instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, May 03, 2004

Curtains for catacombs

Fr. Dowd is trying to think of a depressing prophesy about the world turning against the Church that hasn't already come true. Meanwhile, a commenter at Catholic and Enjoying It! writes, "Catholics nowadays could use actual physical threat to mobilize them. A dog fights best when cornered."

I wrote several months ago against a "Bring it on!" attitude regarding persecutions. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and the Church has had her share of folks who went looking for martyrdom only to choose apostasy once the torturers got to work.

I suspect the desire for persecution (if not for me personally, then at least for the spiritual slugabeds with whom I am in communion) is related to the desire for certainty. It's easier to act boldly, without hesitations or reservations, when you're certain of your course. An act of the will when the will is weak isn't much of an act at all, and it doesn't give you much confidence that you are acting properly.

Being Christian implies being opposed somehow by the world, so it can be unsettling when the world doesn't much oppose us. "Television is turning our kids into pagans!" is, when you think about it, a pretty lame battle cry -- and that's true regardless of how efficiently television may actually be turning our kids into pagans. It presents us with a broad matter of prudential judgment, and prudential judgment is not the stuff of categorical certainty.

If the world ups the ante, though -- to the point, say, that preaching or practicing Christianity is in various ways outlawed -- now we're talking! Now the lines are clear, and we can act with unreserved determination. We are the king's good servants, perhaps, but God's servants first. The rationalizations to go along and to get along in situations that brought us no personal glory can be given up, and we can boldly declare ourselves Christians.

But there's a difference between searching the signs of the times, with Fr. Dowd, for what may be coming, and rushing to embrace it as welcome medicine. We ourselves should be sufficient medicine for our fellow Catholics whom we deem insufficiently Catholic, if only we were ourselves were sufficiently potent doses of the charity of God. Persecution may come, and it should be welcomed insofar as it is God's will, but persecution is not a good to be desired for its own sake, nor one to be sought as the simplest cure for what ails God's Church.