Thursday, April 17, 2008

Amy Welborn: Pope Benedict is a uniter, not a divider

I really enjoyed the article by Amy Welborn at the blog set up by the NY Times where she was asked, among many others, to participate. Her post mirrors some thoughts I've been having since the Holy Father's visit began ('ll add link below). I left a comment there which I'll repeat here with fixes in brackets:

One thing that strikes me repeatedly about Pope Benedict and something we would do well to emulate, is that we don’t see him publicly violate charity regardless of the severity of an issue. He is frank and calls things out as they are [in other words, he does not give in to false charity by saying nothing], but his firmness is not one that lacks charity and [he shows] care for the dignity of those to whom it is aimed.

How often do we bloggers set charity aside to get one more dig at a fellow Catholic rather than engage in dialogue with the intellectual charity of which Pope Benedict XVI encourages and exemplifies?

I’ll be pondering that myself.


I want to expand on this thought while I have it.....

When I first got serious about my faith when Pope John Paul II died, I found myself extraordinarily hungry for all things Catholic. Just to be clear, I was seeking out an understanding of the mind of the Church in her teachings, not the mind of someone who has other ideas that are more aligned with the mind of the world.

I was relativisitic in my thinking and the light bulb went on for me, realizing that truth can't be in two opposing directions, nor can truth change directions. If Christ is Truth, then truth must be absolute.

As I learned about the faith at places like Catholic.com and through solid sermons at Assumption Grotto, an anger began to increase inside of me - an anger being caused with another realization: The catechism of my youth was not only deficient, it was a distortion of authentic Catholic teaching. And, it wasn't only the catechism: The sermons I had been hearing for the past 40 years were equally deficient and sometimes distorted. I felt duped.

Just for reference, I was born in 1962.

This anger began to build, creating a defensiveness in me. In my discussions with other Catholics, I tried to "help" people to understand with all the grace of Attila the Hun.

I tried to use humor too. Usually that humor was in the form of little digs which, as I see them now, served no other purpose than to get under the skin of other people. A little humor here and there is good, but it has to be properly ordered. Has anyone ever heard Pope Benedict, or the man Ratzinger ever take this approach to passing on the faith? No. He has a level of spiritual maturty that we should all strive for. However, pride sometimes gets in the way.

If you peruse discussions in the many Catholic forums out there, and even the posts on some Catholic blogs, you will see examples of all kinds of behaviors that are not in alignment with charity - digs, bad humor, and the Attila the Hun approach to catechesis.

We Catholic bloggers must ponder the words and actions of Pope Benedict. If we are to use the web to evangelize other people - especially poorly catechized Catholics and interested non-Catholics, we have to let go of the anger and let love for neighbor backfill that void. When our words are guided by love, the Holy Spirit will lead us in our quest to help others. Early on, several priests at Assumption Grotto encouraged me in this way with regards to discussions. It has taken much time to learn, and I continue to learn and make adjustments.

When we engage in discussions with others on the faith, even on the most sensitive of subjects, we have to work on the charity side of it. An examination of conscience needs to be done regularly in this regard. Bloggers would do well to make use of confession when they realize charity was violated. A good confessor, along with the graces of the sacrament, can go a long way into enabling God to fine tune us like strings on a violin. There is nothing sweeter than a well-tuned instrument and nothing more grand than an entire ensemble of well-tuned instruments in aiding others to see the beauty of our faith.

We can't make anyone play the 10-stringed harp; we must lead them to want to play it!

Now......go read Amy Welborns excellent article: A Uniter, Not a Divider

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

3 comments:

LarryD said...

Very good post, Diane. You express yourself eloquently and sincerely. You and I share a similar background - I was born in '65 and didn't get serious in my faith until 1996 or so. I'm still trying to "walk that narrow path" and sometimes I have more zeal than brains. You point out the importance of always expressing charity when dealing with others, especially those who we may be in disagreement with. The goal is to lead them closer to the flock, not drive them away.
In the case of my blog, I'm trying to show that, like our Lord said, there are "wolves in sheep's clothing", and the damage they do with their relativistic views, malformed consciences and distorted interpretations of Chruch teaching (or just plain disregard for)has to be mitigated and challenged. I'm going to do my best to be charitable, and when I fail to be so, I'll take your words to heart. Probably very few people will read my blog, but those that do need to know that my utmost concern is not to score catechetical points or get in a dig, but to work for the salvation of souls. And that is the highest form of charity I can think of.

Diane K said...

Thanks for your comment Larry.

I'm fortunate to be in a parish where there are several holy and virtuous priests. Some of them are monastic types so the guidance I get comes matter-of-factly in a simple and pure way.

Of the things that they have taught me, I would say that the most important is prayer. They advocate prayer for everyone, but when you take up any kind of apostolate, even if it is simply evangelizing through the web, it must be rooted in prayer.

How can our words touch others if we do not first pray for them? When we pray for them, it leads us to the next thing the priests have emphasized: Love the person with whom you have dialogue, or in the case of blogs, love the target audience. That love will guide the tone. It takes practice and it also takes a good third eye. We have to open ourselves to feedback from virtuous people who try to point things out to us, especially virtuous priests.

As an observation, one thing I have noticed, is that the "zings" we sometimes see in Catholic blogs are not aimed at helping the disbeliever, but in rallying those who are already on board with something. There is nothing wrong with rallying others who are like-minded. But, there is a subtle line we have to watch for, that we do not cross it. That line is charity.

What is the measure of charity? How can we see the measure so that we will know where it lies?

I go back to my first point: Prayer. If every Catholic blogger, who is genuinely blogging out of love for God, His people, and the Catholic faith, spent an hour a week in adoration, the light of God will reveal the line of charity. The measure is Jesus Christ. Deus Caritas Est

Add to that, a holy and virtuous priest with whom bloggers are willing to share those writings where even a mere hint leads us to question if whether we crossed the line, and the graces will come. I say virtuous because priests are human too and may not have the level of spiritual maturity needed to guide us properly. We must ask God to guide us to a virtuous priest in person, or through the web, who can help us. You'll know you have found him when you get some feedback that challenges your writings in light of the Gospel.

Blogging has the opportunity to help individual bloggers take a path of virtue. But, it can only happen through much humility.

The priests at my parish have made another point that has guided me: Strive for souls, not hit counts. Striving for hit counts can result in our posting of topics that are popular and not necessarily good for our readers. In some cases, it can be downright bad them.

Once, when recounting an infamous "halloween Mass" that was going all around the Catholic blogosphere, a protestant who had been following my blog emailed me and told me that seeing that Mass had shaken her fragile exploration of the Catholic faith. Her email, with more details of how that affected her, led to my decision to no longer focus on what I call "the scandal of the day". I realized that airing the Church's dirty laundry ad nauseam was not the way that Christ would choose to lead others to the Light. In fact, those things enrage the very souls involved, ultimately enabling them to entrench themselves in defensiveness.

Those are the things that generate the highest hit counts and create a sense of outrage. It's true that these things need publicity and that publicity can create change. But such things also feed our lower human nature which is always craving gossip-like food.

My prayer for blog readers is that they will watch the amount of time spent on scandalous stories and compare that to the time they read wholesome material. Hit counts should be driven up on wholesome, spiritual posts that enable us to grow. Blogs where an inordinate amount of scandalous stories dominate, should be avoided unless they change. Indirectly, we support them in persisting in a less than virtuous path by driving up their hit count.

If we find ourselves constantly angry and discontent after reading Catholic blogs, then we need to consider how the Angel of Darkness may be feeding our lower nature through what we read at them and go elsewhere.

Diane K said...

I will add another thing about seeking out a virtuous priest to assist us with virtuous blogging. Look for these qualities:

- He is Eucharistic in that he spends time before the Blessed Sacrament daily.

- He is Marian because the Mother of God was a model of humility and obedience - two things necessary for the building of virtue.

- He advocates frequent confession even if only for venial sins or sins of imperfection.

Frequent use of the sacraments - both the Mass and Confession should be staples of a serious Catholic blogger, followed by Eucharistic Adoration and Marian devotion.

A blogger who seeks virtue through these avenues will not be denied.