One thing for certain is that the Catholic Church is under assault in the Western World. This isn’t shocking but it is definitely a trend among these supposed developed countries. While the growth of Catholicism may be strong in places like Africa (for now), I think the attack by the enemy is not necessarily focused there yet. I think this has to do with how much power and influence Western civilization holds on the global scale so what better place to bring the faith down than in the West? The big question that comes to my mind is how do we counter this as lay Catholics?
I think it is fair to say that the church, for the most part, has been on an defensive stance for a long time. I would like to even claim that the Catholic Church as a whole has likely been in a defensive stance since probably about the time the Protestant Revolution (I will write a more detailed article on this once I do some research). We even made an entire order to deal with those Protestants! Where we had been once in the open proclaiming the word of God to all nations, we now have retreated into ourselves, building our defenses against the onslaught of heresy, defining specific doctrines and the like. None of this is wrong but what I think has lasted for a long time in the church until this day is that we are still in this defensive stance. And it isn’t working anymore.
I will use a personal example of this. I am very proud of my faith. I love firm doctrines, rules, traditions, everything that has to do with order within the church. To me this is necessary in order to protect truth, to uphold it and to prevent it from ever being tarnished. Not that anything could tarnish it of course but sometimes I found myself overly focused on the order, laws, doctrines, traditions that what I saw happen overtime is a coldness develop within me. It almost felt that the only thing that mattered was to maintain these laws and to abhor anything that is different from them, including people, in order that the law and order would stay perpetually fixed in the Catholic Church. There was a desire to defend the church from error and heresy at all costs. Again, nothing wrong with this since we are the true church and what we possess is truth but I feel what had happened with me, and perhaps with many other people within the church is a love for the law and doctrine of the church over human beings. I justified this all in my mind because they were just sinners who were simply ignoring the truths of the universe and it was there fault. Instead of pitying them, I judged them. Instead of helping them, I scorned them. All to defend the church and truth.
As I have matured in faith over time, and as my stone heart has been slowly replaced with a flesh heart, I felt that this approach was not right. Something is not right about this. A focus just on the truth with no focus on the individual doesn’t make sense. If we only look at the truth and ignore the individual, than we put the truth above the individual while lowering the individual. Is this the way the Lord intended? Are we to love the law above man? Is not the Lords only two commandments to love Him above all things and than to love our fellow man as ourselves? The more you read this, and perhaps even relate to it, it should be pretty glaring what can happen to someone overtime if they are overly obsessed about the law and not love – you become a pharisee.
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. – Matthew 23:1-5
The lesson always is that the law does not save but faith and love. Abiding by rules for the sake of rules is not what the Lord intended. The law reveals to us how the Lord wishes us to behave and act but this needs to be done out of love and not merely by observance to the law. This is a very difficult transformation that takes the faith from the mind into the heart. It is something we all have to do, lest we slowly become like the pharisee and place the law above love, and replace our heart of flesh with a heart of stone.
Where does offense take place in all this? Well, as we are transformed and our heart of stone becomes one of flesh we need to switch from this stance of constant defense to a stance of offense. Addressing and tackling the problems of the world, instead of hiding from them behind our defenses. Growing in true interior holiness and not just human knowledge. While we have spent many decades and perhaps centuries preparing our defense, we are now at a point where we have to mount an offense on a global scale to win back the hearts of the world to Christ. Although some have jumped onto this train, many souls are hesitant and fearful, and rightly so. We haven’t been taught to be on the offensive for a long time, so this is new territory for us. One example of this. Do you ever wonder why Protestant denominations keep growing while lacking the complete truth? Two things: a huge focus on having great communities and they are out on the offense gathering more troops to their flocks. Most Catholic Churches fail to do either one these well. Again, it is very hard to do this if your own interior life is poor and if you heart is hardened. An internal transformation has to take place before you can take appropriate action in the world.
This is not an easy transition. It is a total rewiring of the brain for some but it is one that needs to take place. We must come out of ourselves for the sake of the world. Satan is making lots of noise with all that problems that seem to be around, but his bark his worse than his bite. This is taking the faith from the mind to one that is burning in the heart. When this occurs, the individual will be burning with desire to do the will of God. We need to be living examples of the gospel to the world.
What we need as the church is to be united in one cause, with the focus of being on the offensive, to undo some of the damage that has been done to the world over the past decades. This isn’t just the damage within the church but as mentioned in previous posts all aspects of society. It can and must be done.
It will only be done with His Grace and with the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
Let’s keep in mind those precious souls in purgatory. By the grace and mercy of our Lord may they be purified and come to Him.