Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

11/1/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The principle of agere contra is a good spiritual tool to recall when, under God's grace, we attempt to develop our spiritual life and virtue against the attractions or blandishments of the world.

As the modern world about us goes its merry godless and morally dissipated way, Catholics will be called to be more and more contrarian.  A contrarian, of course, is a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion or current practices.  Regarding much of what relativist and secularist liberal societies consider "normal," the faithful practicing Catholic will be decidedly contrarian.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

11/1/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: agere contra, countercultural, contrarian, imitatio Christ, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - As the modern world about us goes its merry godless and morally dissipated way, Catholics will be called to be more and more contrarian. 

A contrarian, of course, is a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion or current practices.  Regarding much of what relativist and secularist liberal societies consider "normal," the faithful practicing Catholic will be decidedly contrarian.

Now being contrarian is not necessarily being a crank, although as society strays further and further from the reasonable and traditional Christian mores it may appear to our morally unfounded contemporaries that we are cranks.  From their vantage point, I suppose we look that way.

If we be labeled cranks, then let us make the most of it.  Let us be happy cranks for Christ. 

We might paraphrase St. Paul (without doing him too much violence) and learn to be cranks for Christ's sake.  (Cf. 1 Cor. 4:10) 

It's quite likely that, in their blindness, the godless liberal pundits and comedians, no less that the Pharisees or Sadducees, would have called Our Lord an unenlightened crank--or worse.  To call Jesus a crank is not too far from immersing a crucifix in urine and calling us cranks for complaining about it or in calling us bigots and cranks because we, faithful to the teaching of Christ and natural moral law, oppose same-sex "marriage" for what it is: a moral enormity of the first class. 

Here again, we might paraphrase this time Jesus instead of St. Paul (again without violence to the text) and suggest that if the world calls us cranks, we should recall that they would have called him a crank first.  (Cf. John 15:18)

But by resisting the peer pressure of our contemporaries and being contrarian, we are not by any means cranks, kooks, or crackpots though we be called that. 

We, after all, have right reason on our side, and the teachings of Christ, the weight of Catholic tradition, and the authority of the Magisterium which is guided by the Holy Spirit to boot.  These are good allies in assessing our normalcy and the moral deviancy of our contemporary fellows. 

These will all outlast the current madness.  Omnia vincit veritas.

We must remember when we are called cranks, that when one is standing on a rock cliff one can safely ignore the claim of the man mired in quicksand that he, and not you, is standing on stable ground.

To be sure, it is not easy to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ when the majority opinion is against you.  It hurts, and it is hard to kick against the pricks and goads of majority opinion (Acts 26:14), even if it is wrong.

Resisting the heavy weight and moral suasion of the liberal establishment and its institutions presents a significant, concrete challenge for the modern Christian disciple, especially the Catholic one who has an uncompromising moral creed that believes in moral absolutes. 

Unquestionably, fidelity to Christ--at least the ease of it--is affected by one's moral environment, by what Pope Benedict XVI called one's "moral ecology," and our modern moral ecology is foul.

As St. Thomas More wrote to his children, "It is now no mastery for you children to go to heaven.  For everybody giveth you good counsel, everybody giveth you good example.  You see virtue rewarded, and vice punished, so that you are carried up to heaven even by the chins."

"But," St. Thomas More continues as if he were writing for our time, "if you live in the time, that no man will give you good counsel, nor no man will give you good example, when you shall see virtue punished, and vice rewarded, if you will then stand fast, and firmly stick to God upon pain of life, if you be but half good, God will allow you for whole good."

Well, we are not living in a time and place where we will be carried up to heaven "even by the chins."  To the contrary, we are living in a time and place where we likely will be carried to hell "by the chins," and assuredly so if (to shift metaphors) we don't swim against the current a bit.

Let us then strive to be heroic--to be wholly good and wholly faithful to our Lord and his Church; but if we are fearful, or if we are weak, or if we fail, if our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak, let us at least try to be half good.  There is no excuse for not being at least half good. 

That means, in the words of St. Thomas More, we must "stand fast, and firmly stick to God upon pain of life."  In other words, we have to be contrarian even to be half good.

Now that means that when times are evil--when Catholics have cause to complain in the words of Cicero, O tempora! O mores!--the Catholic will have to develop his interior contrarian, his moral backbone, his steadfastness. 

In developing our inner contrarian, St. Ignatius of Loyola gave us a doctrine that might be adaptable to this situation: agere contra.

Agere contra is Latin for "to act against."  In his Spiritual Exercises--a spiritual classic of first rank--St. Ignatius of Loyola described this attitude in the context of acting against the sense of desolation or emptiness in prayer, but also in acting against temptations and sensuality. 

Particularly in those areas where we are weak, or where our disposition is wrongfully inclined, or where we find thinks difficult, unappetizing, or unappealing the principle of agere contra comes into play as a good rule of thumb for action. 

The notion of agere contra is that if we are indisposed to something we ought to do its opposite, and with even greater fervor.  Act against a disordered inclination by doing its opposite with redoubled effort.  A great example of this spiritual principle would be St. Francis of Assisi. 
When he first started his spiritual journey, the poor man of Assisi lived in great fear of lepers.  He overcame his fear by the principle of agere contra.  He did so by kissing the wounds of the leper.  When he was tempted by unchastity, he rolled naked in the brambles and in the snow.  Those are perfect images of agere contra.

Now, we need not necessarily act in the same manner (unless you want to become saints, and why don't you give that exciting life a try?), but in all cases we are called to act in a similar manner, in the Jesuit and Franciscan spirit of agere contra

In particular, when it comes to confronting our modern culture, we have to instill in ourselves this notion of agere contra so that it becomes a sort of second nature.  This allows us greater success in recognizing and overcoming the habitual vices that are considered normal in our society. 

When 50% of marriages end in divorce, and there are "family law" lawyers on every corner, and the civil laws allow for divorce on no-fault grounds, and many of our friends are living in irregular (adulterous) second unions that appear happy enough, and we are having difficulties in our relationship with our spouse, we have to develop the spirit of agere contra.  Divorce and remarriage is a false solution.

When the vast majority of married couples (not to mention those not married) use artificial contraception and have become closed to children and even more so to large families on spurious or at least weak grounds, we have to develop the attitude of agere contra.  We will be thought of as weird.  So what?

When a huge proportion of our friends are living outside the confines of marriage or some alternative lifestyle, we must resolve agere contra and resist that tendency as something normal.  We must insist on the sacredness of marriage, on the sacredness of the conjugal act, on the radical contrariness of chastity and purity.

When our friends invite us to strip clubs, or we are tempted to look at pornography, or we are tempted to self-abuse, and we hear the common refrain that "everybody does that," we must resort to our faithful rule of thumb: agere contra. "Purity? they ask. And they smile," says St. Josemaria Escriva. "They are the ones who go on to marriage with worn-out bodies and disillusioned souls."

If we suffer from same-sex attraction and the world--its psychologists, politicians, and LGBT advocates--tell us that we are excused from the moral law because of it and we may be gaily unchaste and unchastely gay, we must invoke the principle of agere contra.

If, as a young Catholic we have stumbled and fallen and gotten pregnant out of wedlock or gotten someone pregnant out of wedlock, we must resist what moderns (falsely) propose as a solution, even sickeningly a right: abortion.  Even then, it is time for agere contraAgere contra is not only for saints, it is a right attitude for all.

These are just some examples that happen to prevail in contemporary culture.  The principle of agere contra is, of course, applicable to any disorder, social or personal, which we suffer or any difficulty which we confront. 

Let us develop our inner contrarian by the principle of agere contra, as St. Paul proposes: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect."  (Rom. 12:2).

The principle of agere contra is a good spiritual tool to recall when, under God's grace, we attempt to develop our spiritual life and virtue against the attractions or blandishments of the world.

It allows us to develop a faithful Marian response to God-one that says fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, be it done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38). 

It allows us to be attuned to an authentic sequela, imitatio, and conformatio Christi, a following of, imitation of, and conformation to Christ, whose response to the will of God the Father, even in his human nature, was an unwavering and perfect: not my will, but yours be done, non mea voluntas sed tua fiat (Luke 22:42).

Agere contra!  It's time to develop our interior contrarian!

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Living Faith

Catholic priest who blessed atomic bomb crews -- and his conversion

Image of

By Tony Magliano

Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the single most destructive weapon ever unleashed upon human beings and the environment - the atomic bomb - was dropped by an American B-29 bomber on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 80,000 people. Three days ... continue reading


Pastor Tullian Tchividjian breaks his silence: Admits life felt like a bad dream after recent affair scandal Watch

Image of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of famous evangelist Billy Graham,

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ex-Pastor Tullian Tchividjian of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida broke his silence after his recent moral failure admission and stepping down from his post. Billy Graham's grandson wrote an open letter to his supporters and friends, ... continue reading


Pope Francis warns of 'genocide' as Christian Persecution increases globally Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christians all over the world are suffering from increasing prejudice and persecution. It is no secret that Islamic extremism and repressive governments are trying hard to perpetuate the oppression of Christianity. Pope Francis has been moved to warn of "a form of ... continue reading


'Let Jesus satisfy your hunger for God': Pope Francis encourages people to make offers to God Watch

Image of Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday reading from the Gospel of John in which a vast crowd follows Jesus, but lacks enough food to eat.

By CNA/EWTN News

Jesus Christ's miraculous multiplication of the loaves shows that he offers "fullness of life for hungry man," Pope Francis said Sunday. He encouraged everyone to offer what little they have to God so that God can multiply their gifts and good deeds. Vatican ... continue reading


What to wear to church: What's more important, physical or inner beauty? Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Wearing your best outfit or putting on a little makeup in preparation for Church isn't too looked down upon. A leading Christian writer shared with Crosswalk.com what she has realized over years of church participation. Although she loves beautiful clothes and make-up, ... continue reading


'Nothing can separate me from the love of God': The first American Ebola patient shares his profound realization on deathbed Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

He was the first American who contracted the deadly Ebola virus - fearful and sick, Dr. Kent Brantly came to realize something important for Christians and their relationship with God. Amid the pain and moments of uncertainty, from being diagnosed positive with ... continue reading


J. Matt Barber: The Meaning of Life

Image of Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law.

By J. Matt Barber

So this was rock bottom. The day, which yet again wore into night with fast food and old Bonanza reruns, would end like all the rest. Where were my car keys? As I searched in preparation for another trip to the liquor store, I made my way to my bedroom and opened ... continue reading


'There is no hope, no life, no hope for an end': 'Donor fatigue' setting in among those helping Christians in Middle East fleeing ISIS Watch

Image of Refugees now realize that they will be unable to return to their homes in Iraq or Syria.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With no end in sight, "donor fatigue" is setting in for those trying to help Middle Eastern Christians fleeing ISIS. There appears to be no solutions, only increasing refugees and more need. The refugees' situation is only getting worse. Refugees now realize ... continue reading


Giant cross at veteran memorial to stay standing with game-changing agreement made Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Legal battle over the issue of a giant cross standing over a veterans' memorial has been a long and tedious fight, but an agreement may now put it all to rest, keeping the monument on the land. Atheists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed legal ... continue reading


A MIRACLE? Virgin Mary painting caught on tape moving lips along with the Lord's Prayer (VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The lips on a painted image of the Virgin Mary, on display at the St. Charbels Church in New South Wales, Australia, were reportedly witnessed moving along with the reading of the Lord's Prayer. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The video featuring the Virgin ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Numbers 11:4-15
4 The rabble who had joined the people were feeling ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 81:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
12 So I left them to their stubborn selves, to follow ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 14:13-21
13 When Jesus received this news he withdrew by boat ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 3rd, 2015 Image

St. Lydia Purpuraria
August 3: Lydia Purpuraria (1st century) was born at Thyatira (Ak-Hissar), ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter