Faithful Catholics are a New Counter Culture Offering a Way Forward to the West
My return to the Catholic Church as a young man was propelled by my search for truth
It is time to build a "new society within the shell of the old with the philosophy of the new, which is not a new philosophy but a very old philosophy, a philosophy so old that it looks new." (Peter Maurin)
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - My return to the Catholic Church as a young man was propelled by my search for truth. It was also fueled by a desire to build a counter culture which embraced values different than the inhuman materialism, nihilism, lack of solidarity, violence and idolatry I saw all around me. I was a teenage hippie - I admit it.
However, I began to see that the alternative offered by that movement was illusory. I came to believe that it would replace the social order it decried with something worse. I also came to see that the problems I rejected in the society and culture around me were also within me. I embraced the Christian claim that I needed a Savior and found Him in His fullness in the Church which He founded.
I bring this up to make a point. I was not launched out of the womb a "conservative". That is one of the reasons I have never liked the label applied to my politics or theology. If anything, I saw myself as a radical in the truest meaning of the term, one trying to get back to the root.
The root I discovered led me to what early Christian writers called the Second Tree, the One planted on Calvary's Hill where the New Man, Jesus Christ, stretched out His arms to embrace the world in redemptive love and begin a New Creation. On that Cross, the Living Word, through whom the Universe was created, re-created it anew.
Theodore the Studite, an eighth century Abbot, once wrote: "How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return."
"This was the tree on which Christ, like a King on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature."
"A tree once caused our death but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality- that shame should become glory!"
A fourth century Deacon named Ephrem proclaimed: "He who was also the carpenters glorious son set up his cross above deaths' all consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life."
"Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature can resist. We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death, like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living.
"We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead. Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all embracing sacrifice of our love and our lives"
As a young man I rejected secularist, atheistic humanism - not humanism itself. I came to see that the true humanism is Christianity. That conviction led me back to the mother church of the entire Christian movement, the Catholic Church, because she is rooted in the theological anthropology and world view of the early fathers of the Church.
The existential questions I asked as a young man such as "Who Am I" and "Who are we", are still asked by men and women who hunger for more. They led me to the at the Crèche, the Cross, the empty Tomb and the Catholic Church. As the Fathers of the last Council of the Church reminded us "The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light."
It is time to acknowledge that the collapse of Western civilization will not be remedied by political movements alone. They are inadequate for the task. Crippled by the culture of death and indoctrinated by what Pope Benedict XVI called a "Dictatorship of Relativism", the West has been seduced by the siren song of evil.
What we need is a Christian revolution and, to shake things up even further, I quote from Peter Maurin's insightful book of prose entitled Easy Essays. I do so NOT because I agree with the left wing politics which sometimes co-opted what he and Dorothy Day meant to found. I reject such left wing politics as I reject any political movements, right or left, which offer collectivism as a solution.
Rather, I quote them because they speak to the kind of new movement we currently need. We need to take the values derived from the Christian worldview and knead them into the loaf of contemporary culture "creating a new society within the shell of the old with the philosophy of the new, which is not a new philosophy but a very old philosophy, a philosophy so old that it looks new".
It was the Church which gave the West the understanding that the dignity of every human person is rooted in the fact that we are all created in the Image of God. From that foundation came the claim that we possess fundamental human rights endowed upon us by the God who created us.
Those rights are not given to us by any Civil Government. They must be recognized by Civil Government or it becomes an unjust government.
We live in a declining western culture increasingly hostile to the Church. Our struggle involves a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of human freedom, human dignity, and human flourishing.
We face the growing hostility of a dictatorship of relativism which claims there are no truths. We insist that there is Truth, it can be known - and it must govern our lives. This means we face persecution. Our path is paved with the insults, accusations and calumny of our fellow citizens.
We are accused of being against progress and science for defending the dignity of every human life - including the lives of our first neighbors in the womb. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are Pro-life because it is right. Science exists to serve the person, the family and the common good.
We must courageously stand up to the culture of death. We can never compromise on the truth concerning the dignity of every human life from conception through natural death. Science confirms what our conscience long ago confirmed, those little girls and boys in the womb are our neighbors. It is always wrong to intentionally kill our innocent neighbors. To say and do otherwise is barbaric.
We insist, in the face of the ascendency of a counterfeit notion of marriage, that true marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of the universe. Truth does not change, people and cultures do; sometimes for good and sometimes for evil.
True Marriage, between one man and one woman, is the first society into which children are to be born, learn to be fully human, grow in virtue, flourish and take their role in families and communities. Heterosexual marriage, procreation, and the nurturing of children form the foundation for the family, and the family forms the foundation of civil society.
We must never be afraid to make the claim that children have a right to a mother and a father. They do. Of course we care about the single parent family and the many broken homes. However, their existence does not change the norm necessary to build a stable and healthy society. In tact marriages and families are the glue of a healthy and happy social order.
True marriage is the preeminent and the most fundamental of all human social institutions. It is a relationship defined by nature itself and protected by the natural law that binds all men and women. It finds its foundation in the order of creation.
Civil institutions do not create marriage nor can they create a right to marry for those who are incapable of marriage. The institutions of government should, when acting properly, defend marriage against those who would redefine it.
Good government has long regulated marriage for the common good. For example, the ban on polygamy and age requirements were enforced in order to ensure that there was a mature decision at the basis of the Marriage contract.
To limit marriage to heterosexual couples is not discriminatory now, nor has it ever been. Homosexual couples cannot bring into existence what marriage intends by its definition. To confer the benefits that have been conferred in the past only to stable married couples and families to homosexual paramours is bad public policy.
To live in faithful, heterosexual marriages open to, bearing and rearing children may soon become countercultural. This will not be he first time in Christian history this has occurred. Homosexualized and liberine cultures have often been the mission field into which the Church was sent. What changed was not the Church, but those cultures.
So it will be with the contemporary West. Our claims concerning life and marriage are not outdated notions of a past era but provide the path to a future of true freedom.
We insist upon the existence of a Natural Moral Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason.We do so because such a Law exists. We do so because it is the only stable foundation for civil law, giving us the moral norms needed to build societies and govern ourselves. It must inform our positive law or we will become lawless and our society devolve into anarchy.
These claims of ours are unpopular now and will become increasingly ridiculed. Those who hold to them will face growing disparagement and ostracism. However, they are the only antidote to the malady which is rotting western civilization from within. We need to be a counter culture to be ready to face what is to come. That is where understanding our own Christian history can help.
The early Church was sent into cultures filled with people who thought they were advanced in light of the arts and sciences of their day. Yet, those cultures practiced primitive forms of abortion and exposure, a practice of leaving unwanted children on rocks to be eaten by birds of prey or picked up by slave traders.
Early Christian manuscripts like the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve) and the Letter to Diognetus show us that the early Christians transformed cultures very much like our own. Cultures of use where people were treated as property, cultures of excess where freedom was perceived as a power over others and license masqueraded as liberty. They eventually changed them from within.
So must we. Faithful Catholics are a new Counter Culture offering a way forward to a Western Culture which has lost its way. It is time to build a "new society within the shell of the old with the philosophy of the new, which is not a new philosophy but a very old philosophy, a philosophy so old that it looks new."
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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