The Newest Catholics

04-23-2017Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

I’m not shouting “fire” in a theater but I do smell smoke. The culture seems to be burning itself down quicker than we can put out the flames. True enough, political wranglings give me much fodder to inveigh against. And I do seem to have this compulsion to point out foolishness that needs to be pointed out. But my overarching concern is not to opine the state of affairs but to give Christians some tools to provide the culture with Life support. But at this point in our journey it may be helpful to define what we believe our Catholic culture should look like. This is especially for the benefit of the newly baptized and confirmed. After all they are starting out their Catholic life and may need a few pointers from us so they can grasp what it means to be part of the Catholic world.

As Catholics we believe there is truth: Truth that is objective, absolute, and outside of ourselves. We also believe that human reason can discover truth; in fact it is the goal of reason to pursue truth. Truth is the fulfillment of reason and the cause of our happiness. When we detach ourselves from truth we embark on a path to illusionary freedom. Obedience to the truth is not always easy. It is therefore our obligation to fit ourselves into the truth and not the other way around. Truth is not what we say it is or what we want it to be. That’s called relativism and skepticism. The clash of an understanding of truth as absolute and truth as relative is why we as Catholics find ourselves so scorned by the wider culture.

So here are the first two lessons for our newest Catholics: there is truth to which you are obliged to assent. To do otherwise would be irrational. But doing so will put you at odds with many others. This is what Jesus meant when he told us that “father will be against son, mother against daughter” and so forth. Unfortunately just by accepting that there is truth we set ourselves against the world. So it’s not so unusual these days for believers to be labeled troublemakers and blamed as the reason for so much contention in our society. Don’t be surprised to hear things such as, “if you Christians would just stop imposing your values on society all would be well”. Don’t be bullied into submission. Our values are human values not a religious imposition.

Many of our new Catholics have already experienced this divisiveness with family and friends. As much as we know that religion is not meant to be divisive, one of the sadder realities is that often those who reject our way of life use our beliefs against us. The challenge for the believer is to absorb much of the hatred and divisiveness hurled at us in order to keep at least some channels open for dialogue and relationship.

As new Catholics you have already been pursuing truth. You find yourself in this Church because you have allowed your reason to lead you to the Truth. That necessarily entails rejecting false ways and half-truths. But don’t think Christianity or Catholicism as overly somber. The Resurrection always follows the Cross. Our pursuit of the Truth leads us into joy. Truth always culminates in joy or as Paul tells us “love rejoices in the truth”. So the path that you have embarked upon as new Catholics is the way of joy. May your journey take you finally into the eternal joys that know no end.

May Mary, the Cause of our Joy, keep you safely in her care.

Love, Fr. John B.

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