I receive many letters from people all over the country demanding that we bishops speak out against the many situations pressing in on the Church in particular, and the world in general. Many times people have concerns that the worldly mindset is diminishing the human spirit in general, and the spirituality of humanity in particular.
Promiscuity, inconsistency in relationships, confusion about individual sexual identity, and unsettled understandings of the value of life continue to make extraordinary demands on the minds and hearts of our youths and have brought about some rather serious reversals in the thinking for many adults.
It becomes necessary, therefore, to reassess our thinking and examine our actions. People once took time to recollect and reorder their lives in a retreat, or some kind of period of silent reflection and renewal. Of course, in these days, the world being too much with us, such time is not afforded, and silence is feared and avoided—if it can even be found in our hectic lives.
As we move closer to Christmas, we once again become much more sensitive to our “softer” side—a much more caring awareness of others and their needs. It seems as though we open our minds, hearts, and even our wallets to the needs of others with an awareness of the fact that “I have many brothers and sisters!” Certainly, our Church celebrates life. Of course, we promote life over death, birth above murder by abortion, and the allowance of life until natural death. These areas, in particular, are being challenged greatly in our society. Life is under-valued. The integrity of life itself is muted, as selfishness and inconsiderate self-absorption have become exalted in society’s expression of personhood. We have recently celebrated the Canonization of yet another contemporary pope—Pope St. Paul VI. His prophetic encyclical Humane Vitae also marked its 50th anniversary in July. The prophetic and emphatic teaching of this encyclical still, and perhaps now even more after 50 years, calls all people of good will and serious love for their brothers and sisters to a renewed sense of the value of human life, and the need for care of those in need.
People of Faith cannot be misled by the noise of mainstream media. Electronic social communication devices often lure us to enter false bubbles of security and isolation. Sometimes, we think that we are unable to counteract such opinions or ideas. That is not true. Indeed, it is our obligation to stand against these and any other ideas or “teachings” that are contrary to our Faith in Jesus Christ. What it takes, first of all, is the virtue of courage—the virtue of the heart. If we truly take to heart what Jesus Christ has done for us—His saving death and resurrection—then we can muster the courage it takes to stand with Him. We stand with Jesus Christ against the prince of this world—the devil—the Evil One. “’Now is the time of judgment on the world; now will the prince of the world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw everyone to myself’. Now He said this signifying by what death He was to die.” (Jn 12: 31-33)
First is Faith in Jesus Christ and in Him crucified, and second is knowledge about Jesus Christ. So many of us have grown up without seriously studying and learning about our Faith. For many, Faith has become like a fairy tale, having little or no real value and impact in our lives. Is it any wonder that we will be seduced by the deceptions that are daily set before us by “the prince of this world”?
I recommend and heartily endorse the reading and serious study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It celebrated the 20th anniversary of its promulgation this year and it is a surefire means of learning everything you thought you knew about your Faith, and how to put it into action!
So, Faith in Jesus Christ and participation in His Church are the best ways to stand courageously in favor of the sacredness of human life and opposed to a worldliness that would move us away from Him. Yes, of course, regular presence at Sunday Mass is a given—I look forward to seeing you there!
By Bishop William Patrick Callahan