Sunday, February 07, 2016

Spiritual stuff

  • There was a time when people went to church, heard the truth, and wept over their sins. Today, people go to church, hear a motivational speech, and ignore their sins. True. From mainline Protestantism, Robert Schuller being an early avatar of this version of preaching, to Joel Osteen arguably corrupting evangelicalism, to Novus Ordo Catholics canonizing everybody at their funerals (even though we don't allow eulogies, for good reason). You can go too far in the other direction, with terror (old-school Redemptorist missioners and Fr. Feeney, for example), but still a valid criticism. There is still the reverential fear of God, something I didn't understand (how is that compatible with love?) until I was grown. True religion is in part attritio: basically, fire insurance. (Contritio is sorrow for the your sins because of a pure love of God, the thing Catholics strive for as expressed in the Act of Contrition. But you don't need perfect contrition to be absolved in the sacrament of confession.) Or the commandments aren't prison bars; they're a guard rail given because of love.
  • The Great Promise of St. Padre Pio: "I will ask the Lord to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered." The only saint known to have made such a promise. I didn't know this. A Christian saint as a bodhisattva. No problem with other religions having what C.S. Lewis called good dreams, glimpses of the truth.
  • England: Parts of the established church are learning from their immigrant brethren. The cartoon and this subhead lead one to think this is another self-hating white fetishization of "diversity" (the cartoon's depiction of the decrepit old Church of England seems about right) but there's more to it. Rather than being about race, the story really touches on the issues that drive places such as St. Lydia's, Brooklyn, which I posted about last week. Traditionally, the established church has had an obligation to serve everyone who lives in a parish. Its churches have been the centrepiece for local and national events. But many Anglican churches that are growing, as in King’s Cross, are “network” churches. They meet in pubs and offices outside the parish system. Most are evangelical, emphasising a personal faith based on conversion rather than a cultural affiliation to a denomination. Understandable appeal but un-Catholic, really throwing in the towel on the gospel and the church, giving up on the country. The parish is for everyone (that doesn't mean watering down the message or the liturgy); the cozy circle of friends who are enthused about Jesus isn't. The latter is not the church. That and, implied in the cartoon, maybe the Europeans' Modernism has burned itself out so the few English believers have turned to a dynamic African biblical orthodoxy.
  • Fakety-fake! At some point in 2015, someone graffitied "This Is a Fake Church" on the walls of Saint John's Cathedral. The words are gone now — but though the visible consequence of this action can be washed away, the action itself cannot be changed. That was rude, but we believe that in a way. The King of England forced the country into schism to get an annulment he didn't deserve, and although he wasn't really convinced, he promoted heretical clergy who kept the old church's structure (bishops) but replaced the theology with the new Reformed faith, so no more church really and no more sacraments actually giving grace (except baptism, on which they remained orthodox), just tokens of the feeling of being saved. A shell, no longer the church. I don't use the Prayer Book and don't want to, but defend other Anglo-Catholic alumni who used a catholicized version, as I understand the old Prayer Book's place in American Anglo-Catholicism as a symbol of resistance to the Sixties as well as of Christian orthodoxy, just like the Tridentine Mass. The Anglicans kept the creeds, bishops, and a liturgy (though not really a Catholic one), enough to point me toward the door... to the church. So I still hear their hymns at Mass and use their classic English (but not the Prayer Book), and the Catholic morning offices I read echo the first church service I ever heard (some of the psalms and the canticle). So I don't hate them; my last word to them is "Thanks!"

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