The declining western culture grows increasingly hostile to the Catholic Church. There is a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of human freedom, human dignity, and human flourishing underway. Catholics now face the hostility of a relativism which claims there are no truths. That is what makes us countercultural. We insist that there is Truth, it can be known - and it must govern our lives. This is why we face persecution.
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/16/2013 (1 year ago)
Published in U.S.
Keywords: counter culture, conclave, catholic Church, rebels of love, St Escriva, Christian action, Catholic action, persecution, anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, early Church, Vatican II, Deacon Keith Fournier
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - In The Furrow, St Josemaria Escriva used a phrase that keeps coming to my mind over these historic days as I join with millions in praying for the Catholic Church I love during an historic and prophetic transition; Rebels of Love. He wrote: "Nowadays it is not enough for men and women to be good. Moreover, it is not good enough to be satisfied with being nearly. good. It is necessary to be 'revolutionary'. Faced by hedonism, faced by the pagan and materialistic wares that we are being offered, Christ wants objectors! Rebels of Love!"
My return to the Catholic Church as a young man was propelled by my search for truth and 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. However, I soon began to see that the alternative offered by the movement which called itself the counter culture back then was a fraud. It would replace the social order it decried with something much worse. Many of those who participated in that movement have done just that.
I came to comprehend that what I rejected in the culture around me was also present within me. I was held captive by my wrong choices and being led astray by disordered appetites and passions. I accepted the fact that I was a sinner. I embraced the Christian claim that I needed a Savior. I found Him in His fullness in the Catholic Church which He founded. I was led to the Cross 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.
I also began to discover the utter beauty - and spiritual depth - of early Christian writings on the meaning of the Christian faith. Theodore the Studite, an eighth century Abbot, once wrote of the Cross: "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 - but not humanism itself. I studied the Catholic faith and came to understand that the true humanism is authentic Christianity, the kind professed, in word and deed, by the early Christians. As I read early Church history I was brought back to the mother church of the entire Christian movement, the Catholic Church. I reconsidered her teachings - and her form of worship - and found that they reflected the teaching of the earliest century Christians. I discovered that she offers the theological anthropology, ecclesiology and world view of the early fathers of the Church. I came to believe that she was the real counterculture.
As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reminded us: "The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear." (Gaudium et Spes #22)
The collapse of Western culture will not be averted by conservatism or any political movement. They are simply inadequate for the task. Crippled by the culture of death and indoctrinated by what His Holiness Benedict XVI labeled a Dictatorship of Relativism, the West has been seduced by the siren song of evil and needs conversion. We need a Christian revolution of the heart.
Peter Maurin, in his book of prose entitled Easy Essays. addressed the kind of movement we currently need. We need to take the values derived from the classical and orthodox Christian worldview and knead them into the loaf of contemporary culture, in Maurin's words, "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".
The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church 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 understanding 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. Rather, they must be recognized by Civil Government or it becomes an unjust government.
The declining western culture grows increasingly hostile to the Catholic Church. There is a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of human freedom, human dignity, and human flourishing underway. Catholics now face the hostility of a relativism which claims there are no truths. That is what makes us countercultural. We insist that there is Truth, it can be known - and it must govern our lives. This is why we face persecution. Our path is increasingly 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. We will not 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.
In the face of the ascendency of a counterfeit notion of marriage, we insist 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 should 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 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.
To limit marriage to heterosexual couples is not discriminatory. 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. 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 live in faithful, heterosexual marriages open to, bearing and rearing children within a family is now countercultural. This is not the first time in Christian history this has occurred. Libertine cultures are the mission field into which the Church is sent. What changes is 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 for all men and women. We are the real progressives of this moment in history. Some who have stolen the term are barbarians dressed in expensive clothing.
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 and is the only stable foundation for civil law, giving us the moral norms needed to build societies and govern ourselves. This Natural Law must inform our positive law or we become lawless and our society devolves into anarchy. The evidence is all around us in the West.
These claims of ours are 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 are a counter culture now and we need to be ready to face what is to come. Knowing our 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 (Excerpt here) show us how the early Christians transformed cultures very much like our own. Those were 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 will we, if we persevere in prayer, living faith and determined mission.
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." We are Rebels of Love.
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