“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Captain’s speech – Cool Hand Luke
The words communion, community and communication share a common (pun intended) root, namely, the word common. According to the Chambers dictionary of etymology, the word “common”, derives from the Latin “communis” (com – together; munia – duties), which literally means, shared duties or responsibilities. With this in mind, the word “communication” then becomes the act of transmitting these shared responsibilities, whereas “communion”, means partaking on those shared responsibilities. Think of the implication in regards to Holy Communion….St Paul explained it to the Corinthians in this way; “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” 1Cor 10: 16-18
Catechism 1396 in reference to St Paul puts it this way; “The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body – the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body.” The Church therefore is not merely a group of individuals who hold a private relationship with God, but a community of believers that come together to share in the responsibility of participating in Christ’s passion on the Cross.
In a recent essay on responsible citizenship, author John Anderson (former deputy PM of Australia), highlighted three main challenges in Western society: disenfranchisement of the young, the overbearing state, and the alarming decline in virtue. One could attribute similar challenges to the Church today. Interestingly, Mr Anderson writes that the solution to this malaise is found in Christianity. He writes, “Christianity specifically is worth singling out as a foundation for responsible citizenship not only because of its teaching that all humans bear God’s image, but because of its doctrine of original sin, which is the enemy of utopian schemes.” This means we are not perfect beings, but were perfectly loved into being.
If Christianity helps us become more responsible citizens, and communion unites us as a Christian community, the question then is how do we do a better job transmitting (communicate) these good news to the rest of our society? The education system is not only broken, but a large part of the problem. Stephen Blackwood and Bernadette Guthrie co-wrote an essay recently whereby they identified loss of meaning, as one of the primary challenges in education. They wrote, “The breakdown of shared narratives of meaning and the resultant atomisation of individuals has had dire implications for both students and the educational system.” This loss I believe, derives largely from the hyper focus placed on SELF-identity, which is based on individuals attempting to adapt reality to their own narratives, rather than their narrative to reality. In this context of relative meanings, language itself becomes relativized, which forces everyone to have to define their terms before speaking, rather than relying on the mutual understanding of common words. This in turn makes dialogue ever-increasingly complex, ultimately leading to a breakdown in communication. Watch any recent political debates for examples of people babelling similar sounds but as if speaking a different language.
Speaking of babeling, the story of Babel doesn’t feel so mythical any more. Consider the following examples: Our highly educated society is unable to define a woman today, Reproductive healthcare means no reproduction. Birth control means as G.K. Chesterton once said, “No birth and no control”. Leaders of the free world warns us that overpopulation is dangerous and leads to catastrophic climate change…while two minutes later, they remind us that to grow the economy we need to increase our population and therefore should accept open borders. The examples are many, the evidence is mounting, so case closed right? Well, evidence itself can be relativized. Robert Reilly recently wrote article whereby he stated that “evidence only matters in a world of cause and effect”. In various parts of the world, natural law or cause and effect are viewed as limiting God’s freedom, and therefore His omnipotence. According to them, God is so free and powerful, that He can even contradict Himself. This of course runs contrary to the Christian notion of God as the eternal Truth itself, and has major implications in all aspects of life. This is why anyone that believes the solution is primarily to be found in politics will be deeply disappointed. Pope Benedict XVI once said, “A Church that is viewed only in political terms, contrary to her entire history and her distinctive nature, makes no sense”. There’s no question that politics plays a role, but before politics comes culture.
Let’s consider that recent polls and surveys in Canada, show that 89 percent of Canadians do not attend religious worship regularly, 56% never read any sacred text, 59% believe sexual relations between same-sex partners is morally acceptable, 21% support polygamy, 20% believe suicide is morally acceptable, 18% thought it moral for married people to have affairs, and 7% thought pedophillia to be morally acceptable. With these numbers in mind, would a conservative Christian be more likely to win or have to wait for next time? The above data was released by Cardus, Polling Canada and Research Co. As Neil Postman wrote back in 1995, “considering how to conduct the schooling of our young adults, there are two problems to solve: one is an engineering problem; the other a metaphysical one.” I dont agree with everything he wrote, but here he nailed it.
Writing in 1906, G.K. Chesterton made the following assertion, “The only intelligible human controversy is a disagreement upon a basis of agreement. Our whole trouble in most modern controversies is an attempt to get an agreement upon a basis of disagreement.” If we don’t agree on what terms mean, don’t agree on moral values, and have no shared meaning how can we even begin to dialogue with each other? The arguments are settled before they even start, leaving people segregated and with nothing but the power of their will to settle their differences. Recent events have provided ample proof of this.
A famous professor once made a speech regarding the Church, stating, “Today there are many and conflicting reasons not to be in the Church any more. The people who feel driven today to turn their backs on the Church are not only the ones who have become alienated from the Church’s faith or who regard the Church as old-fashioned, too medieval, too hostile to the world and life, but also those who loved the historical form of the Church, her worship, her timelessness, and the reflection of the eternal in her…Also remaining in the Church today, quite emphatically, are those who reject her entire historical character and passionately fight against the meaning that her offcials try to give to her an uphold. Although they want to do away with what the Church was and is, they are determined not to be ousted, so that they can make of her what, in their opinion, she is supposed to become. All this however, produces a veritable Tower of Babel within the Church: not only are the reasons pro and con mixed up in the strangest ways, but now it hardly seems possible to reach any agreement.” This was written in 1970. The professor’s name was Joseph Ratzinger.
The educational system is broken, the state is increasingly exercising control on an acquiescing society which has largely lost its moral compass, and the Church is weak under its current leadership. We do however, have this shared responsibility to come together as a community of believers, to receive Communion, our shared meal with the Lord, and in this way communicate a clear message that only Christ is our Lord. We do not want a Church as State, nor a State as Church, but we do not, we cannot separate God from either Church or State. He is in everything and the Way.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus Mat 18:20
St Joseph – pray for us.
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