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. ☩


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.

I Have Cried Out to You, O Lord!

Update: I wrote the choir/music director telling him how beautiful the choir always is but was especially for this (it’s important to compliment the good aspects of your parish often so people know they are doing a great job…don’t be shy!).  He responded with heartfelt appreciation and said how he thinks it’s funny many people ask for the De Profundis at their wedding which then he and the pastor need to explain why it wouldn’t be appropriate because it would be like saying “Lord, save me from the abyss of suffering that I’m going to enter after marrying this person.” HAH!

That which is beautiful is often written about on this blog, including music. As a true fan of all music genres (from the Philadelphia Philharmonic to Phish) I appreciate music which is perfect for the given situation. This, of course, means no pop music at Mass just as acappela would be poorly suited for exercise. Catholicism has perhaps the richest claim to music heritage in the world and formed some of the greatest composers man has ever heard.

Being Catholic, it’s a shame more parishes don’t dig deeper (or at all) into the treasure trove of sacred music available to them for music within the Mass. Too often parishes opt for (wannabe) pop music or banal 1970’s hymns. Luckily more parishes are reclaiming their lineage of transcendent sacred music…music which opens the soul and fixates one’s gaze up towards heaven.  Luckily I go to a parish which cares about such things.


During the collect at Mass, the very talented choir, in the newly painted choir loft and nave, launched into a rendition of Antonio Salieri’s (1750-1825) De Profundis (Psalm 130). Me, being relatively new revert, was not familiar with it. It was one of the most moving pieces of music I have ever heard in a church. It highlighted the importance of sacred music at Mass; the effect was an immediate openness to prayer. It’s known that the three marks of divinity, God, is that which is beautiful, good, or truthful and it was as if angels carried down this beautiful mark of God themselves like a silk rope connecting heaven and earth. Forgive me for the hyperbole but the amount this penitential psalm moved me is hard to convey. I was reflective the entire day because of it, it helped transform the entire Sunday into something beautiful.

Deo gratias for the liturgical revival that is happening across the country and all that comes with it, including our ever-so rich history of beautiful music!

Listen to a similar rendition, although this video doesn’t do any justice to experiencing it live while the Mass is happening in front of you:

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Fiant aures tuæ intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meæ.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est; et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus:
Speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem, speret Israël in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israël ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to mark iniquities, who, O Lord, shall stand?
For with you is forgiveness; and because of your law, I stood by you, Lord.
My soul has stood by his word.
My soul has hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch, even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
For with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.