Catholic Exchange: Changing the World Means Growing in Holiness

The world we live in is broken. The Fall has wounded us deeply and those wounds and sins tend to fester and grow as we live in community with one another. Anyone who has paid much attention to world news is aware that these wounds cause massive bloodshed on a daily basis. Anger and violence beget more anger and violence. “We” blame “them” and “they” blame “us”, and so continues the cycle of dehumanizing and relegating other human beings to “other.” This labeling of others into “us versus them” always leads to horrendous injustice, bloodshed, pain, and suffering. It is to ignore the ontological realities that bind us together.

We all share the same nature, the same Creator, and the same opportunity for salvation extended by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That salvation is not limited by our own vilification of another group of people. In doing so, we end up limiting the limitless gift of grace and divine life that has been given to us through the Paschal Mystery. When we focus on blaming others, we ignore our call to bring the entire world into conformation with the Blessed Trinity. It is not “them”, it is you and me who are the problem.

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Catholic Exchange: Avoiding the Temptation to Over-Sentimentalize the Faith

There is a growing tendency in certain church circles—both Protestant and Catholic—to over-emphasize sentimentality. Sentimentality allows us to focus predominantly on our feelings. This can also come from a false sense of piety and an over-emphasis on personal devotions, which inevitably leave us spiritually dry. Our faith is true regardless of how we feel in a given situation. If we reduce everything to our feelings, we very often become indifferent to actual truth and wholly dependent on how we feel in a given situation. In this case, we worship ourselves and not the Living God.

Being Catholic is demanding. It requires our whole selves, not a small section of ourselves that we carve out for Christ. In relying on sentimentality, we become overly concerned with how we feel in our prayer lives, at Mass, or in working with other people. We also discard the true depth of our Catholic Tradition for clichés and dumb-downed slogans. There can be an abandonment of doctrine–such as Purgatory–in place of the heresy of moral therapeutic deism. We only have to be a “good” person. This means feeling “good” about ourselves. This idea is not grounded in anything outside of ourselves and it is a brainchild of relativism. We are called to be holy. We are called to be saints, not merely a subjective form of “good” which is defined by the feelings, thoughts, and ideas of each person.

As Catholics, we believe in concrete and objective truths that are grounded in the very person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man. We profess these truths each Sunday and at every Solemnity when we recite the Nicene Creed. Jesus calls each one of us to follow Him to the very end. That end is the Cross. The Resurrection does not happen before the Cross. Why should we think that our lives will be any different from Our Savior’s? Christ shows us the way by His example, and His example, is the laying down of His life for us all. He gives everything back to the Father. We are called to do the same. Any cursory reading of Scripture will quickly dispel a sentimental understanding of the Christian life.

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Catholic Exchange: Truly Living as the Mystical Body

Many of us live in cultures in which seeking help from others is frowned upon and viewed as weakness. We are told we should be able to go it alone and we define strength as one’s ability to do everything themselves. It should become readily apparent that this type of thinking is diametrically opposed to Catholic thought. First, we are created to be completely dependent on God. Second, He gave us the Church, His Mystical Body, as a guide on the journey. Third, within the Mystical Body are our fellow sojourners on the path to holiness. We are meant to walk together. We are united by the power of the Holy Spirit to our Head, Jesus Christ. This unity means that when one member of the Body suffers, we all suffer at an ontological level.

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

To echo St. Paul, we are not meant to go it alone nor are we meant to appeal to some disordered understanding of individualism as we go through the battles, trials, and sufferings of this life. We are meant to come together and to walk the path to Calvary together.

The reasons many of us do not seek help during trials may vary. I think many of us are infected with the idea that we are supposed to be able to do it ourselves, as our culture tells us. I also think it comes down to pride. We use the excuse that we are a burden to others, but really it boils down to our own pride. We don’t want to have to ask other people to help us. We want to be able to do it ourselves. In reality, many aspects of our lives require help from our fellow members of the Mystical Body. This is especially true in periods of immense suffering and trial. Here are some things we need to think about in realizing our need to turn to the Mystical Body for help.

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Catholic Exchange: When Life Feels Like a Raging Storm

There are periods in our lives that feel like a raging storm. The winds swirl up at high speeds, the clouds darken to a night sky mid-day, and rain pours down. The torrential downpour comes in unrelenting waves and we feel like St. Peter standing in the boat staring in fear and awe at Our Lord walking on the waves.

Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:22-36

During periods of trial, it can be easy to stand paralyzed by the storm. We can begin to focus on the crashing waves, the wind blowing so hard we can barely stand, or to shake violently in the freezing rain. In this passage from St. Matthew, the boat was beaten by the waves from the wind, but often the storms in our lives can feel like a hurricane. Suffering, pain, anguish, affliction, and struggles in this life are meant to strengthen us, but most of us battle immense weakness in the face hardships. These are periods that can be marked by doubt, fear, anger, anxiety, mistrust, and a deep desire to flee. So, what are we to do?

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