Friday, July 04, 2003

Signs of the Times

I have tried to impose a rule upon myself in doing this blog: I will post nothing except that which I have spent time in prayer and meditation over. I have frequently, especially lately, broken that rule to the point that it lies in powdery ruins somewhere in the bottom of my computer.

I am not proud of the fact that I have not spent serious time in thought, prayer, and meditation over everything I have written on this blog. I know it shows, for one thing, and this alone does not bring glory to God.

In fact, one reason why I am going to spend some time over the next month or so meditation on Fides et Ratio is to try to instill something of the element of deliberation, dare I say thought, into what appears on this blog; I want to try to remove myself from reacting to current events. I also wish to establish a regular schedule that includes prayer, meditation, and writing. I hope, in the process, that the result will be, indeed, to truly bring glory to God with this blog.

However, I realized that there is an underlying, unarticulated assumption that has been in the back of my mind regarding this purpose. It is that I have assumed that writing out of the fruits of prayer necessarily means emphasizing comments on Scripture and the writings of the saints, possibly also including great literature within my purview.

But I have been wondering if that is a valid assumption?

On the one hand, it seems that, but for a very few of us, keeping up with current events is a difficult and time consuming process. The time used trying to keep up with the news could, in most cases, be better spent reading and praying, then, if we must, writing about what comes out of our prayer. I am still tempted to say this is the best course for most of us Catholic bloggers.

However, there is another way of looking at this that comes out of my personal experience, which is this: One of the ideas that brought about my adult conversion experience was the realization that God is Lord of everything we are and do. Our faith in Him must influence all aspects of our lives. I was a Protestant when I came to this realization and since then I have come to see that the Catholic idea of vocation is a most apt presentation of this truth. As lay people our vocation is to bring Christ to temporal affairs, to bring Christ's influence to bear upon the temporal world.

If we are to live our vocation, then we must be, at a minimum, fairly well informed about what is going on in the world. Further, it seems we should be able to express how our faith should, or could, influence current events; we should be able to explain to others how Catholics view the events of the day. In other words, we should be able to explain why it makes a difference being Catholic.

Conversely, the "signs of times", the social, cultural, and even spiritual climate of the society can have a profound effect on our spiritual life. How many of you have been told, in the face of barely noticeable efforts to present the Gospel to someone "Well that's what you believe, but don't try to impose your beliefs on me!" Or have you ever been told that any personal expression of religious faith might even be a violation of the law.

In our public life, how many times have we seen or heard news stories about a Nativity scene on public property, or prayer in the public schools, violating the principle of separation of church and state and being “hurtful" or, even, "offensive" to those who do not wish to acknowledge God in their lives.

The effect of these types of societal influences is profound and reaching. For example, in May, a Cardinal of the Church, speaking at a supposedly Catholic university's commencement exercises, set off an uproar when he enunciated the constant teaching of the Church concerning human sexuality and moral conduct. His remarks were deemed "hurtful" to the homosexuals in the audience. The pagan influences of society seem to be stronger than that of the Church, even within the Church. (I would submit, incidentally, that an eternity of separation from God would be infinitely more "hurtful" than hearing the truth of Church teaching from a prince of the Church.)

These are examples of a society that is becoming increasingly pagan and materialistic. While claiming the ideals of "tolerance" and "diversity" it is becoming more and more intolerant of any sort of religious belief and expression. It is a society bent on elevating man to the place of God.

The way we seek to influence our society and the way our society influences us, have a profound effect on our relationship with God; they may even determine whether or not we are able to worship freely and openly. We ignore them at our peril.

I still believe that my now shattered rule is still valid and I will try to abide by it in the future. I share, I guess, St. Francis impetuousness and that is not always a good thing. But, I do not believe there is any topic that, after careful thought, prayer, and meditation, is excluded from comment on a Catholic blog.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Fides et Ratio

I am going to begin the long planned (if not anticipated) series of posts on John Paul II's Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio. This is the first in the series and is a short backgrounder on why I would attempt to do such a thing.

I have held off mostly due to a sense of fear and trembling at appearing to be qualified to offer comments on one of our Holy Father's Encyclicals; I am not so qualified. Unless, that is, I make clear that I am doing this not as a scholar, especially not a scholar in philosophy, but rather as a Catholic layman who has benefited from reading this document. Church documents are valuable sources, for us laymen who are willing to make the effort to work our way through them, of providing answers to the questions: What does the Church really teach and Why does the Church teach the way she does? What can we learn from her that will improve our lives by bringing us closer to Christ?

I don't know that I can explicate the answers to these questions. Perhaps I can at least stimulate your interest to read the document itself, just to keep me honest


Sunday, June 29, 2003

The Best Laid Plans . . .

I was looking forward to a leisurely week, free to write and read unimpeded by work, a week off with nothing to do and no travel plans. My wife had surgery to correct a bunion on the 20th and, since then, has been off her feet. I took the week off to be of what assistance I could; the first extended time off I have had in a while. I have been at sixes and sevens all week, perhaps you can tell from by blog posts.

I had great plans to get a lot of writing done during the week, what with all the free time, and reading too. I did get a lot of writing done - none of it what I had planned to work on. As I said in a previous post, I did get my "virtues" project done, the one I had worked on for a year or so, but I had not planned to work on it at all. Now that I have what seems like a good first draft, I have been wondering if I shouldn't throw it in the trash.

I got some reading done too, similarly, nothing of what I had planned to read, and I'm almost sorry I read what I read.

I have more luck getting specific projects done when I am working and seem pressed for time than when I am unimpeded by having to maintain a schedule and have the leisure to do as I please. I seem better able to accomplish goals when there appears to be insurmountable obstacles in the way.

Last night at Mass was the one regular part of my weekly schedule that I adhered too. It was wonderful; I was back in my normal routine. It dawned on me that routine, order, in our lives is vital. What would we do with unlimited leisure? This is the fallacy of those social engineers who think that, simply by creating the proper institutions and providing the right Governmental assistance, they can make life perfect. They can't. I know now that living in a world without worries would drive me nuts.

I'll be glad to get back to work.