I don’t know about you, but as I look back over the course of my life since I began to take this thing called “faith” seriously, I can see ways the which I have succeeded but also failed as a Catholic. I can see the ways I have witnessed to others and the ways I have possibly scandalized them. Thank God for the sacrament of confession, right? Yet, one of those failures I have seen in myself is something that has become an almost normative approach that many Christians (Catholic and otherwise) are taking to their lives and it scares me.
I was at a show two weekends ago, and a frontman for the local hardcore band Mirrors and Tides said, “The things I hate most in the world are the things I hate most in myself.” I had to agree that I find that correlation not only with the negative things in the world, but also in the local church. When I look at my life, I can see the times when I have chosen to look cool, funny, or simply did not want to rock the boat, instead of being an active witness of the Truth. This still happens for me. We all want to be liked, and it can be really hard for us to stand up and be virtuous in the face of possible persecution. We really hate discomfort. Yet, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
I am tired of the ways I make compromises for the sake of ease. I hope I’m not the only one. Yet, the battle against lukewarmness within myself can be won or lost based on the comprises I make. If you have had dogs in your life, you know well the scent that a dog can take on by simply going outside. If not, just imagine how your clothes smell after spending 15 minutes in a Subway restaurant. Same difference. The same goes for us when we mentally start taking on worldly attitudes. The more time we spend adopting these base attitudes, the less we smell like the Gospel. Yet, many Christians even pride themselves in looking like the world.
There are many examples of this that come to mind, including people like Stephen Colbert, who some people hold up as an example of what a good modern day catholic should look like. Recently, a video was posted showing him and Jack White of the White Stripes talking catholic jargon (I do not want to link to it because it is highly offensive, despite its theme). These sacred and holy things (for the most part), were sandwiched in-between cuss words. To appeal to a worldly crowd, these two resulted to debasing these holy things with the words they surrounded them with, because to simply talk about this would just be perhaps too extreme for their viewers.
Yet, as I said before, the things I hate in the world are those things that I hate in myself, and sure enough, I can point to times in my life where I’ve done very similar things. My point is that even though I have been the one to compromise, it is wrong, and I’m calling it for what it is. If, as Bl. Paul VI said, “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God,” it has entered through people like me, who have made small compromises, which amount to little cracks in the foundation of our Christian lives. The Second Vatican Council cannot be blamed for screwing things up in the Church for the last 40 years. We need to point to ourselves and see that those fissures are those little compromises which, over time, grew from cracks into gaping holes.
Lukewarmness can affect us all, but it begins to show itself little by little. Though there are many ways this lukewarmness can show up, one of the main ways is in our words and how we speak. I find this most especially true for myself. The way we hold our words can be a great litmus test to see how we are holding ourselves in check and where our self control lies. St. James says in his epistle that, “If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain”(James 1:26). St. James, also spends most of the third chapter of his epistle speaking about the restless evil of the tongue. Jesus Himself says in Matthew’s Gospel, that “not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matt 15:11).
The way we speak is a big deal. Our level of self control can be seen at how well we can hold our tongues in check. Again, if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. This is a clarion call for all of us to take stock of our words, whether spoken, written, and even in thought. We know that if we struggle with control of our tongues that there may be other things in our lives which also need to be reined in. Lukewarmness leads to little compromises which lead to even greater compromises. Unchecked venial sins can lead to mortal sins. This is just the nature of what happens when we give up being vigilant with ourselves.
No matter how good our intentions are, the more we look like the world, the more worldly we will become. In order to be the “Salt of the Earth” and “Light of the World” as Christ calls us to be, there must be a visible distinction between us and the bland darkness of the world. We have to “run the race so as to win”, not just stand still when it comes to being real life christians. We cannot simply pander to the culture and fool ourselves into thinking people will effectively listen. Our history, especially within the last 50 years of the Church shows that catering to worldliness only serves to cause you to lose the fire of faith. It cannot be transmitted effectively that way at all. The Christian life is like the below video states, “It is like going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk. Walk and you stay put. Stand still and you go backwards. To get ahead, you have to hustle.” Our actions follow our words. God spoke and it was. So lets get serious about being vigilant with our tongues and using our speech to speak life into the world. May our speech mirror the Life that dwells within us through baptism, who spoke and it was. It’s time to take the race seriously and stop trying to appeal to being relevant at the cost of virtue. Don’t just stand there – hustle!
Sometimes, I believe that people are actually choosing to be ignorant (Catholics included), though many people would rather not admit to it. Ignorance can simply make life easier to deal with when you choose to not know the truth.
Knowing the truth can be painful. It can make us question ourselves, especially about sensitive moral issues. Truth can change us, and often we can find ourselves afraid of what those changes can bring. However, it is only if we embrace the truth and the change that it brings that we can enter into fruitful dialogue with each other. I truly believe that it is a chosen ignorance that is preventing us all from effectively communicating and understanding each other.
There are many people out there that think they know Catholicism, but in reality they know only a shadow of it. The world offers often a watered down spirituality instead of actual Catholic truth. Its an unfortunate situation that so many people flock to imitations of truth and few actually go to the source of truth, who is Christ and his 2000 year old church.
When uninformed Catholics or Catholics who choose to be ignorant of church teaching try to communicate what they believe to be Catholic doctrine, there are going to be issues. Often, the dialogue falls flat without real issues ever being addressed. To put it simply, you can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t defend or share what you don’t know. That’s why effective catechesis as well as prayer and an active relationship with Christ are so crucially important for dialogue from Catholics.
On the other hand, when we seek to know the truth and to better understand our neighbour rather than to win an argument, we can find that it is much easier to communicate. It’s not just non-Catholics who need to better understand others and be more open to the truth. It is important that we as Catholics make the effort to understand where other people are coming from and to be respectful towards them.
My plea to Catholics is this: be in love with Christ, who is the Truth. Be in love with His sacred heart, especially in the most Blessed Sacrament. Go directly to the Church for answers, not to those who only think or claim to know the faith when they in fact believe in a self-constructed faith. For those that are not Catholic, know what the church teaches rather than assume. We should all seek to embrace truth and not relativism. If we want to have understanding and peace we must seek charity, truth, and seek to have respectful and logical dialogue. This does not mean that we must agree with one another, but we must all have the ability to communicate so we may love and understand one another better.
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“What will the years ahead bring us? What will man’s future on earth be like? We are not given to know.” (Address on the Canonization of St. Faustina, April 2000)
These words of Pope Saint John Paul II ring as true today as when they were first spoken in the year 2000.
It is chilling to be reminded of uncertain futures. The world today is one that is uncomfortable with the unknown and the unpredictable. Given the trajectory of humanity’s current situation, it is hard to find hope for a brighter future.
Pope Saint John Paul II spoke these words as part of his address on the day he canonized Saint Faustina Kowalska and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, to be celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter every year. His speech was inspired – full of consolation and encouragement to a timid world nervously stepping into a new millennium, but the message of Divine Mercy had found its strong foothold in the very life of John Paul the Great, long before he instituted it officially.
While studying to become a priest as a seminarian, Karol Wojtyla (later known as Pope John Paul II) was introduced by a classmate to this message of Divine Mercy. He learned that it was given by Jesus through numerous visions to a nun named Sister Faustina from Krakow in Poland.
In those early days, Karol Wojtyla carried the message of Divine Mercy in the highest esteem. When the documentation of Sister Faustina’s diary was under intense scrutiny and was refused authentication at the Vatican, it was this young priest who led its defence until it was finally recognized by Rome. When the question of possible canonization of Sister Faustina was raised, it was Karol Wojtyla who answered the call and began the process by collecting testimonies.
Karol Wojtyla brought the Divine Mercy devotion with him right into his pontificate as Pope John Paul II and propelled its cause to the forefront of his mission. His second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), explained and encouraged the world’s need of Jesus’ Divine Mercy. His first public visit after the attempt on his life in May 1981 was to the Shrine of Merciful Love in Italy, where he declared that he “considered this message (his) special task. Providence had assigned it to (him) in the present situation of man, the Church, and the world. It could be said that precisely this situation assigned that message to (him) as (his) task before God.” (John Paul II at the Shrine of Merciful Love; Collevalegna, Italy, 1981)
This was clearly a devotion that was close to John Paul the Great’s heart, but one could wonder why it was professed with such insistence? His words, summoning the world to rededicate itself to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, were always accompanied by an unspoken urgency.
For that, the world will provide the grim answer. Suffering and pain colour the covers of newspapers and magazines; anguish is seen and heard on almost every major headline being broadcast on the nightly news. In the faces of our families and neighbours, we see quiet hurt and in their voices, we hear heartache. What can this world possibly offer a broken humanity? It can offer us no solution but distraction and escape. Neither of which will do anything to heal wounds that grow deeper every day.
In the words of the popular song made famous by Jackie DeShannon in the 1960s: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love!” Love is the salve that is going to piece together the broken world.
Mercy can be defined as love in the face of suffering. This is the kind of love that the world needs now. Every person is called to be moved to mercy towards one another and some days humanity thrives in its endeavour. Other days, it fails miserably.
Divine Mercy, however, is God’s unfailing love for His suffering world and He desperately desires it for all mankind. Jesus says in His revelations to Saint Faustina: “My daughter, the flames of My Mercy burn bright! I desire to pour it out on human souls. Oh what pain they cause Me when they do not accept it.” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1074)
The promises of Jesus to those who are devoted to His Divine Mercy are many, but can be summarized by His words on another occasion: “Tell ailing mankind to draw close to My Merciful Heart and I will fill them with peace. Mankind will not find solace until it turns with confidence to My mercy and love.” (Diary, 699)
World peace. Love. Mercy.
What the world needs now, indeed.
Last week, on April 2nd, Canada celebrated its first Pope John Paul II day, recognizing the charisms of this great man that spurred the world forward in its seeking of universal peace. This new holiday, designated by the Canadian government, seeks to commemorate the impact John Paul the Great had on the world. It is clear that the message of peace that punctuated his pontificate had its foundations solidly rooted in the truth of those prophetic and timeless visions of Jesus, documented by Saint Faustina decades before Karol Wojtyla was elected as Pope.
This coming Sunday, the universal Catholic Church will commemorate and celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy. Throughout the world, people will once again be reminded of its crucial importance in a world so seeking consolation. Divine Mercy is the salvation of the world, if only humanity would be willing to open its tired, battered heart to it.
Ten years ago, on April 2, 2005, a dying Pope John Paul II wrote his final homily, to be delivered at mass the next day: Divine Mercy Sunday. He would not live to personally address the crowds that gathered in St. Peter’s Square that morning, but his words continue to echo loudly throughout the earth:
“As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!… Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world.” (Pope John Paul Ii’s Divine Mercy Sunday Homily, April 2005)
Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!
I recently wrote about the topic of the relationship of faith and reason, and the damage our society has done to itself by rejecting them – first the former, then to some extent, the latter.
The battle for (and against) reason in western society is still raging on many fronts. But nowhere, I believe, has this encroachment of absolute relativism been more pronounced, and more harmful, than in our attitudes toward philosophy, especially moral philosophy.
Back in 2010, in his book The Grand Design, the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking wrote that, “philosophy is dead.” Why? Because, he said, it “has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.”
The hubris of that statement is, to me, almost breathtaking. This strange pronouncement is perhaps one of the most widely known, and most clear-cut examples of the phenomenon of scientism.
What is scientism? Googling it will give you a number of definitions for scientism, but it really all boils down to the same idea. It’s the assertion that natural science and its methods are the only trustworthy way that people can gain knowledge about reality. This mentality manifests itself in society in a couple of big ways, and once you look, you won’t be able to stop seeing them.
Firstly, people treat any claim or argument from a field outside the natural sciences as questionable, and if it isn’t to their liking, they quickly disregard it, regardless of its objective merit.
Similarly, people treat any claim that comes from scientists (especially celebrity scientists) as divine revelation. I want to focus on this second point, because I’m noticing it being used more and more to advance certain agendas of societal change.
Back to Stephen Hawking.
Let’s look a little closer at his claim. Philosophy is dead, because it hasn’t kept up with science. Immediately, one has to ask some questions. Does philosophy really have a mandate to “keep up” with physics? Does physics inform the hard questions philosophy asks of us, and gives us the tools to answer?
The statement only gets stranger with context. Many of the claims Hawking goes on to make in The Grand Design, particularly regarding the origins of the universe, are undeniably philosophical. In particular, his attempted disproof of the existence of God, and explanation of the origin of the universe cannot by any means be considered scientific. It is as far from testable as you can get.
And while it may not be testable, this theory is certainly falsifiable – by the application of elementary logic. As has been pointed out again and again and again, Hawking’s argument relies on a deeply flawed definition of ‘nothing’ that doesn’t even begin to address the need (or lack thereof) for God.
In practice, the attempt to replace philosophy with science just leads to bad philosophy from scientists.
The news is full of further examples. Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s revisionist history on Cosmos is another conspicuous case. And I won’t even get started on the “new atheists” forays into philosophy, history, politics and every other field imaginable, lest this blog become a textbook.
The point is, these tactics are effective in convincing people. The scientists in question may or may not be aware of it, they may be manipulated by others, but in the end their message gets through, and deceives massive amounts of people.
The first step in combating the misinformation is the be aware of it, then to spread awareness. And let’s not neglect to pray for our neighbors who may be tricked by these tactics of scientism, as well as the rest of our society.