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"A New Springtime", Part 2

In my last post, which I’m not entirely sure anyone read, one would think I pointed the finger directly at the ordained for their lack of homiletic eloquence, and to a certain extent one would be correct. However, there is an old saying that speech requires two parties, so this time the finger gets pointed right back at those of us in the pews. But I’m not going to make the obvious turn and say it is our responsibility to listen better, even if the homily seems dry, old and uninspiring. That’s for another post.

No, this is a far more interesting topic. Pride. Yes, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but just not quite like that. Pride gone too far is deadly, indeed. But pride covered over with a blanket is suffocating. There was a time, not all that long ago, when Catholics held a kind of pride in the fact they were Catholic. That pride, properly restored, can help lead to “a new springtime”.

First, as is always proper in this type of reflection, I offer a quote from the Bible, Mark 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand,where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

If this is not a call to take properly formed and restrained pride in being members of Christ’s Church, the holder and promulgator of the fullness of Truth I don’t know what is. But very often we see a kind of Catholic catharsis in minimalizing the impact of the life of the Church in her members’ daily lives.

It can be seen frequently how many Catholics seek the aproval of those around them, sliding to the side any part of their faith that may cause them embarassment. To pull a rather long quote from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s book Catholic Matters (p. 12-13),

So it is with cradle Catholics, including many priests and academics, born into the all-embracing world of Catholicism. They know the inside stories, the flaws and foibles and legendary figures of the Church, and they can regale one another with the rich lore of miscreance and scandal. … Not surprisingly, in the company of such cradle Catholics, it is the mark of sophistication to have transcended “the Catholic ghetto”. … The disposition is this: “Yes, I am a Catholic, but I think for myself.”

It is true that, as the sixteenth-century St. Ignatius of Loyola put it, we should think with the Church (sentire cum ecclesia). It is also true that thinking with the Church begins with thinking.

Indeed. While there are probably some cradle Catholics out there who are heartily offended by this sentiment, their offense does not reduce the accuracy of the statement. To be sure, of course, there are many cradle Catholics who do not fit this mold at all, and in many ways they are a backbone for the Church.

It is frequently observed that many of the current apologists for the Catholic faith are not cradle Catholics, but converts from other faiths or no faith at all. If one adds to that list those knows as “reverts”, those who fell away from their faith but returned in fullness, they make up the great majority of those proclaiming the majesty of the Magisterium. It is decidedly rare, for reasons too numerous to delve into here, to find a Catholic who has from the beginning made the decision to follow and sentire cum ecclesia. If you happen to know one, be sure to sit down and chat with them – I’m sure their stories will warm your heart.

Still, what does this have to do with pride? Well, there’s a bit of reverse-engineering to be done here. One tends not to think (or learn) about that which one takes no pride (or care) in. It’s a fact that can be seen in the academic careers of school children – almost without exception they excel at those subjects which interest them the most. The interestingly difficult situation with an institution as old as the Catholic Church is that the more you learn about it, the more interesting it becomes. With over two thousand years of history, and writings enough to fill vast libraries, it is entirely probable one person could never learn everything there is to know about the Faith in a single lifetime – as I said in my previous post if you like a challenge, and Americans as a general rule do, what greater challenge than that?

So the challenge to those of us interested enough to still be reading? Check your ego at the door, but take great pride in the wonderous gift of the Church you have been blessed to be a part of. Here’s a direct challenge: if you say the Gloria at Mass this Sunday, or whenever you say it again, really, truly think about the words you are saying and see if a grin doesn’t crack your face. The beauty of a God who loves us enough to call us His own, and to become one of us to bring us to Himself by the sacrifice of His own life and His glorious resurrection, well, heck I’m smiling just thinking about it. Now, take it one step further. Share that joy with someone else – even if it’s someone who already believes as you do. There is nothing that will draw someone’s attention more than people who are truly, deeply happy and sharing that joy. And make sure you let that joy overflow from you after receiving Him in the Eucharist and continue flowing even as you venture into the parking lot. One gracious and happy person at a time, even that place may become a comforting one in time. Then as you journey home, that giddy little silly smile still playing on your lips, find something new to learn about your Faith and pass it on. Your example may just be the impetus for someone else to walk through the church door and start on their own journey.

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