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The Weight of My Neighbor's Glory PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 31 December 2010 08:57

A couple of commenters have asked the obvious question.  What do all these numbers mean?  The first thing is that Catholics, as a community, must rapidly and radically change our attitude toward evangelization because Christendom is as dead as Jacob Marley.

I was doing the mini-rant thing via e-mail last month.  A friend who reported the response to her appeal to her pastoral council on the topic of evangelization.

"Last night was a lesson in how God asks us to be faithful, not expect to
be successful!

We have a council operating out of a dated paradigm of how church should
be...and those who are not here should be written off, or just get with
the program. Some folks are our age, or younger, with this attitude!
There is a sense that it is a lost cause, and we should just live with a
smaller, purer church. I am not willing to give up so quickly."

To which I responded with considerable heat.

"And it isn't just the older ones - now twenty something Catholics talk that way.  Just where this resistance to and loathing for the idea that we can't just depend upon those born Catholics to just show up anymore, that we might have to actually go to them - reach out to them - comes from, I don't know. Some of your pastoral council people have been reading the blogs, methinks!

How odd it is to realize that almost all Catholics I meet - on all sides of the spectrum - are not just practicing Pelagians but universalist to the core. Less than 1% of the many Catholics I've met all over the world have ever expressed worry about the eternal well-being and happiness of the those who leave.  I don't hear people express concern about their salvation.  I almost never hear Catholics spontaneously talk about Christ's command to make disciples or meditate upon God's eternal desire that all know him, that all be part of his Body, that all men and women spend eternity with him, that he would lose none of those given to him.

We have become a bunch of people who would not only NOT leave the 99 and go out after the one who has strayed, we'd happily drive another 30 or 60 sheep out of the fold ourselves because they weren't meeting our standards.  All we seem to care about is that they are messing with our personal dream of what the Church should be like.  How is it possible that the evangelical spirit of a St. Dominic, a St. Catherine, a St. Ignatius of Loyola, or a St. Daniel Comboni has been so eviscerated in our generation(s)?"

Here's how I would have put my concerns if I had had the wit, talent, and holiness to do so:

"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.  The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature, which, is you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping one other to one or more of these destinations.  It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.  We must play.  But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner-no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your sense.  If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy is almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitate - the glorifier and the glorified, Glory himself, is truly hidden." The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis

When I hear Catholics talk hopefully (or gleefully!) of certain groups of Catholics - whose theological or liturgical leanings they fear and despise - leaving the Church, I know that we cannot have grasped what is at stake.  We cannot have grasped the nature of the immortal beings we are blithely hoping will leave the fullness of the means of grace.   We must recognize that it is a form of profound disobedience, a kind of blasphemy, for us to wish for, in the name of purity, what Christ himself prayed with great intensity would never happen:  that he would lose one of those that his Father had given him.

When Pope Benedict has recognized the likely possibility of a smaller Catholic church, he was merely reading the signs of the times - recognizing that European Christendom, as it has existed for the past 1200 years, (as opposed to European Christianity) is well and truly dead.

That the Church must look again, as she has in the past, not to institutions or societal favor but to the power of the Holy Spirit, the redeeming work of Christ, the truth of the apostolic faith, to the deep personal faith of her people, to the fruit of profound prayer and worship, to the intercession of the communion of saints.  And to the charisms, vocations, saints, cultural creativity, and mighty deeds that arise out of such faith. The faith that gave birth to the structures and cultures of European Christianity in the first place.

But never, never that we should cease to pray for, long for, labor for, and call every man and women to encounter Christ in the midst of his Church.  That we should accept, cooperate with - or most appallingly, rejoice in - events and changes that endanger the eternal glory of millions and millions of those redeemed by Christ's sacrifice and baptized in Christ's name is an abomination.

"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.  The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

Now Let's Get Practical: What Can I Do?


 

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