instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The zeal of Thy house

In reading the 95-year old Everyday Apostles, I was struck by how... I don't know, churchy it was. For Fr. Garesché, being Catholic was not merely a matter of faith, but of being an active member of the Catholic Church, understood in a brick-and-mortar sense perhaps as much as a spiritual sense. The apostleships he wrote of weren't for a moment Christian in any generic sense; they were Catholic apostleships, through and through.

As I read, I thought that a possible sub-title for the book would be, "You Might Be The Only Baltimore Catechism Another Person Reads." Even apart from the anachronisms of always defending your pastor and bishop and of the value of reading "the Catholic papers," it's simply not a style Catholics write in these days, unless they're consciously imitating it for reasons of nostalgia or parody.

It wasn't at all triumphalistic, though. There was nothing about Catholics being better than Protestants. The one passage I remember that dealt directly with such a comparison allowed that there were plenty of Protestants who were better than large numbers of Catholics; the lesson Fr. Garesché drew from this was, just think how much better they'd be if they had the sacraments to buck them up! (That may strike some Protestants today as triumphalistic enough, but that would just show how far Catholic style has come in the last hundred years.)

I suppose I'd say the attitude Fr. Garesché expresses regarding the Catholic Church is a confidence that she possesses the fullness of truth and that everyone is better off if they, too, possess it. In a word, that would be "zeal," specifically the zeal for souls that says, "I have something very good, and I really want others to have it, too."

I think Catholics nowadays would be generally embarrassed by that attitude. Some seem to prefer saying, "I have something very good, and I really want others to have their noses rubbed in it," others, "I have something very good, and others have their own very good things, or at least things that are good enough," still others, "I have something that's not so hot."

It's as though we can't find any ground between, "Non-Roman Catholics are damned, so we need to convert everyone," and, "Non-Roman Catholics aren't necessarily damned, so we don't need to convert anyone."

Several times, Fr. Garesché used examples from business: you wouldn't let a friend invest in what you knew to be a scam; why would you let him store up his treasure in the paltry things of this world? This lack of zeal for souls is like saying, "My friend could make a great deal more money if he invested in this business, but he's probably already making enough money, so I won't bother him about it." Do pagans do as little?