“Then the whole town came to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their neighbourhood.” Mt 8:34
Such was the response of the Gadarenes when Jesus casted out two demoniacs into a herd of swine. One wonders if today the people of God would act any differently than the people of Gad. Interestingly, it is not uncommon to hear in some Evangelical circles today the refusal to eat pork on account of this story, believing that they might be consuming demons or the devil himself, while at the same time, still refusing to believe that God could make Himself present in Bread and Wine. At least they still consume apples…
Speaking of meetings, the Church’s Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (D.I.E.) department has one scheduled for later this Fall named the “Synod on Synodality”. Following the United Nations’ set goals and under the guidance of World Economic Forum recommendations, some influential members of the Church prepare to break the breadth of its wisdom and tradition, like priestly celibacy, so as to sssneak in new ideas like “just do it” and “don’t worry, you will not die.” (Gen 3:4-5). In his book “The Power of Truth”, Cardinal Gerhard Muller emphasized the importance of doctrines not only on the individual, but on all of the society. Surprisingly, he argues even the Church herself depends on the formation provided by faithful families to the next generation. He states, “Just as Christian doctrines have consequences, so do false teachings. And the experience of the last several decades shows us the consequences of false teachings about marriage: broken hearts and homes, spouses betrayed, children abandoned by father or mother and slowed or derailed from the path to healthy maturity. And when these things befall large segments of the next generation, every other social institution is impaired. For all associations – including the Church herself – depend on formation that only the marriage-based family can reliably provide.” The highest divorce ratios in the world are in Portugal and Spain respectively, with France and Belgium also in top 10. The correlation between loss of faith and family breakdown is plain to see, but which came first? Oaths without faith, are just empty words. Yet saints don’t grow out of seminaries – their journey usually starts at the dinner table, at the kitchen, perhaps even on a stable or what we call today, the garage.
In Pope John Paul II, Saint John Paul II, his formation started when he saw his own father praying on his knees every night. His mother died when he was young, as did his father a bit later. He saw his country overtaken first by Nazis, then by Communists. He knew about Maximilian Kolbe, and concentration camps were not too far from where he lived. This was his “white privilege”. In spite of all this, he later became the first non-Italian Pope in 450 years, and played a critical role in bringing down the Soviet Union. Maximilian Kolbe ended up canonized by JP II – a saint canonizing a saint. He founded world youth day events and challenged them to follow Christ, to become saints! Coming back to this upcoming “Fall”, the call won’t be much about sainthood, but more about feeling good, with an emphasis not on repenting, but rather on repeating sins.
But love requires freedom, otherwise becomes slavery. G.K. Chesterton explained it this way; “The difference is between the idea of birds building nests and the idea of birds being all exactly and equally and humanely kept in cages.” Not sure if he was thinking about socialism or today’s universities, but the shoe fits on both sides! The same Chesterton would go on to ask, “What sort of fight can they make who are taught in the same breath that their enemies are immoral, and that morality itself is immoral?” Sounds a lot like “The Church cannot bless sins”, but “Who are we to judge?”! The fruit of this formula is found over most of Europe and in at least half the American states: churches are closing and marriages are failing. The impact of this reality goes well beyond the individual, and it is no surprise that burning churches and burning cities have become common sights. It may be difficult to bring Heaven on Earth, but we don’t have to march towards Hell on Earth either. “Come to Me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden is light” Mt 11: 28-30
Jesus listens to us through our prayers, our petitions, and our thoughts, and so should the Church. Yet, Jesus also spoke, He answered our questions, He taught so we could learn from Him, and so should the Church, not on the ever-changing whims of the world, but on the rock of Christ’s teachings i.e. doctrines. St Augustine was a little more blunt, “Do teachers ever claim that it is their own thoughts that are grasped and retained, rather than the branches of learning themselves that they purport to transmit by their speaking? What foolish curiosity could ever prompt a man to send his child to school in order to have him learn what the teacher thinks?” We want to learn what the Teacher thinks not the teachers. Earlier, Jesus referred to Himself as being “meek”, which is sometimes understood as being passive, yet this is the same Man that cursed a fig tree and overthrew the tables. The ascetic writer Francois Nepveu described meekness as “not an alternative to anger, it is the governance of anger.” Meekness protects one from sliding into bitterness or revenge, but doesn’t shy away from acting justly in the face of evil. It is not God’s will for sin to rule over us, and to teach otherwise, deserves our rightful indignation, despite the fact we may be asked, or told, to leave the neighbourhood.
I expect this synod on synodality to do three things: bring in experts to add nice-sounding words into our documents, change the meaning of other known words, and focus on pastoral care instead of doctrine. Regarding experts, the following is the description provided by three well-known modern historians on the time of pagan Roman rule: Edward Gibbon lauded the empire for its “universal spirit of toleration“, while Jonathan Kirsch talks at length about the “open-minded and easygoing attitude of paganism“, and finally, Yale historian Ramsey MacMullen describes pagan Rome as “completely tolerant, in heaven as on earth.”
The following is an except from Tertullian, a contemporary citizen of pagan Rome: “…with our hands thus stretched out and up to God, you rend us with your iron claws, hang us up on crosses, wrap us in flames, take our heads from us with the sword, let loose the wild beasts upon us. The mere name [Christian] is made a matter of accusation, the mere name is assailed, and a sound alone brings condemnation.” With this much open-mindedness and tolerance, who needs tyranny?
As for pastoral care, imagine a road where the legal speed limit is 60 Km/H. This limit is written in the criminal code and has been for decades saving many lives by greatly reducing street racing and reckless driving. Not so few a people have had to pay fines, losing their license, maybe even be arrested. Now imagine this limit remains in the books, but is no longer enforced, and over time everyone starts driving at 90 Km/H. The limit becomes for all purpose and effect 90 Km/H, despite the law saying 60. And so it is with pastoral care guidelines circumventing traditional doctrine.
Venerable Fulton Sheen described humility as “truth or the recognition of gifts as gifts, faults as faults.” Let us then recognize sin as sin, for to do otherwise, would be the exact opposite of humility, it would be pride, and “Pride goeth before the Fall“.
“And He taught, saying to them: Is it not written, My house shall be called the house of prayer to all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves. Which when the chief priests and the scribes had heard, they sought how they might destroy Him. For they feared Him, because the whole multitude was in admiration at His doctrine.” Mark 11:17-18
St Joseph – pray for us.
If publishing article online please attribute source Band of Christian Brothers with link to original article.