Christian Life/Personal Holiness: July 2002 Archives

Evangelizing the Culture


Evangelizing the Culture

Once again Video Meliora provides food for thought. (Yes, I will get around to the promised post on the Catholic Novel, just be patient, I'm creeping up on it.--O wait, you will already have read it by the time you get to this point on the page--oops!)

Anyway, TS at Video says,

I suppose I am still thinking along the lines of Amy Welborn's question of how to evangelize the culture and how art could play a role.

And that's what I want to address. Art is art--sometimes it affects people, sometimes it does not. You could read "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and not get any impression whatsoever of grace. In fact, my first several trips through Flannery O'Connor, I missed, as my good friend would say, "All the novelistic signposts." Art, it seems to me, is for preaching to the converted--something which must be done, but which makes more sense when you're on the inside.

If we are to evangelize the culture, it seems to me we must do so first and foremost by example. I have a young child at home. Those of you with young children know that you can talk until you turn blue in the face, but the child is going to do what he sees you do. Our culture is much the same. You can preach, you can yell, you can jump up and down until you turn blue in the face, but if you are not living a life of holiness, nothing you say will take root.

Seems to me that a wise Man once said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." In other words, to evangelize we must first and foremost change our own lives. We must abandon the common recreations of the culture that detract from our thoughts of God, and we must live a life of such peace and beauty in the presence of God that everyone around us says, "I've gotta have that!"

Prayer and lifestyle are our primary evangelical tools. Unless and Until we turn around our own lives--the examples shown to others, we waste our time evangelizing. I always wondered what beet-faced bible thumpers thought they were doing. You may effect a conversion, but like the conversion experienced by Stephen Daedalus after the "fire and brimstone" sermon, it will be short lived. Conversions through anger, fear, or any of a myriad of emotions, are like the seed that lands in shallow soil. It is the soil of a moment and once the moment fades, the roots of the plant dry up and faith vanishes.

True conversion, true evangelization occurs when everyone can see the difference in your own life. When you are having fun with your wife and child so that you do not retreat to the questionable solace of "Sex in the City" or other programs I am appalled to discover many parishioners of St. Blogs seem to revel in. Oh well, perhaps I am missing out and I have too many of my own skeletons rattling about to cast stones.

St. John of the Cross tells us that the key to approaching God is detachment from all worldly things that keep us from Him. To my mind, this detachment is the beginning of evangelization. Through it we obtain a certain measure of peace and calm and become a center of quiet in a world full of disturbing eddies.

In honor of St. Ignatius Loyola, we should consider his instructions from the beginning of The Spiritual Exercises

The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.

Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him. (p. 12)

[Taken from The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola ed. by Louis J. Puhl. Loyola University Press.]

After all of this, I guess part of my answer is that we evangelize the culture one person at a time through personal holiness, prayer, and example.

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Not Subject to Disputation


To fall back on the language of my fundamentalist protestant days, I was profoundly moved and convicted by this wonderful post at the Disputations site.

I am convinced that what he says is probably true, but to expose a dark side of my prayer life, I regard the rosary as a onerous penance--doing a single decade is, for me, like trampling through a lake of liquid lead. Others I know have enormous transports of joy, or whiz through fifteen decades without even knowing they prayed. But for me I find no such "surcease of sorrow" in it. Nevertheless, it is good to do penance as well. I prefer other Marian devotions--the prayer of St. Louis de Montfort, and the Consecration to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. But, as with all things, the Lord will work with me on this as well, and it will be as He wills. (Praise Him for that!)

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Protestant Divines


Protestant Divines

I never fail to be amazed and amused at the various protestant divines and protestants themselves, who while railing at the Catholic Church, continually rediscover much of what had been in her treasury for millenia. I do not know that Richard Baxter did much, if any, railing. But, I share below some excerpts from a slightly modernized sermon-- "How to Spend the Day with God"

Do not let worthless recreations, television, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep rob you of your precious time.

Whatever you are doing, in company or alone, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Otherwise, it is unacceptable to God.

Remember every day the special duties of various relationships: whether as husbands, wives, children, masters, servants, pastors, people, magistrates, subjects.

Remember every relationship has its special duty and its advantage for the doing of some good. God requires your faithfulness in this matter as well as in any other duty.

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Dolan's Image:Jesus as a Baby


Dolan's Image:Jesus as a Baby

I Hope This Is Indicative of What We Can Expect from Milwaukee!"

The newly appointed Bishop of Milwaukee, Timothy Dolan, delivered a catechesis on Reconciliation to the WYD crowd. Among the remarks quoted:

"God comes as a baby, because babies are irresistible," Dolan said. "And God wants us to take him up and welcome him into our arms like a baby."

While the image is an inverse of St. Therese of Lisieux's "Elevator to God," it is, nevertheless an extremely appealing image. And we should recall that St. Therese was St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

At a shrine near where I live (Mary, Queen of the Universe) there are several statues that show the Child Jesus. One of the most touching is Jesus at age 3 or 4 running toward his Mother's open arms. How could you not pick up such a child and carry him with you? Is there anything more endearing than a child telling you, "I love you"? I suppose this is why the image appeals to me. Often enough we are told that Jesus loves each of us, and sometimes, particularly as a male in society, that is a difficult message to hear. But what father cannot hear that message from their own child? So if we take Jesus up as a baby, as a toddler, as a child, we still have the Son of God, we still have our Brother and our Lord. But perhaps we have an image that can help foster a greater intimacy.

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Gary Wills Redux


Gary Wills Redux

I know that I am coming in late on this, but I normally don't like to comment much on controversy--I find it makes me exceedingly irritable and not particularly charitable. However, I happened on this article over at Emily Stimpson's blog and was so profoundly annoyed by some of Mr. Wills's comments that I needed to note at least one glaring stupidity. This quote, ". . . and it's also obvious that loyalty to the papacy has been made the test of what makes you a Catholic," must stand as the archicon of idiocy. Whether or not Mr. Wills cares for the point, loyalty to the Pope and to his teachings is, in fact, part of what distinguishes Catholics from every other faith. I will grant that it is not the entirety of the difference; however, if you have the entire doctrine of the Catholic Church without loyalty to the Pope, you are either Anglican of some variety or some other faith--you simply are not Catholic. The Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ upon the Rock (St. Peter) is defined by having a single head who speaks with authority for the whole body. Remove the head, and you don't have a church; you have a headless body. Now, how Wills, a purportedly intelligent man, can come up with such a profound piece of religious blinkered thinking, I don't care to speculate. But I do say, that without loyalty to Rome and to the Pope, you cannot be Catholic.

I will go further to say that surely in the course of your investigations, you may come upon things that don't fit right, that you have doubts about. I think doubts offer an opportunity for growth, if approached properly. Where there is doubt, it is best to approach with the idea of finding the truth, not supporting an agenda. Mr. Wills seems to have cast this aside. As with many supposedly informed and intelligent modernists, he has be blindsided by the world and secular society into believing that his vision of the Church is indeed the church. If you stop to consider (after you get over the aggravation) this is sad situation, one requiring more prayer than fury. People who belong to this distorted church miss the fullness of the faith. They have mixed their faith with water--or unfortunately as with Israel entering the land of Canaan, they have sullied their practice with the idols of the Land of Milk and Honey. They do enormous damage to themselves and to those around them without realizing what they wreak.

I trust God in His providential wisdom and great mercy will deal kindly with those who have so wandered. Jesus promised to leave the 99 and go off in search of the single strayed sheep. For those who have strayed, like Mr. Wills and others, I pray merely that he is one brought back into the fold by the great caring of Incarnate Love. I also pray for myself and others incidentally affected by Mr. Wills that our momentary irritation and annoyance does not stray off into judgment. I'm sure that it shall not, but my assurance comes (paradoxically) from my confidence in prayers being answered.

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Quote of the Day "Reading


from St. Benedict and St. Therese: The Little Rule and the Little Way
Dwight Longenecker

Reading books about the Christian life is often a substitute for living it. If it is easy to read spiritual books without being spiritual, it is not much harder to write them without having the experience behind you. (p.16)

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Father, it is our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere
to give you thanks
through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

Have you ever been surprised by these words? You probably should have been. Sure enough, we can acknowledge that it is our duty to give praise to God. But how often have we considered that it is also our salvation? It is both duty and salvation. How is it salvation? Wasn't that the work of Jesus Christ Himself?

Salvation is the work of Jesus Christ, in which we must cooperate. We cannot be saved against our will. We cannot be redeemed if we refuse to acknowledge that we are slaves. Therefore it is our salvation to give praise to the Father through the Son because in so doing we align our wills with the one Will that would bring us into His kingdom, if only we would allow Him.

The depth of the love of God shows itself in the lightness of this duty. The depth of the negligence of humankind is measured in how poorly we do this. Do we always and everywhere give God thanks? Do we consistently acknowledge His reign over us? Do we rejoice in the wonderful opportunity of turning ourselves over to God?

Always and everywhere--in traffic, in the accountant's office, while facing trial and talking to our attorneys, while facing the boss who is unjustly blaming you for everything that has gone wrong? And yet it really is our duty, and more importantly our salvation. If, in the midst of all our troubles, we surrender to God and turn to Him with thanks and praise, the troubles, while no less troublesome, become less important--they drop into proper perspective.

Jesus, the very name is our salvation. In The Way of a Pilgrim the efficacy of praying the Jesus Prayer and of simply saying the name of Jesus is pounded home time and time again. If we surround ourselves with a wall constructed of prayers, if we follow the proper teaching of Ephesians 6:10 and following, we will find ourselves triumphant and living in the grace of salvation.

To get there, first we must acknowledge that we need to be saved and that we can in no way save ourselves. We cannot dig our way out of the pit. But we can take off the blinders and see the marble staircase, supported by the hands of angels that leads heavenward. This staircase is adorned by the constant praises of all who love Him.

What a wonderful grace-filled duty! Would that we had a hundred such duties! Would that we could devote five minutes of the day to really doing this. I am reminded of an anecdote regarding St. Benedict. While walking with a local farmer he lamented the inability to concentrate on his prayer for any length of time. The farmer averred that he had no such trouble and he could easily focus on his prayer. Benedict quite calmly said that if the farmer could get through a single "Our Father" without distraction, Benedict would gladly give the farmer his horse. The farmer agreed and immediately started, "Our Father, who art in Heaven. . .Do I get the bridle and saddle as well?" So are we all. Our focus is weak and our ability to turn to God further weakened by our constant preoccupations with things less worthy of our time, for example (dare I say it?) blogging.

But we return once again, it is our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give thanks. Our salvation because while giving thanks we cannot be thinking about ourselves, we must open the door that allows God to enter.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Christian Life/Personal Holiness category from July 2002.

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