So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Living among the Undead

The Living: faithful Catholics who are reforming sinners striving to be holy.
The Undead: those who have no need for the salvation that Christ offers.

Risk Factor #1: assuming one is alive when quite the opposite is true.
Risk Factor #2: rigorism.

Identifying the Living and the Undead by their actions.

1. Lax liturgy is license to be lax in morality. A priest or bishop who plays loosely with the Liturgy is setting up himself and his flock for a fall. If a priest cannot stick to the script, what is he saying to his flock? There should be no surprise that priests who model dissent, even in little ways—which have a habit of becoming much bigger and more complicated viruses—that people under their care will soon be oblivious to the orthodox way to worship God. People perceive wiggle room as license to dissent. Wiggle room, like a loose nut on a bicycle wheel hub, will eventually lead to a weakening of the axle and the impairment of the wheel.

2. A loss of history leads to a loss of orthodoxy. People who feel they need to reinvent the wheel, so-to-speak, rather than tighten the nut are examples of how a loss of received wisdom leads to willful ignorance. For example, a loss of chant, the Proper chants (e.g. Introit, Offertory, Communion) and Latin and Greek Ordinary chants, is merely a symptom of carelessness and disrespect for the saints who bore our heritage. Our neglect of the rich treasury of art, architecture and music confirms or mirrors a loss of orthodox theology at the parish level.

3. Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Why is knowledge of the tenets of the Faith important? Isn't a "personal relationship" with Christ all that is needed? A relationship, yes. Every healthy relationship, however, requires a serious investment in getting to know who and what is involved in a relationship, not so we can control the other but that we may be able to better relate to the other. We are creatures of God created in His image and likeness. By God's grace, we are children of God. By Christ and in Christ, we are declared friends of God. Creature, child, friend: an important progression toward greater intimacy. Friendship with God requires we keep His commandments. That is, if we love Him, we will delight in His law of love (St. John 14:15).

A relationship with Christ must acknowledge mystery. We can know God insofar as God, by His grace, reveals Himself to us in love for Him and His Church. As much as we might try, we can never box up that love. We cannot contain God in any neat little spiritual package of our own making. That does not mean, however, that we should not express that love as lovers do: 1) by celebrating faith with joy and dignity; 2) by living life joyfully in accord with God's commandments; 3) by inviting others into communion with God and His Church. Another word for that love is faith. Faith has boundaries, just as love does. Love that seeks to exploit others to satisfy one's selfish desires is hardly Christian love. How do we know these healthy boundaries? Doctrine identifies health and holiness. Doctrine identifies sin and death. Doctrine excludes error.

We know Christ by praying the Mass and by hearing Him in His word (Holy Scripture). We know Him by keeping His commandments, so we must know what those commandments are and what they require of us. We must strive to dispose ourselves fully to God's grace intellectually and physically because we are enfleshed souls created by God, not disembodied minds floating above our shoulders. Work our your salvation with fear and trembling, so Scripture reminds us (Philippians 2:12). Most people are living off the spiritual treadmill, it seems (your's truly, included, at times), judging from the weak witness of Catholics in the public square. Too many are seriously flabby when it comes to living the Faith.

4. With poorly formed Catholics in abundance, who needs enemies? In other words, a failure to provide timely fraternal correction has led to a debasement of the Eucharist, marriage and the priesthood. Poorly formed Catholics vastly outnumber the Faithful. When a virus overpowers the immune system of an organism, serious sickness ensues and perhaps death may not be far off. All the troubles in the Church yesterday and today can be attributed to Catholics who, rather than take up the commands (which are not requests) of the Lord and join the ranks of reforming sinners, remain complacent. In fact, those same well intentioned but ignorant folk who show up for Mass most Sundays and who receive Holy Communion with little or no reverence toward the Eucharistic Lord are putting their souls at risk because of their indifference and complacency. Scripture records for us the Lord's confirmation that lukewarmness will be dealt with severely (Cafeteria Catholics are in for one big surprise!). Priests are compounding the problem by not calling out the lazy because they themselves don't want to or don't know how to pursue holiness. Liberal religionists think that striving for holiness is passé: piety is out; social justice is in! That is, a social justice that places concern for the material wellbeing of the person above what should be the primary concern: the salvation of man.

5. Loss of awareness of sin and the sacred. Alas, we live in times when a loss of the sense of sin and a loss of the sense of the sacred is wrecking the Liturgy, wrecking the priesthood, wrecking the innocence of youth, wrecking marriage and the family, wrecking society and wrecking the Church. With notable exceptions of course, Catholics have gone off the liturgical rails for some fifty years. When communion rails disappeared, so did the sense of the sacred. When ad orientem worship was replaced with the non-Catholic versus populum orientation, Catholics forgot to Whom they were praying. Again, bearing in mind notable exceptions, they forget Who they pray to because they forget how to pray.

People who have little or no sense of sin will have little sense of what constitutes true love and the sacred. Abuse and sin will run rampant in a community defined by permissiveness.

6. I Feel Good. In our diocese, it is now common to hear priests calling people to a "personal relationship with Christ", flavoured by a lot of me-first/God second language, while ignoring God's greatest gift to man: the Holy Eucharist. Holy Communion is the most intimate communion with God one can have with God this side of heaven. Yet, priests, evangelical and charismatic Catholics constantly stress a type of relationship with God that tends to fashion God in the image of some emotional caricature of Jesus, a teddybear god. Faith, for those of the "feeling" camp, is indeed a "felt" thing rather than a gift from God that engages the whole person, body and soul: intellect, memory and will. Feelings are elevated, practically deified. Catholic worship has become nothing more than a gathering of mumbling sycophants too weak to take up the challenge to live as Christ commands. Because feelings are fleeting, this kind of faith will not produce committed orthodox witnesses for Christ.

Perhaps the reason the architecture of Catholicism is literally and figuratively crumbling is that we are being given over to our feelings which are driven by that insatiable thirst to satisfy me. Me, me, me. We have forgotten that to be Christian is to die to self, to take up the cross and follow Jesus and thereby find ourselves in Christ. Instead, we are constantly reminded that God came to serve us/me—and HE did! But the important information that is frequently left out is that He came to serve us by saving us from sin and death and self centredness. That is the reason for which He came to serve us. He came to call us out of our sins and to embrace Him by embracing His commandments and to receive Him with utter humility in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. A soul polluted with entitlement is not properly disposed to receiving the King of Kings. A soul that does not recognize Jesus Christ on the cross (or in the Christmas crib) is a soul that will not recognize Him in the suffering of other people nor recognize Him in the moment each and every person faces Him after death. If one's vision is not prepared and purified by the Crucifixion and the carrying of one's own cross, nor will such a person recognize Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

7. Resist the zombies; shoot them in the head. The previous paragraph may seem unduly harsh. Put it this way—a heart that has stopped beating requires an electric shock to restart it. That said, some hearts fail to restart, and the Faith dies in them. That so many Catholics do not realize their spiritual hearts are dead in their chests means that the faithful are surrounded by a multitude of zombies in an ever growing apocalypse. The zombies have been fed a diet of dead flesh by zombie-priests. There can be no accommodation of the dead among the living.

Final word for the Resistance. Pope Benedict XVI was right to prophesy that the Church will become much smaller in numbers. It is becoming much smaller, and that is a good thing. The faithful in communion with Rome will increase as a percentage in the Church as the fallen leave. Authentic reform, then, will become easier because those remaining will have a stronger identity in Jesus Christ and more likely to repent of their sins and more likely to embrace the mission of the Church. The witness of the faithful, purified and strengthened, will be a great sign that attracts others to Christ.

That so many are falling away from communion with Christ and His true Church is sad, heartbreaking, really. Our joy, however, and hope is in the Lord Who remains faithful to those who love Him and keep His commands and know Him in the Holy Eucharist. Only those who keep the Faith and live as reforming sinners can hope to be in an authentic communion with Jesus Christ and His Church.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.