Over at his blog, Fr. Longenecker asked the question, “What will it take for us (Catholics in America) to wake up?” He explains:
“…the last forty years Catholics themselves have not taught Catholicism to their children. They’ve taught ‘American Catholicism’ which is a watered down blend of sentimentalism, political correctness, community activism and utilitarianism….(a) ‘feeling good about yourself, being just to others and trying to change the world.’ The next generation have drawn the obvious conclusion that you don’t need to go to Mass to do all that.”
He states that the solution is simple (old-school evangelization like the Apostles of the Early Church did). The difference between today’s evangelization and that of the Apostles though, needs to be addressed:
“The big difference is that the Apostles knew their targets were pagans and the pagans knew they weren’t Christians…It is very difficult to evangelize people who already think they’re fine just as they are…”
Father Zuhlsdorf wrote a commentary on Fr. Longenecker’s post in true-to-FatherZ-fashion, and adds another critical element of the problem to the collapse of cultural Catholicism:
“It may be that some of those pagans of whom Fr. Longenecker speaks above are also wearing Roman collars. They just don’t realize they actually belong to a different religion.”
This is an unfortunate reality indeed.
The correction of the problem, will definitely require an evangelization. Fr. Z adds that, perhaps, the Liturgical reforms have a part to play as well:
“We must return to teaching and demonstrating that there is a supernatural dimension to our lives. We must take people beyond their immanentism-lite. This is why the Holy Father has been trying to point us toward, in small steps, a new approach to liturgical worship. It is precisely in worship that we can make great strides quickly.”
I would like to add another humble point, and that is, the importance of prayer – and in particular, devotional prayer – that has been the door of holiness for many.
Devotional prayer such as the Holy Rosary and Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, helps a person to know our Lord and Savior through the contemplation of the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection, and be better disposed to love Him, and follow His example. Saint Magdalene of Canossa explains this concept in the first rule to the Daughters of Charity:
“Prayer is the exercise by which the soul draws close to the Lord. By thus learning to know him in some way, the soul becomes ever more disposed, and enkindled with the desire, to love Him.”
She goes on to explain how, through prayer and contemplation of our Lord Jesus, and Him Crucified, the soul is better able to correctly imitate the life of Christ, with the same love for the Father that Jesus demonstrated on the Cross. She stressed numerous times to her Daughters and Sons of Charity the essential place of prayer in any work, evangelization being the fruit of it:
“Saint Paul says, even martyrdom would be useless without charity, that is, the love of God, the Source and Substance of Holiness, but also becasue the first fruit produced in our neighbor is all work of Grace.” (Unabridged Rule, Preface – paragraph 4, referencing 1 Corinthians 13:3).
So therefore, in order to properly evangelize the uncatechized Catholic, and to embrace the liturgical reforms and the truths held within them, prayer must be the foundation of this holy work. St Magdalene’s words are echoed throughout the history of the Church through the Saints who have grown close to the desires of God through their prayer, which in turn spurned them into action out of that love. Many of the Saints were uneducated, yet they were able to understand Truth easily, and to recognize folly just as easily.
So too, like the Saints of past centuries, we must begin here, at the font of prayer, through which God fortifies our hearts to Love Him and desire to do all we can to Serve the Church, and bring souls back to Her.
Sherry, blogging at the Catherine of Sienna Institute, gives a good summary of how this conversation began, with her post, Unintentional Mega-Blogging: the Collapse of Cultural Catholicism
Responses to that included Father Longenecker’s post, The Collapse of Cultural Catholicism;
and Father Z’s The Slipping Away of Catholic Identity;
Mark P. Shea’s response to Sherry’s comment on his post.
The Cowboy Papist writes a summary of the discussion with his post, Cultural Catholicism: Means What, and Does it Matter?
And from Down Under, And They Will Know We are Pagans