instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

You first, me never

Pope Benedict XVI has occasionally and variously expressed the notion that the renewal of the Church will start small. We have this, for example, from a meeting with the youth of Rome and the Lazio region this past April:
Since a consumer culture exists that wants to prevent us from living in accordance with the Creator's plan, we must have the courage to create islands, oases, and then great stretches of land of Catholic culture where the Creator's design is lived out.
Matthew Fish uses this as an epigraph for his blog Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, and presents some of his thoughts on what these "islands" and "oases" might look like here:
For starters, here are two examples:
The first, The Lord's Ranch, a community of Catholics outside of El Paso that serve the poor of Ciudad Juarez, and includes many families in the ranch that have grown up and lived there....
A second is Family Missions Company. Maybe moving your family to a small village in Mexico and giving the remainder of your life to the service of the poor and evangelization, is in fact, the best thing for your family too!
Yes, and maybe it is in fact the worst thing for your family!

As a tertiary, I am in the habit of interpreting various statements "according to my state in life," as the expression goes. I do not find it in the least difficult to apply Pope Benedict's words to my suburban American life -- a life with an inherently "vicious nature," according to Matthew, "inimical to real human flourishing" we choose because "we've got to make money. Money, money, money."

The application is this: I must form an oasis in my heart, given over to God's plan.

There. Not terribly radical, not terribly romantic, not an act people fifteen centuries from today will cite as the reason Western civilization survived. But it does have the advantage of being God's will for me, or at least the next step in His will.

It is the following step in His will that I move my family to a small village in Mexico? I gotta say, I don't see it. Maybe because of all the "obstacles to grace" Matthew would say I've surrounded myself with in Suburbia. Or, then again, maybe because it's not the following step.

The choice between vicious suburban cesspool and Mexican white martyrdom is a classic false dilemma, and it breaks in the classic ways, too. People who haven't counted the cost go to Mexico and fail; people who have remain home and do nothing.

Perhaps I'm misreading the Pope, but I don't think he's insisting on a reclamation based on extravagance-or-bust. That lets the non-extravagant -- always the majority of the Church -- off the hook. In fact, it lets the Church off the hook, by writing off her presence among the economically comfortable as at best unimportant.

(And there might even be a reason for the absence of any good examples of an old-time Catholic Worker farming commune out there.)