Thursday, December 3, 2009

Catholic Identity is Simple

Some of the most faithful and devout Catholics I know are those who are simple in their faith. This simplicity manifests itself by attending Mass every Sunday and daily if possible. They go to confession frequently, sometimes once a week. They pray the rosary daily, light votive candles and pray novenas. They seek the gifts of indulgences and know what they must do to receive them. At home they are good parents, good siblings and have a concern for those in need.

They truly believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Most Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments of the Church. They have a great reverence and devotion to our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. They pray frequently during the day and are sure to say their morning and evening prayers as well as prayers before meals.

They respect the precepts of the Church (canon law) and would never intentionally break any of God's commandments or the laws of the Church especially as it regards marriage and support of the Church.

It seems to me that if we give our children a foundation in the practice of the faith as I have described above, that our children would hold onto the faith, or if they became backsliders, they would eventually return to the faith if they had religious practices and devotions to embrace and experience.

I can't imagine a person who prays the rosary daily, seeks indulgences frequently, attends Mass weekly and goes to confession monthly ever leaving the faith for a Protestant denomination or no belief whatsoever. I guess it could happen, but it seems to me that if one has devotional practices and a cursory knowledge of Church teaching and is committed to Jesus and the Church He founded, then that person would remain faithful until death.

What has happened to the nearly 75% of Catholics who do not attend Mass regularly? Is it they have no commitment to any of the devotions and religious practices that I have described? They haven't had them instilled in them let alone practiced them. How did we allow nearly two generations of the majority of our members to fall from the faithful practice of the faith? Your comments and opinions would be appreciated.


Templar said...

I've tried to type this out a few times and it ends up being my life story, and thus way too long. Being born in 1962, 1st Communion in 1969, and confirmed in 1973, I think I'm typical of the 75% of my generation who are lost in the wilderness. My religious education was via CCD classes and I recall none of the content. It's overall tone was like a Beatles soundtrack, "Love, love, love" and that's all I remember. By the time I was on my own I was done with religion. No one gave me any sense of it's importance. My parents were both Catholic, both active, and in my Mom's case, devoutly so. But they trusted the Church to instruct me in my faith, as it had instructed them in theirs. They were wrong. The Church changed, and the loyal Catholics like my parents, trained to follow blindly on faith, had no idea, and probably couldn't dream of, the destruction being done to us and the Church. I was married as a Catholic in 1987, but me and the missus were not practicing at all until our kids came along, and even then, it was out of a sense of obligation, and a desire to make our parents happy more than any understanding of our faith. When we came around to the idea that we wanted to go to Church it was because we sensed we were missing something, but didn't know what. I can definitely understand how Protestants "shop around" for a Church they like because they're all missing something. In our case being nominal Catholics we picked up where we left off. But still, although we were now regular attendees, and our children were attending CCD, there was something missing, but we kept at it. Then in August 2007 in ou Parish Bulletin, the Pastor's column talked about the Pope having given permission for the old Latin Mass to be said again, and since he had received a few inquiries he wanted to let everyone know that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks", and "there will be no latin mass at (this parish)" as long as he was Pastor.

Now, in 2007 all I knew was the "old church" used to say the mass in Latin. I literally thought it was the same mass we have now, just said in Latin. But the attitude of the Pastor made me go look into it, to see what it was that made his blood boil like that, and I slowly discovered, on my own, the faith of my Parents generation. I began to get annoyed, and then angry at what had been hidden from me. Then I started to consume it as a starving man would a free meal. I started practicing the old devotions and for the first time in my spiritual life I could claim to be actively participating in my religion.

In some ways it's only been 3+ years and I wonder when/if the burn out will set in. Will this be a passing craze? I don't think so, because it feels so natural and so easy, despite the additional commitments. My "obligations" are miraculously the things I look forward to the most now.

It is my experiences that make me push so hard when you talk about these subjects. I feel that those of us born in the 60s and 70s, who had the seeds of our faith planted but never nurtured, will blossom to life if they are just tended. But they need to see the real faith, they need to be exposed to the ways and means of tradition. The way to get the 75% back is to make disciples of the 25% we still have. But many of those 25% are lost within the walls of the Church. Still denied the beauty and glory of their faith. Many are no doubt walking out on Sunday wondering when it will click and what they are missing. Asking themselves why "they don't get anything out of it"; still blind to the idea, let alone the fact, that it's not "about them" at all.

We need to be re-calibrated. Towards that end, any and all practices that can refocus us on the Lord, and his rightful role as Christ the King, should be the first steps.


Anonymous said...

I think that many Catholics have left the faith for other denominations, because they don’t understand why they were Catholic in the first place. They have not learned that only the Catholic Church existed in the tenth century, in the fifth century, and in the first century, faithfully teaching the doctrines given by Christ to the apostles, omitting nothing. The line of popes can be traced back, in unbroken succession, to Peter himself. This is unequaled by any institution in history.

I concur Father with your statement that parents play a critical role. In addition to the crucial things that you mentioned, I would also include wearing the Brown Scapular and teaching children Latin. I home school and we pray the Rosary everyday in Latin. Latin is deeply beautiful and helps fight distractions while praying. In addition, one might suggest that Latin could be included in the four marks of the Church – One, Holy, Catholic and


Jon said...

I can't imagine a person who prays the rosary daily, seeks indulgences frequently, attends Mass weekly and goes to confession monthly ever leaving the faith for a Protestant denomination or no belief whatsoever.

AMEN! When I hear an "ex"-Catholic say, "I was raised devout Catholic--we went to Mass and everything, so I know what it means to be Catholic, etc etc" I always ask: How often did you say the Rosary? As a family? 100% of the time the answer comes back: Rarely, if ever. "I'm sorry," I say. "Then you weren't raised 'devout' anything, and you certainly weren't raised Catholic."

Our Lady is the catalyst--as St Louis de Montfort wrote: She is the Treasure in the Field, the Pearl of Great Price. She holds the keys to the gate to knowing and loving Jesus intimately and purely and truly in the Blessed Sacrament. If you didn't have her growing up, you didn't have Jesus. If you didn't have Jesus, then all of the Christmas Masses in the world wouldn't have saved your faith in this day of religious desolation. Like Padre Pio once said: "The Holy Rosary is the weapon." Without it, the 75% didn't stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself a casualty of Vatican II and the misinterpretations thereof on the part of priest and nuns. I could not have come from a more Catholic family. My parents were beyond devout; my father and all of my brothers were educated by the Jesuits. Both of my mother's sisters were nuns. The Jesuits were a large part of the life of my family. It was not until recently that I have understood the ways in which I was essentially scandalized by misinterpretation of church teaching by many of these Jesuits.
I have also struggled with more than an average share of challenges { serious family conflict, mulltiple and serious illness etc ). I believe that the failure to teach Catechism, and I mean, shouting it from every rooftop, is how people get lost and fall away. I also belive that Bishops need to assume their respective roles and TEACH. I cannot begin to tell the kind of ignorance from which I have suffered. Again, short of the family in Brideshead, my family could not be more Catholic. I think this says it all.

Jon said...

Oh--and one more comment on the power of the Rosary to return some of the 75%:

My wife works alongside a nominal Catholic woman whose husband left her years ago with two small sons. As the boys have grown older--both are now teens; she never 'remarried', laus Deo--she has been struggling to re-connect to her Catholic Faith for her family of three, especially since the boys are looking for male role models in, well, all the wrong places. Needless-to-say, she has had a tough row to hoe--she barely knows the Faith herself, and her sons grumbled loudly at having to all-of-a-sudden get up for Mass on Sundays. Confiding in my wife, my wife told her simply, Pray the Rosary. Everyday, everyday, everyday. Our Lady's promises to those who do never fail. Ever. You will save your sons and yourself.

The woman picked up the Rosary--with some help, as she had never been taught how to pray it--for the first time in her life a few months ago, and absolute miracles are happening in the life of her family. She has fallen in love with the Faith as she never knew it, and one of her sons is asking to pray a weekly--Saturday--Rosary as a family. The other is still rather aloof, but no longer protesting weekly Mass with the same vehemence, and has even gone to Confession. And this after a few months! She has been asking about good Catholic literature, and a good prayerbook to use, and where to get good iconography--my wife has told her all about having a family altar--and about Advent traditions in the home, meatless Fridays, impromptu visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and on and on. She is veritably drinking in the Faith these days.

This is how the Faith will be rebuilt, I believe. One person at a time, rosary-by-rosary. And if there is anything unorthodox in this, father, please edit it out, but de Montfort writes that since Our Lady was the precursor to her Son's first coming, she will be the precursor to His second. She will form and mold and shape Jesus in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, he says, in his True Devotion, until we can echo St Paul, "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives within me." God has given her this task to do, and it will be the undoing of Satan.

Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy!

Robert Kumpel said...

Father, your title for this post says it all: “Identity”.

I am three years older than Templar and had the good fortune to attend Catholic schools through high school, but watching the seismic shift of Catholic practice in my formative years was a trauma. I can only imagine it was a horrifying tragedy for people like my grandparents.

The certitudes of our faith seemed to evaporate, even in the religion classes. Visual images are important for everyone, especially children. Removing the crucifix in the Church and replacing it with an “emerging Jesus” was only confusing. Watching nuns turn in their habits and come out of the closet as liberal social workers didn’t help either. Why, when I was in the third grade, was it forbidden to touch the sacred chalice that held the Precious Blood of Christ, yet by the time I was in the eighth grade, anyone could hold it? Why did one of the priests at my high school tell pornographic jokes about Jesus? Why did another of these priests tell us not to waste our time telling our parents that the Old Testament was not historically true, since it would only upset them?

As time went on, why was it so important suddenly to persuade people to take Holy Communion in their hands? Why were all the new churches being built so ugly? Why were most of them suddenly round? Why were my teachers questioning the pope?

The identity of my Church was crumbling.

I visited other parishes. Once a priest refused to hear my confession on a Sunday (with more than an hour before the next Mass) because he said it would “conflict with the celebration of the Eucharist”. I later learned that this priest told younger children that they didn’t need to bother coming to confession any longer. I overheard one pastor at a historic Church tell a couple in the vestibule who were visiting that their devotion to St. Jude was a silly superstition. Another priest “catechized” me that the rosary was a “mantra”. Another priest running a youth group told a group of teens and young adults that masturbation was not a sin and that God “isn’t going to send you to hell for having sex”.

Who wouldn’t be confused? How easy it is to lose your faith in such a non-nurturing environment.

There was one and only one priest at my high school who kept his Catholic identity uncompromised. He was an intense, demanding teacher. He was mocked by his brother Augustinians. He was ridiculed by students. And he was a very holy man. He is alive, healthy and serving a vibrant ministry in his 70’s while many of the peers who mocked him and sullied the good name of the Church have left to marry or have died, at least one from AIDS.

It was his example and his ferocious defense of the faith that lit a fire under me the first time I heard my faith being attacked by a Protestant minister whose biggest sin was ignorance. It was his grounding that drove me to attend daily Mass when there seemed to be no good reason. It was his certainty of the miraculous power of the sacraments that drove me to the confessional years later whenever the state of my soul was in doubt. It was his passion that somehow grafted a passioned determination to remain Catholic upon my will. He had the identity and it shone like a light in a dark place.

Catholics are starving for what has been illicitly taken from them. STARVING.

The identity is still out there for all of us if we are willing to do what it takes to maintain it. Blessed Anne Emmerich said that even if there was only one faithful Catholic left on this earth, there would still be a Church. We are in mission territory here in the south, yet I see so many Catholics who look like they just want to assure their Protestant friends that "we're just like you--sort of". We're not! And it's a good thing! We have Jesus Christ in His Sacraments and we should be proclaiming it from the rooftops!

O.K. I’m done.

-Brian said...

“How did we allow nearly two generations of the majority of our members to fall from the faithful practice of the faith?”

Father, I would take exception with the way you termed the question. I don’t believe we _allowed_, “nearly two generations of the majority of our members to fall from the faithful practice of the faith?”

I believe in responsibility. I know that there are many ways this virtue emerges; however, personal responsibility, and social responsibility seem to be the manner we see it practiced most often.

Reading, Templar, Jon, Kumpel, and anonymous I am struck by their faithful practices and warmed by their show of love, which is evident in the virtue they practice. Yet, being slightly younger than me (1953)... did you forget Father how we all were struck after WWII? To wit:

Sociocultural change occurred everywhere; but, nowhere else did it come with such devastation as in the U.S. Out of a post war environment a clear and abiding presence of God in the “coming to be” and the “passing away” of people was waylaid by cogito; ergo sum. Change happened such as: a ramped up war time manufacturing industry that seemed unstoppable; “The Golden Age”; “The Atomic Age”; MAD; Eisenhower’ MIC; the intrusion of the “Phi Phenomena” into our living rooms much with the same effect the sears mail order catalogue had a century before. The migration of research and science from the University to the Corporation. The advancement of the fruit that comes from the tree of knowledge (the penumbra of original sin) across most all disciplines; etc. etc. etc...

It seems to me that, albeit true we are always personally responsible for our actions individually, there was a profound sociocultural effect that came upon us who were born between ’45 and ’55; and thereafter. It struck out at our learning. It struck at our skill in learning how to believe. Commercialism and science amalgamated their existence with modernity’s cogito; ergo sum and we here in the U.S. fell as prey. There developed a gaping wound in the individual person and in our culture; between, the unity of mind and body, and nonetheless, a gap between our will and soul as individuals and as a people.

Those 20% (CARA) we find consistently as vanguard to our faithful practice in the U.S. could not muster the wherewithal to defend the whole body of faithful here in our country...we barely managed to faithfully survive ourselves and even with that... telltale bouts of apostasy seem to be commonplace. Our wherewithal was ripped from us, and our withstanding just barely survived.

So, yes we in the U.S. lost quantitatively our strength and skill in faithful practice across generations. We are responsible for its recovery. But to say the sheep are responsible for the attack of the wolf is a stretch in my view. One could take the Willie Sutton view that because banks hold the money that’s why they get robbed; and, apply that to your question. However, the lion and the lamb thing is worthy of discretion on the lambs part until “He Comes In Glory” , no? Okay, that’s my say on this.

Gene said...

So, Brian, Israel wasn't guilty when, as a nation, they turned from was all due to that nasty cultural syncretism and the change from a nomadic existence to an agrarian state? Hosea should not really have blamed the Monarchy at all? All that talk about righteousness and justice and ever flowing streams was just blaming the sheep? I don't think I agree with your theology.

Gene said...

Correction: Amos said let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Hosea said Israel (read nation state) was like a whore. Both hated the Monarchy, and with good reason. The blame was squarely upon Israel (read: us).