Friday, January 24, 2020

Desperation Mode

One of the first cars I ever owned was a junker; and that is being nice. It was not in great shape by any means; it had been in numerous accidents. Toward the end of its sad life, it began to have more and more breakdowns. Finally something happened where I was unable to start the car. The mechanic said it could be a few different things, but after trying out multiple options (battery, alternator, starter, etc.) there was nothing more that could be done. She went to the junkyard, having worked for only 14 years.

In those last few months of attempting to figure out what was wrong, it got to the point of desperation, "let's try this; now this; what about this; maybe this will work?!" Desperate actions are not always successful, and they often stem from a lack of knowledge as to what is really wrong. Much of what I see going on in the Church today appears like that very same kind of desperate behavior. "Let's try this gimmick", seems to be an all too common manner of dealing with our modern problems.

Just look at how many have responded to the spread of broken marriages by wanting to make the rules for marriage easier. We have an increase in societal approval of sexual immorality, so some in the Church say we should approve it also. People say that they are not interested in an aspect of the faith, so someone suggests we make it more contemporary and dumb it down. It is all desperation. A desperation that stems from a refusal to deal with the actual problem is never a solution.

If someone says that he is not interested in attending Mass because it is boring, it is not a solution to make the Mass more "fun" by adding in some entertainment (that is only giving into an error, not fixing it). This does not help in any way at all because the original problem was not with the Mass itself (not counting abuses of the Mass), but with the person. So if the person has the problem, why do we not work to change the person rather than the thing the person is complaining about? Changing Catholic dogma or practice will not help anyone, and "new and exciting" methods are rarely of any good in changing callous hearts.

There are so many areas where we can see the Church and her members slipping into this "desperation mode". We see it in various apostolates, we can see it in some of the declining religious orders, we can see it in how "liturgists" make choices for the Mass. It is spreading more and more, and it is not going to help us to restore our faith or the faith of those who are fading away. We do not need to change our practises of the faith, we need to change our souls.

In Jeremiah (23:12) we read:
Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
Notice the point. We are not encouraged to look for "new ways", or to be innovative, but to seek after the ancient paths. The desire for "newness" is a horrible confusion that has blinded many today to the goodness of truth and made them seek after things merely because they are new. Those in Jeremiah's day said openly that they would not walk in the ancient paths. Yes, it is the same today; people do not always want eternal truth (how many times have you heard someone use "pre-Vatican II" as an insult?). This, however, does not justify us running in desperation to find some adjustment or new trick to fix things. If men's hearts do not change, then no amount of "newness" will change them (it may entertain them, but it will not lead them to true holiness).

So as Catholics attempt to come up with new and innovative ideas for how to bring people to the faith, we need to remember that it is not about our techniques. Yes, we need to present the gospel well ("turn or burn you pagan" and "God hates atheists" are not appropriate), but that has to do with showing ourselves to be committed to the truths of the gospel itself and not behaving like hypocrites. It is not an issue of popularizing our faith in the eyes of the world. There is no allowance for compromise, nor is there anything in our faith that says if we appeal to people's base desires that we will bring them to the faith.

Let us stand fast on the "ancient paths". Let us realize that personal holiness and an uncompromising testimony of the Lordship of Christ are what truly draw people to salvation. No, we do not need to be mean-spirited to be faithful, but we do need to resist behaving like and following the ideas of the world. If we attract people by being worldly, then we will only make them worldly as well. There will always be "new ideas" but none of them truly touches the faith of our fathers and leads people to see the beauty and grace of our Blessed Savior. "Ask for the ancient paths."