And the Idea of Progress

The philosophical foundations of America are built upon the Idea of Progress, which has since given rise to Faith in Progress. This philosophical school, while having some merit, eventually resulted in calling people to change for change sake. This school particularly took a turn in the era when eugenics and evolution theory were on the rise. At the core, it saw nature, including the nature of Man, as a progressive, evolving reality that is moving toward an end they know not what. Rather than accepting the nature of things as being what they are and seeking perfection through the proper fulfillment of their ends, the nature of things has become ever changeable entities that have no definitive end -- which means that all manipulations and alterations are permissible. All changes that bring about desired results must be good, albeit the results desired may not be anchored to a proper end. The Idea and Faith in Progress marks the greatest challenge to Natural Law and the understanding of morality as it relates to Salvation.

Previous to the dominance this school of thought, the end of Man was clearly understood as God and Eternal Life. By disconnecting spiritual and salvific progress from its proper end, change becomes the credo although what has to be changed becomes unclear. And so with change as the nature of all things and the constant of existence, everything must be changed or changing all the time. When reading spiritual masters like St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, or St. John of the Cross, repentance and conversion are not linked with a change of being or even change for change sake. Rather, they speak of change with regard to conforming one’s being to its ultimate End, that is, God. In the spiritual life, and especially in Lent, we are not talking about progress for progress sake or change for change sake but change in regard to our ultimate end and progress toward eternal life with God.

Through the Idea of Progress, as the separation from ultimate ends gradually occurred, change was transferred to more immediate ends. In this regard, penance and mortification became trite actions that help correct undesired behaviors. Rather than striking at the roots of Sin, most Catholics now choose actions that are formed by the social engineers of the modern world. And many priests and deacons have fallen prey to this way of thinking. Thus, today we hear preachers proposing as Lenten activities things such as, “be nice to your siblings,” or “say something nice each day to your spouse,” or “work on losing a few pounds by giving up sweets.” These fall into the realm of the social engineering in which the central claim is that the “good can be constructed” rather than the Good being a fixed reality established by God. We must always remember that we do not change ourselves in an attempt to be “better” but are called to conform our beings to the Good, which is God. Everything we say or do, every Lenten practice, must be ordered to conforming our beings to the Divine Will, which is beyond all relative perspectives.

Only by breaking from the errors of the modern world can one truly understand what the word “repent” means. We cannot truly express the regret we have for sins committed until we fully understand the Good we have violated. We cannot truly begin to change or progress in the spiritual life until we understand the Good toward which we are progressing. Lent is more than an opportunity to change… It is an opportunity to conform oneself to the Good.

The Fall

Our Fallen Nature Still Befuddles The Secular

Anyone who follows anything in the news media can see just how puzzled the secular world is regarding the presence of Sin. The most recent revelations coming from Penn State are case in point. They still wonder how such could happen and why the powerful would “cover up” the “sins” committed. The piece of data they will not admit is the propensity to Sin in all of us. These actions are puzzling and even the best watch dogs will still miss the indicators unless they start with certain basic premises. 1) fallen Nature is inclined to Sin and left to itself will fail in virtue; 2) science cannot remedy that inclination; 3) even those tasked with responsibility are tainted with the same Nature; 4) purity of heart is possible but not without Grace; 5) the answer to all their questions is Jesus Christ!

What is more disturbing with the recent revelations is that the media has dropped the investigation for the most part and has left the reporting to the sports reporters since it happened in a sports program. Of course, any investigation will find the same thing in the end -- there was a gross lapse in judgment that was tainted by desires for power and wealth. If all we learn from this are facts and not Truth, Sin will again rear its ugly head somewhere. While we can and must learn from these failures, the only proper solution is that all begin to truly pray and seek holiness of life.

Repentance is and remains the heart of the Gospel message. Until such happens, Sin will continue to plague humanity and confound even the greatest minds. Even though punishments will be meted out for those responsible, such will not prevent these horrific actions in the future -- only repentance will. And True repentance is always coupled with Grace.


The New Evangelization

One of the recurrent themes over the last decade has been the need for a New Evangelization. Traditionally, the notion of evangelization was to bring the Gospel message to those who have not heard about the Christ. This message was one of repentance and prayer. Ironically, today the call for a new evangelization has been focused on bringing the Gospel message to areas that were traditionally Christian.

In either case of evangelizing, the ones who brought the message had certain qualities that brought credibility to the message. The first was a holiness and prayerfulness of life. Catholic Missionaries were not agents of social improvements or societal development. They were messengers of Salvation who lived the message preached. For such to be effective the message must be owned by the messenger.

Here, then, is the key to the new evangelization -- that all be called to a holiness of life, especially those who are called Catholic. It is not as if this is something new as we were reminded at Vatican II that the universal call for every human being is to holiness. Responding in prayer and virtue is necessary if the Gospel message is to take root today and it will be those who themselves repent and pray that will be most effective in the evangelization process. Thus we must all remember our call to Pray, Pray, Pray!


Where to pray?

Everyone wants to pray but most do not know the best way to pray or, more accurately, the best place to pray. In fact, every person of faith knows that prayer is essential to their faith life but so many do not know how to pray. Part of the problem has to do with the first phase of True prayer -- moving from distraction to meditation.

Today many people believe that prayer can be something done anywhere at any time, which in a sense has some merit. They pray in the car... They pray while exercising... They pray in the living room... All the places where much of their life "happens." But so few give time to praying in the best place -- in church! Why do so many believe they can achieve True prayer when they always pray where they are distracted? Here is where the problem begins for those who claim to pray when in fact they are actually mired in the stage of distraction.

When most people ask about prayer, it only takes a few questions to diagnose the problem. The fact of the matter is that they are distracted and have chosen to pray where the distractions are most numerous. Real and True prayer must get beyond the first stage if it is to be authentic. Yet how many never really pray in church and wonder why they are so distracted?

Even when the problem is diagnosed and the person is sent to the church to pray, they rarely get past the distractions because they are not willing to give it the time needed. The reality is that most people are frightened by the silence because it puts them in God's presence and they realize just how far from God they are. Yet the best place to pray is in church and it requires a good amount of time and effort to be True prayer. Just sitting in church marks a beginning but should not be taken as an end. And when the silence begins to feel uncomfortable, that is when the movement from the first stage is just beginning. But that movement is overwhelming because we know that we are unworthy of being in God's presence... So most convince themself that the distracted prayer is enough.

The whole process, as w can see, rests on the place where we pray. It is not enough to recite words if we truly want to be closer to God -- we must really make the leap of faith... Into silence before His awesome presence!!!

The Right Focus

As Believers We Must Keep Focus

There are those who would say that the tendency for Man toward the secular is a new struggle but, for those who study history, it has been around since the Fall. All human beings are tainted by Original Sin and all tend to desire only what is seen.

The problem today is not that this proclivity is new or stronger but that the cultivators of the Flesh, the contemporary secular engineers, have sought to raise pursuit of physical satiation to the highest level while seeking to eliminate any talk of spiritual desires. This cultivation process has become so widespread and embedded in society that it has misled many souls in its attractive rhetoric. These cultivators succeed so easily because the proclivity exists in Man, Who would seek approval for giving in to it. Like no other period in history, the secularists can inculcate the message of the Flesh to people around the world.

But we should keep in mind that this is not new and we should remind ourselves that this proclivity is strong and takes great spiritual discipline to overcome. As Thomas Kempis reminds us in the Imitation of Christ, “Many hear the world more easily than they hear God; they follow the desires of the flesh more readily than the pleasure of God. The World promises rewards that are temporal and insignificant, and these are pursued with great longing; [Jesus} promises rewards that are eternal and unsurpassable, yet the hearts of mortals respond sluggishly.”

What is needed today is greater spiritual focus by those who are Catholic. The fact of the matter is that even supposed “good” Catholics are surrounded by the secular cultivators and may easily be duped into believing that giving in is OK. By giving in, however, the view of Truth is obscured and the soul is lead on a path of destruction. The hardest part for a Catholic today is to remain focused on what is most important, which is Christ. It requires many hours each day of prayer.

The way of the Cross is the only way to salvation and anyone who lives a different Gospel will still be called to judgment based on the order established and revealed by God. At the pearly gates there are no excuses for losing sight of the Truth and living apart from Christ as it is possible to remain focused but it requires great effort. It is that effort that will be rewarded in Eternity.