11 November 2013

Gratitutde as the Practical Course of Action

Events proceed in the Catholic world, and confusion and dismay abound.

I have been contemplating a post for some time now on the strategy, or better yet, the attitude, of a Catholic trying to make sense of the current turmoil.  Something about the duty of daily duties as a substitute for dramatic and immediate successes.  The way things are going, I thought it a bit ambitious to discuss the "joy" of daily duties.

But Canon Wiener's sermon on Sunday has me thinking about a discussion of the duty of daily joys.

In discussing with a friend the other day the lack of support for a traditionally-minded Catholic family coming from the top of the hierarchy of the Church, I tried to articulate my feeling that what is happening to canonically-regular Catholics who actually believe the faith is the worst sort of persecution: the persecution of neglect.

Consider, the SSPX and those beyond them-- they are used to the current state.  I won't speak for them, but guess that the current confusion and environment of novelty is something they would maintain has existed almost unabated for fifty years.  Perhaps the last pontificate would be considered a breather from that.  Perhaps.  They feel actively persecuted for the faith.

The heretics who consider themselves "progressives" within the Church feel vindicated.  To them, they must feel that again (after a brief and bitter persecution of someone actually expressing an opposite opinion) they are on the right side of history, along with Marx, Boff, Jesus and all the other revolutionaries.  They feel no persecution except from the 1%, however they define it.

The professional Middles are good either way, of course.  They are never persecuted within the Church, though sometimes outside it.  They read the latest press reports of what the Pope says and claim they agree with that.  Always did, always will.  They are always on the side of the moment.  We have always been at war with East Asia. 

The "canonically regular", or "Ecclesia Dei" communities, what once would have been called by some the "indult communities", well, pardon me if I speak about them.  I am most familiar with them.  We are in a situation that previously existed roughly from 1988-2005.  And while that situation is not new, remember that these communities have seen rapid growth, especially in the last 8 years or so.  So much that many of the faithful who belong to these communities are now experiencing for the first time the sensation of not being in favorite status in Rome, of not being on the cutting edge of restoration, of not being particularly welcome away from the crazy table anymore.  Not aggressively curtailed yet (if one is not a Franciscan of the Immaculate, anyway), but more like just being ignored.  Neglected.  We are irrelevant.

Obviously, not being persecuted is a pleasant feeling.  On the other hand, being aggressively persecuted can feel the next best thing. You KNOW you are being persecuted, you KNOW it is for Christ, and it pulls you through.  You can glory in it, in a sense--which is the great danger, because the devil can tempt us even as he kills us, if you get my drift.

But being ignored or suffering benign neglect has none of the pleasant sensations of either.  There is little glory in it, though it requires the perseverance of the persecuted.  Those who lived through any portion of 1970-2005 while trying to preserve the traditional understanding and practice of the faith know this state.  But, like I said, many are now getting this for the first time, and want to be reassured.

Why?  Why is this happening?  Am I in the right place?  What was Pope Benedict thinking?  There must be a PLAN behind all this. Right?

Which leads me to Canon Wiener's sermon.  The topic was Gratitude.  It struck me that gratitude provides the glue, the reason, the motivation we need at this time.

I think it is in being actively grateful to God that we can best steer through the current doldrums and do His will.  It is in being grateful that we will find the daily joy of our duties.  We have been given so much.  It is pride to look to outsmart the daily grind.  We must be patient, and wait on the Lord.

Though problems obviously remain, it is undeniable that access to the Mass has increased around the world, especially in this country.  In St. Louis, there are at least three places where the Mass is celebrated in the ancient rite every single day.  And if you are so blessed as to have St. Francis de Sales Oratory, so ably manned by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, how can you not be grateful?

The best way to secure future blessings is to be grateful for those that God has already given us.

St. Francis de Sales says it well, as usual.  I leave you with this prayer because this great saint speaks to us, right now, on how to handle all of this.  In gratitude we can find peace and joy: 

The Prayer of St. Francis DeSales

For Complete Trust in God

Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence as they arise. God has guided you thus far in life. If you hold fast to God’s hand, you will be led safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, God will carry you lovingly in his arms.

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same eternal father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either God will shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations. Amen.


Long-Skirts said...

Georgetown "Coming Out Day"

Cheer up! It's only going to get worse.

Anonymous said...

Certainly tumultuous times, but a few things to keep in mind:

1) While many find the Pope's speaking approach maddening, there may be method to it. Any number of times the Pope has said things that, while not changing doctrine, have gotten all sorts of attention for being "revolutionary". How many people who previously discounted Catholicism out of hand are giving it a second look these days, because of the attention generated by the Pope's pastoral style? The key for practicing Catholics is to provide the curious authentic Catholic teaching in the course of their inquiry.

2) Many are dismayed at the Pope's seeming demotion of "life and morality" issues in favor of poverty issues. I'd actually argue that renewed focus on poverty issues might be the best approach we have for making progress on "life and morality issues".
When thinking about things like the HHS mandate, Catholic Charities being forced out of adoption services in various places, etc. we need to ask ourselves "How did we get here?" We got here by government taking on more and more the function of charity, then using that leverage to impose ideological designs. Why is the government taking on more and more charitable function? Because an ostensibly Christian populace does not follow the Christian practices of tithing and volunteering, leaving sizable needs to be filled.
I think one of the best things traditionalist Catholics could do is work to be everywhere in the charitable realm. If the worry is that too many are becoming dependent on an officially (and sometimes overbearingly) secular government, focus efforts on ministries that build self-sufficiency. Make sure that local outreach centers feature good apologetics literature. Engage clients in discussion on Christianity - one of the primary ways Christ evangelized was through helping people with material needs. In some poor neighborhoods, a charity volunteer may be one of the few churchgoing, much less Catholic, people a poor person sees in a year's time.

3) Yes, the Pope seems less than enthusiastic about the Latin Mass. However, does it seem likely that any pope elected for the foreseeable future will restore that Mass by fiat? No, not likely. In other words, the best route is to grow the Latin Mass organically. Invite groups, such as college Catholic groups, to come to the Oratory for Mass; walk them through what is different from the Novus Ordo Mass and why. Be patient - many such groups will be used to Masses that are less solemn, so let the dress and actions of the other parishioners speak for themselves. You never know who might fall in love with the reverence they see at the Mass of the Ages.

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis

Long-Skirts said...

Bryan Kirchoff said:

"one of the primary ways Christ evangelized was through helping people with material needs. In some poor neighborhoods, a charity volunteer may be one of the few churchgoing, much less Catholic, people a poor person sees in a year's time"

What makes you think many of us don't already do this? We don't necessarily announce it but many of us ARE doing this & our Priests along with our members of the Legion of Mary visit the prisoners in Bonne Terre & Bowling Green.

Bryan also said:

"While many find the Pope's speaking approach maddening"

The words of the Holy Father were...

“I believe in God, not in a Catholic God. There is no Catholic God...in the interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica,"

Well, at least he didn't say God was dead but pray for the Pope!

Anonymous said...

I apologize for a lack of clarity in my words; when I said "everywhere in the charitable world", I wasn't trying to imply that traditionalists do not volunteer, but I was urging them to redouble those efforts, to the point of having an outsize presence. The charitable world, outside of pro-life ministries, in my experience tends to skew progressivist.
Regarding the Pope's words, unless his statement means he is professing a unitary deity like Islam or multiple deities like other religions, it is difficult for me to call his statement incorrect. After all, God long predated the Catholic Church. Heck, the Catholic Church was not "Catholic" until a couple of hundred years into its existence (at least, as far as the earliest uses of that term that I've read of indicate). I do not think the Pope is advancing indifferentism there - he's chosen a pretty strange path for his life if he thinks Catholicism is just one religion among many.

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis

Karen said...

The progressive agenda is to control all things that allow people to exercise their freedoms thereby taking away those freedoms. They will create a need for themselves (the government) whether there is truly an existing need or not. Since those that do charitable work usually do so quietly and the media is also loathe to announce it, the progressivists can present to the people that a "need" exists and therefore, the government is "obligated" to take care of it.

I do agree that poverty still exists and always will and it is the duty of Catholics (and everyone) to help the poor, but God gave us the poor as a means to heaven; the government sees the poor as a "defect" that needs to be "fixed" so the secularists use this "defect" as a means to insert themselves yet again into our lives and make choices for us against our will; they will always do so. It is the nature of the beast. Secularists claim to love humanity but use people along the way to their ultimate goal of changing the world.

Anyway, I agree with Brian that maybe our lack of helping the poor (while recognizing all those Catholics who do great and loving work for the poor, the majority probably do not address poverty, I myself being one who should do more) gave the secularists an edge, but I also think they will worm their way in no matter what.

And the Pope's speaking approach IS maddening. We must be patient and pray. What else can we do? To quote someone, "find joy in the daily grind".