Catholics suffer from ‘paranoia‘, but we’ve sorted that one out I think ;-). Then you said there was “endemic smugness, exclusivity, intolerance and arrogance” amongst Catholics, which Elisabeth and I (and probably others) found rather hurtful. None of those ‘sins’ are exclusively Catholic – or even typically Catholic – as I’m sure you know really.
    Anyway you sort of made up for everything by your later words: “Still Catholics are interesting, and fun to chat to.”

    Through your wonderful sense of humour you get away with a lot of cheekiness and mischief others would never be able to. And your ‘smacks around the head‘ keep us on our toes.

    P.S. I hadn’t seen Elisabeth’s comment of 14:47 when I wrote mine.

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  24. toadspittle says:

    .

    “Toad, in answer to your question, you used the words, “endemic smugness, exclusivity, intolerance and arrogance” in characterizing Catholics.”

    What Toad was characterising was not Catholics themselves, but the “atmosphere”, for want of a better word, of some of the exchanges on CP&S.
    But, on re-reading my comment – because I was surprised by what Kathleen’s remark – I do agree that I was cllearly not specific enough and I’m sorry to have created the wrong impression.
    Idle, careless Toad!

    Furthermore, that “atmosphere,” although often palpable at times to me, is by no means always in evidence, in every case, and by every commenter.

    Must try harder, Toad. Three out of ten.

    Off to Pamplona on a jaunt, manaña. Will make it penitential.

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  25. Elisabeth says:

    Well, thank you, Toad, for clarifying. It’s true I did not understand what you were trying to say. Teresa, it’s been my experience that just about any group of people who agree with each other can give an impression of being smug- that is, arrogant- to outsiders. That is not a good thing…for us particularly, as Catholics, because if we have anything at all to our name, it is only what we have freely received from God. We have nothing we can take credit for. Even our unity- when we allow it to develop, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us, a free gift of God. That same God has placed us in the world to be His presence there, and to the extent that we are doing our ‘job’, we are attacked, questioned, reviled, ignored, praised, admired, shunned, ridiculed, and at times murdered, just as God himself was when He walked among us in the flesh. And we believe that by accepting all this and returning love instead, it comes to have a value for the salvation of the world. Then those who don’t see God now can come to see with eyes of faith that God exists and God is Love. So it is the same from the beginning of the world until now, as Jesus says, “the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent bear it away.”

    Whenever and wherever Catholics project the impression that they are better because they are right, purification has to happen because then we have fallen into disorder and are no longer doing our job. I am sure that this happens to us, and has happened to us, many many times.

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  26. teresa says:

    Elisabeth, actually I don’t agree with you, why are Catholic forbidden from forming a group and agreeing with each other. St. Paul says we should evanglize by showing how we love each other, and that includes being in accordance with each other, and for atheists, it is the smugness they despise. And it doesn’t infer that we feel superior, we are just happy with our faith and if even this kind of joy is forbidden I don’t know anything to say further.

    I agree with what you said later, in regard of the humbleness, but it is humbleness before God which we are committed to, but we are not bound to suppress our joy and unity in order not to upset others people. We are to be the salt and the light, and that is to bring the Gospel to all nations, with this mandate, we must tell the others about the Truth of the Gospel, and that is, for outsiders, necessarily a kind of arrogance. Our unity will appear as smugness, and our rejection of their un-christian convictions will be comprehended as “ignorance”. If you want to evangelize, you have to live with these charges of being “smug, arrogant, ignorant etc.” But if you are humble before God, why fear the tongue of men?

    Joy can appear as smugness for people who dislike us, but if we are honest in our joy why shall we care for whether some people are finding us to be arrogant, ignorant, smug etc. Let them speak and I won’t pay any attention to them.

    Just as Henry James wrote in his novel: “Portrait of a Lady”, if someone is successful he will necessarily draw enemies. You can’t please everybody (paraphrase, because the exact wording escaped me).

    And likewise, if you are happy, enviers will say you are smug, arrogant whatsoever. Don’t let them give you too much bad conscience, dear girl, and take it as a quite practical advice from a woman who is, though not old and still young in some sense, but perhaps already older than you (I assume you are in your 20s), and who has seen the world and come to some wisdom.

    We can’t be over scrupulous in our behaviour, we don’t have so much time to deliberate over everything.

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  27. Elisabeth says:

    Teresa, I think maybe you did not understand me. You must try to understand that the positive experience you have of the Catholic Church is not the same experience that everyone has. Not everywhere are Catholic communities full of authentic joy and mutual love. Sometime it happens that Catholics are a very bad example of what a Christian should be. Then we are criticized, not out of jealousy or misunderstanding, but because we deserve to be criticized. Sometimes Catholics are proud and self-righteous and need a great deal of conversion. Sometimes we are hypocrites.

    St. Paul said that if we are criticized, we should see that it is for doing good, not for doing evil. We are talking about two different things, Teresa. You are talking about the unjust criticism that can come from outsiders when we are really just loving God and minding our business. I am talking about the bad impression we give when we are not loving God or our neighbor as we should, when we really are smug and arrogant. If you are older than me and have seen a bit of the world, certainly you know that not always when they criticize us is it unjust criticism.

    I most definitely did not say that Catholics are forbidden from forming groups. Not sure why you thought that.

    Like

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