Catholicism: Do We Truly See What it Should Be?

Catholicism: Do We Truly See What it Should Be?

“The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness” -Pope Benedict XVI


I am so sick and tired of the decades long portrayal of Jesus as some kind of effeminate hippy, tip-toing through the tulips with little birds circling his head, who never “judges” anyone for any of our transgressions … because, “Mercy” (rolling my eyes here).

For those who actually read the bible, nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, any time Jesus saw large crowds, he would regularly give a series of hard sayings that seemed to be designed to thin the ranks in order to distinguish the tough from the wimps … those filled with resolve from those paying lip service.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” –Matthew 10:14


“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” –Matthew 5:29


“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” -Matthew 7:13


“This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” -Luke 11:29

In his recent “monumental” article – Comfort Catholicism Has to Go; It is Time to Prepare for Persecution – Msgr. Charles Pope points out that the call for toughness and resolve has been missing in our Church for decades (this is a portion … read the whole article!) …

We are at war for our own souls and the souls of people we love. We are at war for the soul of this culture and nation. And like any soldier, we must train to fight well.


But there is little such training evident in Catholic circles today where, in the average parish, there exists a sort of shy and quiet atmosphere — a fear of addressing “controversial” issues lest someone be offended, or the parish be perceived as “unwelcoming.”


But, if there ever was a time to wear soft garments, it is not now.


The Church of the 1970s-1990s was surely well described as the era of “beige Catholicism” (a term coined by Bishop Robert Barron, and not by way of flattery either). Those of us who lived through that era, especially in the 1970s, remember it as a time when many parish signs beckoned people to “come and experience our welcoming and warm Catholic community.” Our most evident desire was to fit in and be thought of as “normal.” Yes, Catholics were just like everyone else; and we had been working very hard to do that, at least since the early 1960s when John F. Kennedy was elected. Catholics had finally “made it” into the mainstream; we had been accepted by the culture.


Church architecture and interiors became minimalist and non-descript. Music and language in the liturgy became folksy. Marian processions, Corpus Christi processions, many things of distinctive and colorful Catholicism all but disappeared. Even our crucifixes disappeared, to be replaced by floating “resurrection Jesus” images. The emphasis was on blending in, speaking to things that made people feel comfortable, and affirming rather than challenging. If there was to be any challenge at all it would be on “safe” exhortations such as not abusing the environment or polluting, not judging or being intolerant, and so forth.


Again, if there ever was a time to wear soft garments, it is not now. It is zero-dark-thirty in our post-Christian culture. And while we may wish to blame any number of factors for the collapse, we cannot exclude ourselves. We who are supposed to be the light of the world, with Christ shining in us, have preferred to hide our light under a basket and lay low. The ruins of our families and culture are testimony to the triumph of error and the suppression of the truth.



And then we heard this from last Sunday’s Gospel: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” -Luke 14:26

So, what does Jesus mean when He speaks of “hate?” Jesus is adamant that nothing or nobody must have preference over Him and the missions He gives us. He’s first. He’s number one. Jesus says, in essence, “I must have absolute priority over the closest human relationships in your life.”

There is an expression I heard a few years back: “Primary Vocation.” It was spoken in the context of making sure one’s family comes first. That seems noble and true, on the surface, but I must admit that it felt unsettling to me when I heard it. You see … this expression was used in the context of one’s dedication in offering one’s time and talent for God … family must be our primary vocation.

When I was growing up, my siblings and I learned an entirely different lesson from my dad. In those days, the “Comfort Catholicism” had not yet gotten into every fiber of the Church. At least my dad was not buying it. No, my dad was “all in” when it came to the missions God set in his path.

Dad was a child during the Depression, and a teen during WWII. Dad let the “hard sayings” of Jesus get into his bones. Working hard and working together with others to make this world a better place was in my dad’s DNA, and he was resolved to make it that way for his family.

No matter what we did as a family – sports, study, business, recreation, etc. – it always came after the needs of the Church, especially lived out in our local parish. We were totally dedicated to making that place a little piece of heaven. We were at every function and, oftentimes, doing dishes in the kitchen at many of those functions. If we had a talent, the Church got it first. If we had time, the Church got it first. Dad knew what Jesus meant about making Him a priority, and now his children do too. The moral of that story is that all five of my siblings (now in our 50s and 60s) have remained strong and totally dedicated parishioners at each of their parishes throughout their adult lives.

Many wonder why so many are trailing off, and losing interest in the Church. Maybe it’s because at least two generations were instructed that virtually everything else, besides Church, is our primary vocation. Evangelizing your children is not done by watching sitcoms with them, or even making sure you are at all 83 soccer games they play. It is done by giving witness to them of your resolve to be totally dedicated to God. This is the true QT – “Quality Time” for the salvation of their souls.

It begins with the seemingly smallest things. One of my pet peeves is “Church attire.” Why do I throw this in here? Because if we miss this, we stumble right out of the gate … we are “beginning” with an understanding that even our “comfortable attire” has priority over God. Children are sponges … they learn quickly, mostly by example. How in the world can we lead them to be “all in” for God’s missions, when they aren’t even asked to wear more than their worst recreational attire to worship God? Furthermore, how can we even claim that we believe that is God in the Holy Eucharist? Children use simple logic … so, they quickly deduce, “You mean you claim that is God, but my gym shorts are fine for worshiping Him? I’m not buying what you are selling.”



We wonder why we are in decline, rather than increase in Catholicism today. Actually, Africa is seeing huge increases today, while the West is in steep decline. Why? Because theirs is not a “Comfort Catholicism.” Bishop Robert Barron points to the fact that the theology on display there is “Robustly Supernatural.”

This past Saturday was the Feast Day of Pope St. Gregory the Great. I have been saying in a number of places (here and here) that Pope St. Gregory the Great captured the very essence of what it takes to move from “Comfort Catholicism” to a spirit-filled totally dedicated Catholic faith life. Wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope St. Gregory the Great posited the following order:

“Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven”

Here’s my logic. Okay, Pope St. Gregory the Great … you say this is the order, but that means in order to get to any of these gifts, we must first pass through #1. What is #1? Fear of the Lord, or Awe and Wonder. You see? That is what is on display in Africa, or anywhere where there is growth. God is not merely an organization I belong to. God is not merely some nice peace and justice activities we do. God is not some nice supplemental activity within all of the other many activities of my life. No … a GOD IS EVERYTHING!!! God is BIG!! God is POWERFUL!! And, God has FIRST PRIORITY IN MY LIFE!!

Unless we get to AWE AND WONDER, religion remains merely an extra activity, among many, and usually gets our attention when other priorities allow. This was not my dad … this is not Africa … and this is not what Jesus meant in last Sunday’s Gospel.



How do we open ourselves to receive this first and most necessary gift of the Holy Spirit that, quite literally, allows us to tear through a veil from material man to spiritual man?

The answer? We must die. “Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” –John12:24

We will never see our greatest potential, the very raison d’être … the reason God created us … unless we die to our material being and rise to the spiritual being we were created to be.

How do we die? Let’s look at it as an acronym – D.I.E.

D – Detach“He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30. John the Baptist knew that our focus MUST be on Him and not on us. We must be “willing” to turn everything over to Him … to make Him our highest priority. This begins by humbly seeking Christ’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession. It is there that we are made “perfectly pure,” detached from the stranglehold the world has on us, and are now free and prepared to receive the full measure of God’s supernatural strength; to be in a state of grace.

I – Inflame – Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Luke 12:49. Having offered ourselves in sweet submission through the Sacrament of Penance, we are now given a power we were once not prepared to receive, as long as everything and everybody held priority over our lives, before God. God wants to inflame your soul with His supernatural grace!

“Draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires, and hold your ground” (Eph 6:10-12).

Call out to Him with the traditional Veni, Sancte Spiritus prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!” –St. Catherine of Siena

E – Engage – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8.

The cost is “total” … “Totus Tuus!” was the motto of Pope St. John Paul II … “I am totally yours!” St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”

This means that every moment of every day … every person that enters our space is our mission. St. Therese once said, “I have no other means of proving my love for you than that of strewing flowers, that is, not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, one word, profiting by all the smallest things and doing them through love.” All lives matter!!!

D.I.E. so that you may truly live!!!


Category Latest Posts, Soul