Archbishop Listecki Directs His Flock on How to Battle Today’s Cultural Turmoil

His Excellency, Archbishop Listecki, offered a good article in this week’s (Milwaukee) Catholic Herald. He discusses a few points including the need for Catholics to be BOLD in today’s culture, a common theme here at TSP. Below are snippets, emphases mine:

‘Hold the Line’ in Times of Turmoil

I have encountered a number of people who are apprehensive about the current state of affairs in our country. Some of these areas are the seeming divisions that have occurred in the realm of politics, the social reconstruction that is occurring under the guise of personal freedom and the international threat of nuclear proliferation endangering the entire human community. Many people of faith don’t know where and to whom to turn. They seek solace in the face of confusion. No one dialogues anymore; shouting matches have replaced civil discourse. Emotional arguments have replaced reason and logic. And, the old “ad hominem” statements have been injected into every debate.

… It seems to me in the climate of today’s arguments that the Catholic Church is often presented as the enemy to individuals who characterize themselves as “progressives.” Because of the rampant secularization that we are experiencing in today’s society, religion is no longer embraced as “good” for the development of the society, but at the present time tolerated, with just one step away from persecuted. Some may say that I am overreacting, but I believe that it is time that we were sensitive to the attacks so that we might prepare for our response.

…We can never take for granted the spiritual activity that surrounds us. Our young people are fascinated by Harry Potter and the realm of magic. Yet, we have good spirits and bad spirits (angels and devils), a guardian angel that accompanies us through life and, of course, the saints.

…The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, animates the work of the Church. The Church is instituted to lead us to salvation and the Holy Spirit guides the Church in truth. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” (John 14: 15-17) The promise of Jesus is fulfilled in the advocate, given to His Church. The Church is “indefectible.”

As we consider our position in this day and age, my advice is “hold the line.” Look to the teachings of the Church and understand that it is rooted in the truth that guides us toward our heavenly inheritance

What then is our task today? It is to be witnesses of “Blessed Boldness.” We need to stand tall in the face of those who would deny Christian truth

During the 26 years of St. John Paul II’s pontificate, he always told us to be not afraid. He lived in the face of oppression, Nazism, communism and growing secularism, and, despite the obstacles he faced, his hope was always manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. “The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity toward the mystery of Christ, to help all men to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ Jesus.”

So, live close to the Church and proclaim her teachings. With the Church, we “hold the line” despite the world’s problems and we will maintain our path towards sanctity by living a “Blessed Boldness” in a world that needs Jesus Christ.

Read the whole thing there. Bishops need to be supported when offering counter-cultural messages like this to their dioceses. Make sure to call/email His Excellency or your own bishops to let him know of your support and prayers! ☩

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Ven. Pope Pius XII Declaring the Dogma of Assumption in 1950

The Roman Catholic dogma of what is also known as the fourth Glorious Mystery was infallibly declared by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1950. Sitting before 700-thousand Catholics in an overflowing St. Peter’s Square, Pius announced the dogma which declares that Mary, Mother of God, was assumed into Heaven–body and soul–to be close to her Son. Her being so close to Christ, King of Heaven and Earth, makes her intercession as the queen mother so powerful. As nearly all saints have proclaimed, the quickest way to Jesus is through Mary.

Anyway, watch the short, narrated, video below:

The Contrast Between Lukewarm and Authentic

A big theme on this blog is the joy associated with authentic Catholicism. To the lukewarm or non-Catholic, it might seem like authentic Catholicism is punitive, dreary, and dull. The lukewarm Catholic cannot imagine fun, happiness, joy, or a sense of adventure existing outside of a lifestyle where the Faith is boxed in and set aside from typical worldly pursuits. To many lukewarm Catholics, faith is simply one part of many in one’s life and typically a part which serves functions other than joy, adventure, or beauty.

A recent offering on the Liturgy Guy blog makes the case why authentic Catholicism is the only type of Catholicism which fulfills the duty to evangelize. The logic is of course obvious to most people reading this but it is a rationale which escapes the minds of many Catholics who view authentic Catholicism to be boring or unattractive.

Quoting briefly with my emphases:

authentic Catholicism is true, beautiful, and good. It is the furthest thing from a lukewarm faith. The Catholic living their faith authentically stands in stark contrast to the world around us. This authenticity is the primary means by which we evangelize an increasingly pagan and hostile culture.

First and foremost, the authentic Catholic carries with them a joy, peace, and confidence that comes from knowing, loving, and serving God. Presented with widespread chaos and confusion, the person of faith attracts others with an enthusiasm and sincerity that comes from grace alone. Of course this cannot be shared if we do not have it within ourselves

The lukewarm Catholic, to the outside world, stands for nothing, believes nothing, and therefore, converts no one.

In the end, true joy and a peace which only comes from Christ naturally leads us to share this good news with others. Pope Benedict, speaking at World Youth Day 2005, said:

“Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on.”

Those who authentically live their Catholic faith have discovered Christ. Now they must share Him with others.

Again, this logic should be obvious. Why would a Catholic, lukewarm in their faith and perceived to stand for nothing, have a lifestyle attractive to anyone outside of the Church? You don’t get people interested in Catholicism by downplaying everything that makes it stand in contrast to prevailing culture just as you don’t sell more Teslas by downplaying what makes it different from Fords. Roman Catholics need to show that the Faith offers something unique. Some might be repelled by it, fine, but most will be curious, if not attracted, to the beauty and order it offers. It catalyses a reaction whereas lukewarm Catholicism doesn’t.

Evangelization is important of course because we are called as disciples to spread the Gospel to the “corners of the Earth”. The person living authentic Catholicism is excited to do this because the person who has truly found the joy of living a life in Christ cannot bear to keep it to themselves. While the exact quote escapes me, C.S. Lewis describes the source of this joy as a Christian’s taste of heaven. This might be hard for Catholics who haven’t yet experienced this conversion for one reason or another. They too easily are self-conscious about making vocal or obvious the traditions of their faith, they seek to suppress it so they don’t feel uncomfortable or different. This is understandable, and unfortunate, if their Catholicism is merely a going-through-the-actions chore.

The degree of happiness a human experiences is dependent on the extent to which their lifestyle is lined up with the three marks of the divine (God) on earth: truth, goodness, and beauty. Regardless of if the person is aware of these marks, people are moved by them when they encounter them. Most people can be moved by beauty in art or nature; it is why everyone loves weddings in an old Gothic cathedral (even if they claim to hate Catholicism). Most people can be moved by encountering true goodness; it is why videos of strangers helping those in need go viral (even if they don’t understand the sacrificial nature of the true definition of love). And most people can be moved by the encountering the truth; it is why those who seek it have a sense of adventure, those who conform their choices to it find a better and more healthy lifestyle, and those who avoid it frequently find themselves in bad situations. Once this is all realized, one can understand why authentic Catholicism is the antithesis to a punitive, dreary, and dull lifestyle. Catholicism contains, more than anything else on earth, the beauty, truth, and goodness humans require to encounter the divine. This is what is attractive to people. This is how you evangelize–not only by being able to articulate this in words but being able to live it in life.

Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.’
-C.S. Lewis

Colleagues or neighbors, in today’s culture, might think a church-going family with a lot of kids is a sort of shtick. However, soon, those who have been engulfed by secular culture will start noticing problems arising in their own families which seem to arise less in the family which they roll their eyes at. They will start noticing the family who is friendly and helpful, the family who always has fun stuff going on in their yard, the family who is inclusive and always hosts generous and boisterous get-togethers and parties. They will ponder if the aura of happiness and love surrounding them is merely a coincidence or not. They might start thinking, “odd, I always thought Christian families as parochial, kitschy, and introverted”. The when joy is palpable, there is a curiosity and draw. People might ask “what does that family have that we don’t?”. That is when it is the Catholic’s responsibility to express the purpose and convictions they cultivate, that everything they do is ordered in a specific direction instead of an aimless array of hedonistic pursuits.

Alison and Colin, 3 and 2 years old

At the same time, if people know you to be Catholic, it is quite problematic if you make jokes, say things, or do things which might cause scandal. It is a Catholic’s job to avoid scandal, especially to those whom we wish to spread the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Faith to. For instance, if a protestant sees a man who makes it known they are Catholic whom, after some beers with friends, comments about how he doesn’t really care where a politician stands on abortion as long as they lower taxes, the protestant will immediately think Catholics really are not united on important things and that there isn’t really any uniqueness to Catholicism, they might even view Catholicism to be quite putrid. Therefore, this Catholic man may have just repelled someone who otherwise would have considered the Catholic faith. This would go against the important mission of evangelization (and be sinful).

The point is, we should seek authentic Catholicism and project the joy, fun, and love outwardly. If one has yet to encounter a feeling of adventure and joy, they should start reading about the history of the faith, learn about the diverse array of saints, become familiar with classic philosophy, listen to talks on Lighthouse CDs, start expanding their prayer life, find a parish which offers beautiful and reverent Masses and begin contemplating the transcendent more often. If one has a question, they should seek an answer.

Live in this world…but don’t be of it. ☩

Responsibilities of the Catholic Healthcare Worker

I share some information for anyone who may be in the healthcare field, anyone from a nursing assistant to surgeon. Healthcare workers may encounter situations which may put them at odds with the Faith…even at some “Catholic” hospitals now.

A healthcare worker in our family recently moved from an authentic Catholic hospital to a secular medical clinic. We wanted to be educated on just what the responsibilities of a Catholic employee is in this situation. We needed to know what should be avoided and how; we needed to know what constitutes as actual cooperation with various practices, mainly administering artificial contraception.

I share the following in case you or a loved one is in a similar situation. The website for The National Catholic Bioethics Center is a rich resource for this issue. The following is from their document on The Cooperation with Moral Evil in the context of the healthcare industry. It describes the degrees of cooperation with immoral practices–from formal to material:

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Share this with anyone who might find this relevant. Remember, Catholics in the the workforce, especially the healthcare industry, can be the greatest force of good in a society. Be the face of Christ…especially when people are seeking medical care and are at their most vulnerable. Ut fructum! ☩

Smartphones and The “Undoing” of Society

In the American Conservative today Rod Dreher shares a post from one of his readers. It is about how he or she views the connection children have to smart phones in a small town in Germany:

Smart Phones & The Invisible Cord

A reader who lives in a small town in Germany writes:

Children nowadays are connected to an invisible cord that is yanked once in a while. It is terrible to see how completely normal children change once they have access to smart phones. Not all of them but quite a few. The ones that don’t have any (like my son) are relentlessly bullied. I have been seriously thinking about sending my son to a catholic private school but it is to far away. I also don´t know whether it would help. As you write many Christians don´t understand the menace that smart phones pose and therefore don´t restrict the usage. Especially the less educated think having smart phones will help their kids navigate the future world. Sometimes I could cry so sad is all that.

Take a family I know. The father is a good mechanic who will always find a job.The mother is a simple sales woman. Their son will be none of that. He has a smart phone since he is 9 and completely glued to it. His thumb is probably able to do amazing swipe gestures but that is all he learns. Academically he is a disaster. The worst is that when he grows up he will not be able to do anything with his hands except swiping as he never does anything else. He will be totally useless in every sense of the world. What makes my blood boil is that there are thousands and thousands out there like that. And nobody telling people the truth.

What the parent states is not off the mark. Children who are not allowed to have their own phone or tablet at a very young age are seen as outsiders. Parents who don’t want to enable an this powerful attachment in children have to constantly fend off a subtle, nagging pressure from society around them too. Your kid is squirming and making noise at a restaurant? Why not sedate them with the glow of your phone, right? Counter-cultural parents would answer “because we have a much bigger goal for these kids than simply keeping them still and quiet while peace and comfort is being met for the adults”.

“Aw, cute! Look, Zander is becoming more indifferent to everything and every person around him!”

Coincidentally, it is also Rod Dreher who states in his book Crunchy Cons that too often our society is focused on what technology can do, but rarely contemplates what technology “un-does”. This is a great point. There are unintended consequences to everything. Of course, some downsides are obviously worth the benefit or can be mitigated through adjusting other habits. For instance, having automobiles and public transportation obviously helps people get around quickly. We are able to do more things in less time and more comfortably–this is a clear upside. However, this also means we get less natural exercise than humans did many generations ago. The benefit of cars is widely considered, however, to outweigh this side effect. Also, people are able to mitigate the effects by jogging or joining a gym. This is an obvious unintended consequence. There is no debating the physical change to our collective lifestyle from automobiles. Not all side effects are obvious, physical ones though. Some are mental, emotional, or spiritual.

Today we have smart phones which can accomplish an amazing array of tasks and have an endless amount of options to satisfy our craving for entertainment. With my iPhone, I can deposit checks, send messages, get news updates, see photos, listen to music, set my thermostat, lock my doors, and much more. But what do these devices undo? I think it’s more clear what these devices undo in children and teenagers than adults who were not raised on them (although some adults seem to have entirely adopted a lifestyle of digital device attachment).

Indeed the destructive content internet-enabled devices can deliver to the senses of a young child is problematic but even more devastating (as the person above goes on to state) is the effect of technology on the formation of the brain and social skills. That is, the immoderate use is an even larger risk than the possible content that one could be viewed on that very device. People are increasingly becoming detached not only from the people around them but of the natural world they live in. A good number of people are making the decision to stop living in ‘3D’ in order to experience the world artificially through a two-dimensional screen. When all children know is the screen in front of them, they set out, day-by-day (with the help of their parents), to circumvent their God-given talents which correlate with the world around them. It’s no wonder why, as we have technology that can do more and more, people can do less and less. When the main avenue (by far) for correspondence is text message and social media, children, in their formative most years, never learn how to properly speak to one another or socialize in a meaningful way. This is one of the reasons I find so funny the main argument against homeschooling children, that they won’t be properly socialized. Aside from the many examples of how well socialized most home-schooled children are, the idea that the mainstream school system full of kids who cannot socialize outside of a digital world (or even well or virtuously within the digital world) will be better for social integration is comical. The New York Times equates technology substituting for drug use among teens. CBS reports on how psychologists are connecting the addiction of smartphones and Snapchat (for teens) to the hormones the brain releases which make people anxious when they are not checking their devices. The articles coming out on the science of what is going on are endless.

Equally troubling and sad is that society is raising a generation who aren’t aware of the natural beauty (or human suffering) around them. When one is always looking down at a screen, they cannot look up to all that is around, let alone God. Children need to play outside. They need to touch worms and get on their hands and knees to push toys through the grass in their yard. They need to look up at birds scattering from a tree against the background of clouds in the sky and think about it before they even have the words to describe what they are seeing. They need to hear thunder rolling in and smell the rain as it fills the street. These experiences are a few of nearly infinite are extremely important. Not only are experiences like this what good childhood memories are made of (who has great memories of a game they played on an iPad) it makes them aware of the tangible world surrounding themselves. It helps them put themselves into the proper context of creation, illustrating to them both their priceless dignity and the fact that they are part of a world much larger than themselves. These children are more likely to appreciate the mountains and oceans on vacation.

Children with these experiences are more likely to grow up with a desire to use our natural resources responsibly, in a truly conservative manner. They are more likely to create beautiful things: art, architecture, literature, crafts and more. They are more likely to have a healthy attitude towards animals and where they fit in in the natural order. These children are more likely to grow up loving fresh food and the joy which accompanies cooking with their own hands, perhaps even raising or growing the food themselves. These young people are more likely to grow up knowing what they are able to accomplish with their hands (along with their own limitations) around the house when something needs to be fixed. Pretty much, these children will be more likely able to understand the big picture: what it means to live a good life.

Are you a parent who is dismayed by the state of the prevailing culture? If so, commit to nurturing a truly counter-cultural household. Revolt against how popular culture expects you to raise children. Don’t allow for digital devices until a certain age and then have rules on how these devices can and cannot be used. Expect more from your children in how they interact with other people and the world around them. Not only will true joy and beauty begin to flourish in your household and beyond, but the future of society depends on it. ☩

Update: There is a follow up post on The American Conservative about smartphone use contributing to drastic changes among the post-Millennial generation.