Monday, June 4, 2012
The first thing we need to consider is that the 1950's were not as great as we sometimes think. We compare to that time a lot. People went to church. People were chaste. Seminaries and convents were full. Religion was respected. Life was good.
But how good was it? A lot of the religious fervor in the 1950's was a reaction to WWII. Modernism was proceeding and religion was being attacked before WWII. Read GK Chesterton and you will find many of the same attacks on the church that we find today. So we have a progression towards modernism that was interrupted by the war and then resumed after a couple of decades. Hitler scared people back into the churches. It just didn't last.
The second thing to note is that many Christians were not really free Christians. By that I mean they were not given a real choice between being Christian and the various other world views. They were processed into the faith but not always evangelized fully. That is they believed because what they heard at home, church and school was consistent and never really challenged.
You might say that still does not sound very optimistic. We can understand why things are bad but they still seem bad. Yes and No. Yes, the church is struggling. But that should not be reason for pessimism. We are here to struggle. Christianity being the religion of the majority should be hard for us to understand. That does not mean everyone is Christian. It means people feel social pressure to act Christian. That makes life confusing. One reason for optimism is an increase in honesty. If people really think Christianity is a bunch of horse pucky they are much more likely to say so today than in the past.
But what about mass media? Isn't that killing us? Yes and No. Lots of people are using the mass media to attack the faith. Perversions that were once barely thought of are presented as mainstream. But choosing the right thing because you are ignorant of the other choices is not a virtue. Choosing to do good in the face of temptation is much more impressive. Boy do we ever get a lot of chances to do that! Temptation is everywhere.
Where sin abounds there grace abounds all the more. Our faith is attacked everywhere we go but we have great arguments that if we bother to learn them will make us more confident than ever of the truth of Catholicism. Sexual temptation is everywhere but that should just push us to greater prayer and penance. We get ridiculed but that just means we are counter-cultural.
The greatest benefit of being Catholic today is having so much power and choosing Christ anyway. There have never been as many choices as there is today. Communication and transportation technology allow us to join almost any sect of any faith we want. So when we choose to belong to the church Jesus founded we that becomes huge. When contraception is easy then the choice to refrain from contraception becomes a source of great joy. Same with pornography and abortion and divorce.
There is a lot of reason to be concerned about society. We are making bad choices and we will pay a price. It looks like it will get a lot worse before it gets better. But we know that nothing we build in this world will last. That includes nations and wealth. So we should not be surprised when things crash and burn. We just need to learn not to be attached to such things.
There is a lot of reason to be concerned about souls. There always is. People get preoccupied with the question of whether anyone goes to hell. Stupid question. What we should ask is if we can do anything that might save someone. The answer is Yes. That is a reason to feel pretty good about life.
That is all we hope for from life. We can make sure we persevere to the end and we can help others do the same. The rest is God's problem. But we can marvel at what God is doing. We can see how humans are being allowed to understand so much more of what God put in place and even to manipulate it. Yet He calls us to remain humble and faithful even as creation becomes less mysterious. He calls us to remain obedient and respect the sacredness of life and sex even as we gain amazing capabilities in those areas.
What we can marvel at is that some will respond with faith and obedience. Not all but some. What is more those that do will have a beauty that defies explanation. They will be saints. That is the core reason to be optimistic. Some of us are becoming saints. The impact of one saint is infinite and eternal. How do we become saints. We have to want to. That is it. God does the rest. But our desire to be close to God has to overpower all our other desires. Still that road is open to each one of us. Knowing that how pessimistic can we be?