The Village of God or the City of God....what do you think is being built? Or anything?
Understanding the American problem proves to be a simple meditation, but leads to the deeper discussion of the difference between the City of Man and the City of God.
Being back in the States has revealed, again, but at a deeper level, the “American Catholic problem”. I met this years ago (thirty-plus) in a study on the heresy of Americanism, but the awareness of the “American problem” was first brought to my attention when I was sixteen, exactly fifty years ago.
My father, speaking about the growing accommodation of Catholics to the world told one of my brothers and me that to be a good American citizen meant being a good Catholic “first”. I began to think about this and realized that Catholic values, even in the late nineteen-sixties, were beginning to evaporate from the Catholic conclaves of Catholic culture. Dad had said that to be a Catholic was to be counter-cultural. He said that in 1965.
Already in my Catholic high school, some students were being taught the New Criticism by trendy priests, and although the abuses of the liturgy really did not emerge until I was in college, I was only one of four students from 1963-1967 who went to high school daily Mass, out of two-thousand students.
The fact that my peers were not as “pious” as me became more and more obvious to me and others. I had no one to talk to except one Lutheran boy, keen on religion, about the Faith. Our conversations, which went on for almost a year, honed my ability to counter Protestant thought.
Then, some youth began to “rebel”.
But, the laxity of morals in the sixties did not come from the rebellion of the youth, in my opinion. The late sixties and early seventies became the time of the first battles of the new demonic influences in America and Catholicism.
Most Catholic parents simply were not prepared for these battles. They had not expected that the seeds of the sexual revolution sown in WWII and the brainwashing concerning sex coming out of Hollywood and British cinema industries, as well as the selling out, yes, of both politics parties, to moneyed interests would undermine Catholic culture. Humanae Vitae was in the future, but the massive future rejection of this prophetic document bubbled like a poison in the souls of the adults even of my parent's generation. Remember, it was not just the Boomers or Gen-Xers who rejected Humanae Vitae.
The problem is and was this. Those good priests in the pre-Vatican II Church missed the points of two main teaching areas, which all good teachers should know.
One, that adults must appropriate their Faith, not merely by obedience but by study and intense prayer.
In other words, knowledge must be made one's own and not merely repeated by rote. One must learn how to think like a Catholic, a constant theme on this blog.
And, two, that to be a Catholic, one must think and live counter-culturally.
I can plainly see now, in these days of complete decadence, that most Catholics since 1938, the beginnings of the last world war, had traded the lie of the American dream for the truth of Catholic holiness.
This conflict resulted in the capitulation of most Catholics here in America—they are Americans first, Catholics second.
One cannot have it all. The American Dream still remains antithetical to the pursuit of holiness.
Consumerism has created a materialistic mindset, as I have written here before on this blog.
Materialism is the philosophy which holds that there is no afterlife. The now is all, the material is the only real deal.
Daily, I have met people who live as if there is no God, no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, no particular judgment.
Daily, I have met extremely wealthy Catholics who think they are poor because their pool is ten years old, they have not bought a new car for two years, and they cannot afford to re-do the living room and dining room this year. They think they are poor if they cannot eat out frequently or continually buy new clothes from the most expensive shops in the area.
I have seen more fur coats in church than I did when I lived in Alaska.
Now, I would have a fur coat, if such did not cost two-thousand dollars, as this type of coat provides warmth in these horrible cold climates. But, to have the best and the most expensive is not the Catholic way.
A family which is close to me, mom, dad, and six children and two grand-children (young families), could have afforded the best as the dad is a successful doctor. They only bought used cars and never had a Mercedes or even a BMW. It was, as they said, “not the W....way.” The “W....way” is to buy second-hand or inexpensive clothing, use the same furniture for their entire married life of thirty-five years, and not ever go on expensive vacations, going on local pilgrimages instead to local shrines. Frugally, they use their money for their children and grand-children and many, many charities. That is the “W...way”. Money goes for TLMS for those in purgatory, and those who need prayers, and other good causes. They have given much money to the TLM cause in their area.
They have never belonged to the country club like other medical families.
I call the “W...way” the “Catholic way”. This family understands the difference between the City of God and the City of Man.
Those of us who have been torn out of perfectionism by the grace of God know that to pass up the best for the adequate is a way to saintliness. To idolize the best, is, simply, idolatry.
Catholics have forgotten, a long time ago here in America, that the pursuit of money must not be the center of our lives. They have forgotten that relationships are more important than money.
Again, for the third time since I have landed on these shores in the past month, I am living in an area with no sidewalks.
I am astounded. I never realized how many neighborhoods in American had no sidewalks.
This suburban development, as all others, proves that community is and has been not a focus of importance to Americans. Without sidewalks, one cannot walk to church. I may have to walk on the highway to get to church on this coming Sunday.
Without sidewalks, I cannot shop for food. Without sidewalks, I do not meet the locals, know the area families, or try and reach out to others.
No sidewalks, no community, no Catholic thinking....We are community people. And, if we are not building or living in community, we are not being wholly Catholic.
The American Dream has destroyed communal life and the pursuit of friendships. The pursuit of the City of Man has trumped the building of the City of God.
Years ago, when feminism began to take over the media, a phrase rang out. “Women, you can have it all.”
Catholics think they can “have it all”. They cannot. One must choose between the City of God and the City of Man, side by side in this culture. The City of God has shrunk into the Town of God in most places I have visited in the past month. In some areas, the City of God is now the Village of God.
Christ warned us of riches. We have the parable of the Rich Young Man who could not give up his comforts in order to really follow Christ. He walked away from being a disciple. He walked away from an intimate union with God. He was given the choice, and he took the road of things, returning to the City of Man, after having been invited to the building of the City of God.
I fear for American Catholics. Those who have chosen the American Dream over God may do so in the coming trials. How many will choose comfort over Truth, over being told to accept ssm? How many will choose being comfortable with their pagan families instead of choosing to build community? Those who have assidously avoided suffering will not be able to accept the final suffering of persecution without tremendous graces from God. Will they turn to Him then? I hope so. But, if the majority of Catholics in this land, those who have chosen politics over religion and comfort over suffering, are in the habit of compromising their Faith, how can they choose at the crucial moment of pain? How many will persevere in times of extreme trial?
Few, very few, is what I see from my vantage point in la-la land.
The Village of God Part Two
In one of Dickens' books, Martin Chuzzlewit, the spoiled young hero,Martin, goes off to America with his faithful servant to make his fortune. This young man is full of egotism and pride. He fails because he is duped by evil entrepreneurs to buy land in a place called “Eden”, which ends up being a pestilent infested swamp land. Both the hero and his companion fall ill, but survive and return humbled to England. The swamp land is described in the book as full of a sickening miasma, a fog of disease and misery. Of course, all those who are there were equally conned by the evil men who convinced them that the area would become a thriving center of commerce in America, with many natural resources and so on.
The young hero is mesmerized by the siren-song of the American Dream.
There exists a miasma over all the places I have visited so far here again. There seems to be a dulling fog of provincialism and gross ignorance, brought on by the satiety of daily comforts. I can feel this miasma in the air. It is stiffling.
This fog does not exist in Europe, because European culture still is rooted in Catholicism, in the acceptance of suffering, in the acceptance of having less rather than more. But, this country, rooted in both Protestantism and Masonry, has worshiped material success to the point of idolatry.
It seems very hard to break out of this fog of comfort. Those who are poor have fallen into disgrace by accepting and voting for socialism, which promises heaven on earth, or at least a phone, food and a place to live, provided by the government, supposedly with no strings attached.
That families do not take care of their poor is simply a result of this lie of socialism. The Catholic way of supporting the old and the sick, the poor and the broken has disappeared into the idea that the government should take care of these people.
They do and will, by slow extermination, hidden and approved by those who no longer take responsibility for the lowest of the low.
The young hero in the story above received the gift of an expensive ring from his secret love which he sold in order to get back to England with his companion. This ring, he thought, had been a gift to her, but she bought it with a tremendous sacrifice to herself in case he needed it. She had a gift of forethought to help him out of trouble. When he finally understands the depth of her own sacrifice, the young man is humbled again and finally become the man he was meant to be—a man who can endure suffering for the sake of others.
That men do not want to absorb the suffering of those around them indicates that they are not men. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's famous writing on a gentleman as defined as one who can willingly suffer for the benefit of others seems a fictive ideal here. The peter pans do not want to suffer. The loss of the Catholic ideal of suffering as joining in the Passion and Death of Christ leaves Catholicism emasculated.
In my opinion, it is this running away from suffering which has caused the man crisis among Catholics and Americans, not merely feminism. Feminism partly grew out of the reaction of too many men refusing to be leaders in their families, letting the women take over simply because it was “too hard”.
The evil of matriarchies lies in the depth of this hearts and histories of some ethnic groups, but the root is always the same despite some cultural differences-the abdication of authority by men. Like the young hero in Dickens' tale, too many men want easy riches and comforts and avoid suffering at all costs. The costs include the weakening of leadership in this country, the adulation of sport, and the millions of children being raised without dads.
To give in to the handing over of the apple by Eve was Adam's sin. If he had said “no”, we would not be living in the detritus of Original Sin on this earth. Sloth? Wanting to be loved? Idolatry of Eve over God? The root sin does not matter. Egotism won the day in Eden
Egotism rots manhood. The miasma of Dickens' Eden represents the siren-song of riches without heart and the focus on the City of God. That the hero failed proved to be the turning point of his life.
Dickens' Eden is America's Eden-run by numerous demons and false gods who have created this fog of forgetfulness as to why we are all here.
Too many American Catholics have become successful to the point of forgetting why they are here—to build the City of God, not merely engage in the City of Man.