18 November 2014

Do Words Have Any Meaning?

This might surprise you, but the Holy Father gave another homily today.  This might surprise you, but it contained another round of condemnation for certain Catholics the Pope sorta, kinda, doesn't really identify.

In all seriousness, I can't get comfortable with the imprecision of his language in most of his ad hoc remarks, but especially today.  Whom does he mean?  What does he mean?

In  the Zenit article above, we read the following.  I add a few emphases:

Feeling spiritually comfortable is a "state of sin," Pope Francis cautioned today during his morning homily at the Casa Santa Marta as he reflected on the problem of lukewarmness.

As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope drew his homily reflections from the readings of the day taken from Revelation Chapter 3 and the Gospel according to St. Luke on the encounter of Jesus and Zacchaeus the tax collector.

In the first reading, he noted, the Lord asks Christians in Laodicea to convert because they have become "lukewarm." They live a "comfortable spirituality." They think: "I do what I can, but I am at peace and do not want to be disturbed with strange things."

Pope Francis noted that people who “live well think nothing is missing: I go to Mass on Sundays, I pray a few times, I feel good, I am in God's grace, I'm rich" and "I do not need anything, I'm fine." 

This "state of mind," he warned, "is a state of sin, feeling spiritually comfortable is a state of sin."

The Lord has harsh words for people like this, he said: "Because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth." 

Then, he added, "there is a second call" to "those who live by appearances, Christians of appearances." 

These believe they are alive but they are dead. And the Lord asks them to be vigilant. 

"Appearances," the Pope said, "are these Christians' shroud: they are dead." 

And the Lord "calls them to conversion."

"Am I one of these Christians of appearances? Am I alive inside, do I have a spiritual life? Do I hear the Holy Spirit, do I listen to the Holy Spirit, do I  move forward, or ...? But, if everything looks good, I have nothing to reproach myself about: I have a good family, people do not gossip about me, I have everything I need, I married in church ...I am 'in the grace of God', I am alright.

"Appearances! Christians of appearance ... they are dead! Instead [we must] seek something alive within ourselves, and with memory and vigilance, reinvigorate this so we can move forward. Convert: from appearances to reality. From being neither hot nor cold to fervor." [...]


Certainly the call to resist lukewarmness is good, and we all need to hear it.  Perhaps the feeling that we don't need to grow in holiness is the best sign of needing conversion.  But the way these things are phrased, in light of his statements and actions during his brief pontificate, sure makes it seem that Francis can read minds and hearts to specifically call out Catholics who practice their faith in a way he calls "mere fashion". 

Feeling spiritually comfortable is a "state of sin"?  Is that true in Heaven, too?

Marrying in the Church makes me a Catholic of appearances, but spiritually dead?  No, of course not.  But why that particular example, coming just after the Synod against on the Family and its despicable intermediate relatio?  Being in the state of Grace doesn't mean "I am alright"?  Well, of course, in one sense yes, and in another sense no.

In sum, the homily seems just a mishmash of typical themes of Francis homilies.  Somebody who hasn't been paying attention, or who only reads them occasionally, or who doesn't go to church regularly, or who isn't Catholic, can readily see them as typical Gospel reflections, delivered a little simply.

But as a Catholic attached to the Church's tradition, I interpret them quite differently, and I believe I have reason to do so.  My nose is once again being popped with that rolled up newspaper.  "Bad trad!" 

No, you say, you are overreacting!  Maybe.  But I am a Catholic who married in Church.  I pray that I am in a state of Grace, or that God restore me to it.  I am grateful for the spiritual bounty I have at my ready disposal-- the Mass, the beauty of the liturgy, the Catholic community where I worship, the ancient and unchangeable teachings of the faith, the love of God.  Is the Pope insinuating that my whole spiritual life is a mere pretense, a whimsical fashion of an out-of-date piety?  Dear Holy Father, am I a Catholic of appearances? Am I dead?

Was the Church wrong for 1929 years, until Vatican II?  If so, how many well-meaning souls have been lost!  Why am I not Lutheran, or some other kind of Christian whose only irreformable doctrine is that the Catholic Church must be wrong?

Was the Church wrong for 1980 years, until Francis was brave enough to modify doctrines?

What happened on the plains of Caesarea Philippi?  What about the promise that the gates of hell should not prevail?

Wow, I am getting overdramatic.  Sorry.  This homily isn't the worst of them by a long shot.  Just the pebble that started this mini-landslide of a post. 


Margaret Rettle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Long-Skirts said...

The Pope said:

"is a state of sin, feeling spiritually comfortable is a state of sin."

It's all about "newness"!


The one true bride another Pope
The Catholic faith, it makes him mope
Another season, another reason
For makin’ newness

He says that God, He likes surprises
So make a mess, then he surmises
I’m really humble, I’d like to rumble
And make some newness

Picture the dome of Rome
Where couples will dance and sing
A Synod of froth and foam
Think what a year can bring

He will not judge, tradition’s fudge
True Catholic souls, to outskirts budge
But he’s so humble, so do not grumble
You vill like newness!

TradDadof4 said...

Sorry Margaret ... I am troubled by this. He is practically foaming at the mouth with liberal clichés and palpable hatred for traditional Christianity barely veiled by the plausible denial of his muddled language.

Murray said...

Quiz time!

Which Catholics are the most likely...

... to have a lively sense of Holy Fear?
...to regard their own salvation as uncertain?
...to pray fervently for the salvation of their unbelieving friends and family?
...to gain indulgences for the souls in Purgatory?
...to have devotions to saints, angels, or our Blessed Mother?
...to make frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance?
...to regard weekly Mass attendance, daily rosaries, and Scripture reading as rather minimal steps towards holiness?
...to be vividly aware of the yawning void between who they are and who they are called to be?

Easy! Liberals, right?

Seriously, these homiletic bombs are beyond tiresome. Traditional and orthodox Catholics certainly have their faults, but being "spiritually comfortable" is simply not among them. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a less comfortable bunch of people on earth.

Much of the trad anguish over Pope Francis is misdiagnosed as mean-spirited Elder Brotherism, when in fact it's often motivated by a pious fear for the countless souls at risk of damnation due to his ambiguity and accommodationism.

If spiritual discomfort means I (very) occasionally look a little too much like a Holy Card, well ... I'll take that risk.

Steve said...

Tinman, it seems to me that the Holy Father is warning against a self-congratulatory attitude found in many people -- including many Christians. No, there's nothing wrong with being "married in the church" and being "in a state of grace" -- unless one takes great pride that one is better off, more spiritually mature, than one's neighbors. At that point, the tendency to congratulate one's self on being "right" with God does open one to sin: the sin of judging one's self more charitably than one judges others -- a sin that Jesus warned about repeatedly, both in parables and more directly. Doesn't seem like a big stretch or a left-field observation from the Holy Father.

Sam said...

I must say that I find Pope Francis's homily straightforward and to the point, and, truth be told, I suspect you do too, Tinman. You simply don't like what he has to say.

Anonymous said...

Robert Hanssen lived a rather pious life as a member of Opus Dei. It was all a lie. All his external pieties did not keep him from evil. Now, whether he is the example that the Holy Father has in mind, I don't know.

Yes, I know he picks at and criticizes traditionalists. There are many a pious novus ordo attendee in the same boat.

Can't a liberal be a "Christian of appearance" as well with their pious attendance at guitar masses, swinging along, sharing the cup and bread meal? The feminista at mass goes to help at the abortion clinic on Saturday before receiving Our Lord. (Hey, there are plenty who do, you know?) Priests who celebrate the sacred mass and molest boys are only surface Christians, wouldn't you think?

The things he says can apply to progressives except for that we know his biases and find ourselves suspicious of all he says.

Innocent Smith said...

If the shoe fits, wear it. I see nothing wrong with this sermon. I suppose a lot of this happens to be based on the people you come into contact with.

Lots of people get married in the Church in order to have nice pictures. These would be your Novus Ordo types. When I was a kid, I remember the bride and groom zipping off to the reception in a decorated vehicle. Today they have a tendency to hang around for group shots of extended family around the Altar. I guess they want to get their money's worth out of the photographer and record the day. And who knows, they might not see an Altar until the next wedding or funeral.

Here's an idea. How about using these sermons to call attention to those who are truly lukewarm? In other words most people who clock in for an hour once a week at the local Novus Ordo. Then we can even begin to diagnose the problem. Maybe it is the way the Mass is celebrated itself.

Please don't take the above paragraph as a personal rebuttal to your post or your blog. That is not the intent. What I am saying is that we can run with these ideas in order to shed light on the existing dominant order within the Church. Can't we?

Also, when I was a kid, Confirmation was basically something to check off your list. Now it appears that this attitude has crept into first Holy Communion.

In the current milieu there are many who only have Christian appearances. Why they bother going is beyond my understanding. But recollecting my personal history I now realize their presence helped drive me from the Church and into 20 years as a lapsed Catholic.

These people definitely think they are OK. I'm OK, You're OK. They have turned the Sacrifice of the Mass into an encounter group.

St. Corbinian's Bear said...

Wow. I read your post after I wrote mine and we're hearing the same dog whistle. It's almost like he read a tract some Protestant left in the bathroom of the Casa Santa Marta and decided to save himself the trouble of writing a homily.

I also caught the "married in Church."

Like with much of what he says, you can certainly turn a blind eye to the oddness and get something out of it -- indeed it's not a bad thing to remind people not to be "checklist Catholics." But when it comes to moving from criticism to instruction on the ostensible point of his homily, "walking forward" with the Holy Spirit, we get a recycled trope and not a scintilla about recognizing, listening to, and expressing the Holy Spirit.

I tried. I really did try to give him the benefit of the doubt. I just wound up baffled and a little put off.

Anonymous said...

In the seminary, we learned that words cannot describe God. Every analogy about God has truth in it, yet also misses the mark. Every single one.

You could take the kernel of truth found in every description someone gives of God, and grow from it. (Yes, like the blind men describing the elephant they were touching, we could actually learn more facets of God by listening. That might include people from other religions, as well as - God help us, people from the other side of Vatican II!)

You also would be right to rant every hour of every day of your life pointing out the part of every analogy that doesn't fit. In the end, though, what are you gaining from this? A broken arm patting yourself on the back for being incredibly righteous while "they/them" are so "evil/wrong/damned?"

If the shoe fits ...

P.S.JOHN said...

If some people think that the pope is against the catholic tradition of spirituality, it is untrue. The pope goes right into the heart of the Gospel message with his distinction between appearance and reality and the need for conversion. Jesus went even further upsetting the present world order for the new one making the new man comfortable by his proclamation of the Gospel: " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand".
John P. S.

Karen said...

I think the fact that we have to have this discussion trying to interpret the homily is the VERY problem. Why can't he be specific? Why can't he say EXACTLY what he means? Why do WE have to interpret his homilies? People who are vague are vague for a reason. They are hiding something and that something is almost always the TRUTH. He is not clear or precise. He is supposed to be the teacher/leader/shepherd par excellence of millions of souls, of the entire world. He has a whole team of writers and theologians when it comes to drafting his speeches. He doesn't want to use them because he wants everyone to go away from his speeches rubbing their chin and saying Hmmmm, he's very deep. I learn nothing from him except that he seems suspicious because he is so very vague.

I get much more clear teaching by reading traditional Catholic books on doctrine such as The Liturgical Year, The Practice of Christian and REligious Perfection, The Glories of Divine Grace, The Ways of Mental Pray, Mother of the Savior and listening to the unmistakably clear and precise sermons preached by the Canons at our beloved Oratory. I am not bragging about what I read; I am saying that these are the only places I can find what I need to get to heaven. I no longer find it from the pope or his gang. I respect the office of pope but I no longer respect the man. He is dragging souls to damnation unless he converts from his liberal ideology which is much more important to him than Christian ideology. I no longer listen to him; I just use my weapons of the Rosary, the Sacraments, indulgences, and traditional orthodoxy wherever I can find it. He has his adoring followers in the likes of Cdl OMalley, the media and the lavender mafia. I'll stick with Christ and Holy Tradition.