Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Church Investing Her Talents

 Christ the Pantocrator and the Last Judgment, 1300. Mosaic in the baptistry of San Giovanni, Florence, Itary.
The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing...
What I meant to say was if the Church starts encouraging sin then it isn't the Church, it would go against its very nature as Church, just the same as even liberal Jewish synagogues do not encourage ham sandwich eating, at least on the premises!

The Gospel for this Sunday is about using the talents God has given us. It could be that, it could also be about producing fruit. I am sure many American Protestants would see that Gospel passage as being about the glories of Capitalism, we Catholics would look deeper.
Reading it in the light of the New Evangelism Holy Church has been imbued with so many riches and one day the master will return and want the profit on his investment. He has pored out riches on us and will return one day, until he does he expects to make disciple and to Evangelise. For most of us, priests and people, Evangelism is what precisely? Most have never done it, most don't how to do it, most don't know what its purpose is and most are not even convinced it is necessary at all.

As a priest I think I am going to be like the man who dug a hole and buried the wondrous gift my master had given me, The problem is that most of us regard not merely proselytism but evangelisation as solemn nonsense. We see little difference between Evangelical Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxism and Catholicism, or for that matter Paganism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We are hardly convinced  that attending Mass on Sunday is more important than doing a good work, some other form of prayer, a round of golf, shopping or staying in bed. Indeed many of us priests turn it into some kind of teaching experience or group hug. Most of us regard what we teach as no truer than any other truth. Most of us tend not to believe sacraments are life changing experiences.

We dig a hole and we put God in it, we bury him and walk away. It is not the nature of God to stay buried just as it is not the nature of the Church to teach sin. The first reading from Proverbs speaks of a perfect wife, well, Holy Church is the Bride of Christ, the real Perfected Wife. "Her husband has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit"

I do believe Jesus when he says, "By there fruit you will know them". Here is the picture of a particularly fruitless part of the Church that is fast loosing itself not just to secularism but Protestantism.

There are exceptions, one believing bishop can make all the difference, it is sad that often those who are proclaiming the faith most clearly seem to grow wheat and tares together, or bring to shore both good and bad fish, even Jesus had Judas among his proto-clergy!

Good trees bring forth good fruit. The Church has a lot to proclaim, it strikes me that doctrinal confusion is not just bad for the Church but mankind because in hinders his salvation. So if the Church's ministers confuse or appear to be encouraging sin, 'a willful untruth' or the theft of 'one poor farthing', or if she is ambiguous about things condemned by the Lord himself and His Apostles, like divorce and remarriage or sinful sexual practices, it has done a terrible thing because it must always proclaim God's intention for Man: union with Him. The Church's function is to show the face of Jesus, to repeat again in every age Jesus' teaching, to offer a vision of the truth, of the reality of transforming sacramental grace, of the holiness of the saints, of the liberation of Jesus' teaching.

Any priest any bishop, can easily become despondent, we need to search out 'Apostle' who will help us proclaim the beauty of the Christian life; of our glorious final end, certainly, but also the beauty of Christian living, of marriage and chastity, of the Holy Eucharist and of prayer, of vocation in all its forms, and most especially the glory of serving Christ in the priesthood.

There is nothing more destructive than what someone recently called 'the bell-bottomed' theology of the 1970s, which seems to have had a resuscitation of late. Let us bury that and instead find ways to use the many gifts and talents, the jewels with which Christ has bedecked his bride, Our Moter the Church.
"... it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober." 1Thess 5:1-6
 File:The Ladder of Divine Ascent.jpg


Anonymous said...

The Latin American Exodus: Catholics become Protestants in Droves:
The result of marxist theology preached by the church, plus the "love love love" speech plus the disastrous formation of clergy.
Dark clouds in the sky for the church, led by a latin american pope with no formation, either religious or even secular.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Let us try and be moderate about 'the Sweet Christ on Earth", please!

Savonarola said...

"Most have never done it [evangelisation], most don't how to do it, most don't know what its purpose is and most are not even convinced it is necessary at all."
This sounds like a very jaundiced judgment. The people of the Church are probably evangelising in all sorts of ways all the time that clergy are unaware of. Evangelisation is not just telling people they should come to Mass and confession, it is not necessarily about doing religious things at all, but far more a matter of living the faith one professes. As they say, faith is caught not taught.
I am not surprised if people give up on religion if they are asked to believe in a God who cares far more about the theft of one farthing - or about someone missing Mass on Sunday - than he does about millions starving to death. It is the unreality, the preachy religiosity of ideas like this that keeps them away from the Church.

Sebastian said...

"The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing..."

Though I think I know what Newman means, such theological thought-experiments aren't really helpful for the on-the-ground pastoral work: Suffering is a source of temptation, and I would imagine that not a small fraction of those "millions" would fall into the sin of cursing God in their last moments or losing their faith altogether - Not really a good deal for one farthing's worth of venial sin in the overall economy of salvation.

Here's a different take:

"For no worldly good whatsoever, and for the love of no man, must anything be done which is evil, but for the help of the suffering a good work must sometimes be postponed, or be changed for a better; for herein a good work is not destroyed, but improved."

Thomas Kempis, "Imitation of Christ" Chapter XV

I'm giving the synod fathers the benefit of the doubt and hope that it is something like this they are trying to do.

However, both texts agree on:

"For no worldly good whatsoever, and for the love of no man, must anything be done which is evil."

There is a grave danger of the Synod fathers becoming guilty of this.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Where is the fruit of this evangelisation which you claim is going on?

Sixupman said...

A priest of my acquaintance, on to-day's NOM Gospel as an example cited a pristine unplayed Stradivarius violin obtained by the Ashmolean and kept in a glass case. Potential unfulfilled by design!

Recusant said...


Or, put simply. the ends can never justify the means.

Although you try telling that to an overly sentimentalised world.

Anonymous said...

Across history, it is those who have sought the grace of God most assiduously so that they may to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect, as obedient and pure as the Sacred Heart of Christ, who have also been the most active and effective in caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked ... It is a false contradiction to oppose personal holiness and social justice. It's all to easy to tell myself that it doesn't matter if I miss Mass, or that I am a bit dishonest or a bit of a thief as long as I am involved in "big causes".

But that way leads not only to hypocrisy but also to ineffectiveness. I will become like so many who say they 'love humanity' but do not actually love the human beings who are their closest neighbours. It's no good my blethering about "justice and peace" if I do not treat others with justice in the details of daily life, or if I am bad tempered and uncharitable all the time. It must be "both/and" not "either/or".

If I fail to be obedient in the smaller things, surely I am just a guilty of failing to love God, his Holy Word and Law. I am fool myself that I am a 'good man' because I espouse 'noble causes' while acting ignobly in my personal life. I fail to become Christ-like (and surely Jesus Christ is the Word and the Law of God?), relying on my own vision and efforts to change the world but failing to change my heart to conform to His. By thinking like that, I fear I would run the risk of becoming like so many of our fallen 'celebrities' (and indeed priests) who appear to have justified their personal misbehaviour (which doubtless began as small concessions to temptation and grew into routinely monstrous acts) by telling themselves that they were doing great things for 'charity', so these mere details of the moral law didn't really matter. What's a little impurity compared to raising millions for the starving masses? No, the beatitudes cannot be parcelled out like that.

The Church must never stop telling me that I must be both pure in heart and poor in spirit. Please God, if I can learn to be obedient in small things, God will show me how to be more effective in the big issues that face mankind. That is what I see in the lives of the saints. I am very long way from that ideal, and I am deeply grateful for the patience, compassion and encouragement of Christ which He gives me through his Church. But I don't want my Mother to stop telling me the truth about sin and salvation on any level, no matter how much I may not want to hear it in my weaker moments.

Savonarola said...

That is my point! Look around you, really look. Evangelisation is not just about being religious and persuading others to be religious. It is in the little things of everyday life - caring, self-giving, living by truth and values which show that one's life is other-centred. Ubi caritas et amor ibi Deus est - as simple as that! If you are not attuned to this way of seeing God you will never see him: he will only be an object of cultic worship.

Supertradmum said...

We only have ourselves to blame as laity. Sorry to sound so negative, but for years, we fed with money and men those seminaries which we knew were producing liberal priests.

The proof of bad seminary training is in the bishops and cardinals, having been hidden in parishes for years.

What can we expect? Some of us who love the Church were paying attention to the bad schools, where kids were being taught by Protestants.Some of us were a minority who held to Humanae Vitae when the vast majority of people surrounding us in the pews practiced birth control in disobedience to Rome.

I lived in England, was married there, worked there, had my child there and not once in all that time did I hear from the pulpit a condemnation of abortion or birth control.

Not once did I hear a priest discourage interfaith marriages, as these weaken the Church. Not once did I hear a priest speak against homosexual acts until 2013 by a brave priest in the Diocese of A and B.

The problems are not new. And I decided to home school, starting in Dorset in 1991, because I could see the rot in the Catholic schools already.

Most of the laity do not care, do not pray family rosaries, do not encourage vocations. The laity have to take responsible for their own Faith, and if an adult Catholic does not know his own faith, he will not practice. Cardinal Burke came out of a family. Cardinal Kasper came out of a family. Virtue and teaching the Faith start at home.

Live your Faith, laity. Virtue training starts at birth.

I love the Church. I understand the Bridal love Christ has for His Church and which all priests must have. If the laity loves the Church, the Church will flourish.

The problem is broken families.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Well said, Thomas.

Jacobi said...

Catholics are secularised to a critical degree. For the 19% who attend Sunday Mass, that is about it.

The rest of their Sunday is no different from their secularist neighbours. Shopping, expensive lunches, TV, or a drive to the seaside, planning their exotic holiday in Australia, with x tonnes of co2 deposited in the upper atmosphere, although they are environmentalists. Yes, they drop their green token in the supermarket box and give a coin or to the man sitting outside and perhaps buy their books at Shelter or Oxfam - all exactly as their secularist, or atheist or humanist neighbours do.

They do not evangelise, in any detectable way. At work, at hobby meetings, in social or sporting gatherings, they like any others, consider it bad form to raise the matter of belief or religious practise. Most probably they even avoid saying they go to Mass on Sunday.

Sunday or Weekday Devotions do not exist do not exist anymore.Weekday Mass attendance is perhaps 0.05%.

“By their fruits ye shall know them” , indeed!

What we are seeing now I suspect is the fruits of Vatican 11, which, whatever was intended, has been the secularisation of the Catholic laity so that they are in no way different from anyone else, with very rare exceptions.
So why should anyone, including the 1.6 children who have been subjected to the now banal and awkward N.O. liturgy, be in any way attracted to Catholicism?

The solution, for there always is one, is to Love the Lord our God by re-establishing the Sacrifice of the Mass at the centre of Catholic worship. All else will follow from that.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Off topic again but the interview with Francis Cardinal George, OMI, the retiring archbishop of Chicago, on the Rorate Coeli blog really is worth reading. It encapsulates exactly what I feel about the present papacy:

Physiocrat said...

I have a friend whose wife comes from rural El Salvador. The local clergy were essentially corrupt. Their main concern was to keep in favour with the local landowning big-wigs, and they were themselves mostly recruited from that class of people.

No doubt this is part of the cause of the collapse in South America. Liberation Theology was an attempt to address the problem by an infusion of Marxism, but that was a betrayal of a different sort.

The laity is also part of the cause for failing to get to grips with Catholic Social Teaching, and the defectiveness of that is itself another part of the cause. The Distributists attempted to build on it but the project was doomed to failure because they could never translate their ideas into a political programme by formulating a fiscal and legislative structure to bring about a distributist economy. When you look at it you find that CST offers mostly wooly good intentions rather than anything solid to build on.

It's a dismal picture.

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