Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Where has all the common sense gone?

One of the highlights of the recent synod on the family is the valuable lesson that both the doctrine and the human person before us deserve our reverence and respect. The synod fathers call for a balance to be struck between mercy and fidelity to the truth of the Gospel. Whenever mercy and truth are separated, one can be sure that Christianity has been abandoned. 

It is possible to maintain a balance between remaining in the truth of Christ and sharing that truth in a manner that is loving, understanding and welcoming. 

It is absolutely possible – and essential for the salvation of souls – that human persons in irregular situations be welcomed and respected, all the while being challenged to avoid sin and seek greater holiness.  Jesus did not condemn the woman at the well; neither did He approve of her attempted marriages.

It is possible to maintain a balance between integration and avoiding scandal.  We can, with the inspiration of the Spirit, welcome people in irregular situations into the parish community, all the while not being unfair to those families who are blessed to be able to maintain the Church’s discipline.  If we cross the Church’s boundaries in making provision for those in unusual life situations to feel included in parish life, we risk scandalizing the faithful.  If public scandal has occurred, the truth must be spoken in love.  As we include and integrate, we need to be careful not to push away faithful Catholics. Cardinal Dolan warns us this phenomenon is already happening: “Can I suggest as well that there is now a new minority in the world and even in the Church?” Cardinal Dolan asked. “I am thinking of those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity.”  (Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Faithful Catholics are ‘new minority’ who often feel ‘excluded,’ even in the Church. October 14, 2015,

Each person is unique and so is each family.  Therefore the pastoral challenge is ever-evolving.  What matters most is that priests and laity alike have a sincere desire to forge the proper balance between mercy and truth.  It does no good to teach with authority and not also with love, or to speak falsely out of fear of offending. 

Because I recognize the value of balance in the life of the Church, I was disheartened by a homily given by a priest where I was attending Mass several weeks ago.  He began with a lengthy - a solid five minutes, which is long for a homily that should be no more than 15 minutes in order to be balanced with respect to time and integrated within the entire liturgy - description taken from a piece of 19th Century literature, the name of which eludes me and is not important for this exercise, of the agony of Hell.  I, a priest, was unsettled and squirmed in my seat as I imagined the rolling eyes of adults and blank stares of teenagers in the pews.  I wondered to myself: "Why would you lay on the faithful a frightening description of Hell as the introduction to an Easter Season homily?" 

Specifically, it was Divine Mercy Sunday, in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  The next stage of the homily's descent was to assert, fairly explicitly that the purpose of the Year of Mercy was to set aside all talk of the pain of Hell in favor of a merciful description of God.  That's when it hit me: not only did the good Father bore us with a depiction of hell in language far more "antiquated" than one could claim the 2010 Roman Missal translation is, but he did so in order to set up a straw man which he later immolated on the altar of political correctness.  Classic silliness: mercy means there is no Hell! 

As if it could not get worse, he ended the homily with a Hopkins poem - one which, without the text before my eyes to read, even I could not comprehend. 

I had forgotten until that moment how much lack of balance and lack of sensitivity can really shake the soul.  The Catholic approach is "both...and" - both justice and mercy, love and truth, welcoming and defense of the faith, sacred beauty and active participation, eloquence and relevance.  So, pray and then be reasonable! 

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