Saturday, January 27, 2018

When the Sun of Culture is Low on the Horizon, Even Dwarves Cast Long Shadows

I recall hearing a priest say that once on Mother Angelica’s show.  The audience was at first stunned into silence, and then broke into applause.  It captures our age perfectly.

Scripture has another way of putting it.  Proverbs 27:7:
A soul that is full shall tread upon the honeycomb: and a soul that is hungry shall take even bitter for sweet.
When things are bad enough, and we are famished enough, our expectations plummet.  We start sniffing and scrounging and scratching and foraging for comfort.  Then, when we find even the tiniest crumb, we act as though we have stumbled upon the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  The “pot of gold” is invariably something so meager and nasty that in better times we would have despised it as trash.  But we have arrived at times so wretched that even trash looks like treasure.

Take the state of things in our beloved Catholic Church.  Into what ecstasies are we launched on those rare occasions when a priest correctly states a Catholic teaching from the pulpit.  Father actually said that marriage is between one man and one woman, and for life!  Dare we to hope — we ask ourselves — that the tide is finally turning?  But in better times, even the worst priests preached what the Church teaches.  What’s that?  Pope Francis celebrated Mass facing east?  It must be the dawn of a new era of reverence and Catholicity in the liturgy!  But in better times, even the worst priests faced east as a matter of routine and did not dare to ad lib the Mass — at least those parts of the Mass that the people could see and hear.  Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo de Borgia, led a life that can be described  only as scandalous; yet it is nowhere recorded that he tried to reinvent the divine truths he flouted, or to remake the Mass or the Sacraments to suit his tastes.  What an age we live in, when even the corrupt churchmen of the Renaissance look like saints!

But we in the pews cannot claim to be any better.  The negligent, slothful and even subversive priests and bishops that plague us today come from within our own ranks.  If we are off the rails, our shepherds will be off the rails.  Bad clergy openly flaunt the evil habits that they once kept under wraps, because we in the pews can no longer rise to the level of being shocked.  They get away with it, because we, being mired in our own evil habits, are too effete to do anything about it.

Let’s face it: we are not in the springtime of renewal in the Catholic Church.  We do ourselves and the Church a great disservice by denying this.  The fact is that those who are not in the Church can see the true state of affairs for themselves, and we make ourselves and our Mother ridiculous by trying to deny it.  But when that renewal does come, we will not need to ask ourselves whether it has in fact arrived.  About the real renewal and revival, there will be no room for doubt.