Friday, September 20, 2013

Catholic Virtual Wars 09 "Orthodoxy without Charity is Not Christianity"

I found a really great section in a sermon by Servant of God, John A. Hardon, SJ that is worth quoting. But, a little lead-in first.

In the seven or so years that I have been blogging, I have gone from feeling angry and outraged at all the problems I see caused by members within the Church -- things that I believe have caused others to go astray. I've spoken about the internal disquiet, also known as, "noise" in the spiritual life that is caused when we dwell in problems -- any kind of problems, including those in the Church.  Our natural instinct may be to fight this kind of evil with the proverbial angry fist, but we might be giving in to our fallen nature.

In my own self, I recognized many years ago that something seemed out of balance with that approach -- the one that is bitter and angry each day at the many perversions of Catholicism that can be found in our parishes, in our Catholic schools, in books and media, and within our dioceses.  What I have come to understand, through the example of solid, orthodox priests in my life during these recent years, is that everything we do must be moderated or tempered by virtue.  Trust me, that is not a popular subject. It doesn't generate hit counts the way the outrage of the day does, sadly.

This understanding isn't limited to my experience with virtuous priests; it comes from prayerful reflection. It comes from studying the lives of the saints in a more wholesome way, taking into account how they interacted with others most of the time, not the one time they threw out a perfectly good put down or hauled off and belted someone.  I hardly think Saint Nicholas wants to be remembered most for punching the heretic Arius; or, Saint Jerome would want to be imitated in the bad side of his choleric temperament.

It's much more fun to talk about what everyone else is doing that is contrary to Church teaching than to spend time studying topics like meekness and gentleness.  Jesus instructed us to be meek and humble of heart in imitation of him (Mt 11:29).  Putting it to practice (and recall that practice does not mean proficiency, but working at it), we might actually learn how to confront problems in a way that is most likely to win the hearts of others.

Think of a time when someone confronted you about something, and they were right, but their mode was so off-putting, that you didn't want to hear it.  Many faithful Catholics push others away, though their message is good and sound.  Their mode or style fails them as their approach has all the delicacy of an axman going after a cluster of trees on Monday morning.

I was thinking of a good analogy, and this might help make the point.  The mixture of vinegar and oil make the salad taste well.  In the same way, knowledge of our faith must be mixed with virtues in practice. In this way, the sum of our faith is most palatable to others.

As I watch Catholics on the web engage one another, mindful of my own un-virtuous contributions at times, I can't help but think we must spend much more time studying the virtues.  In this Catholic Virtual War series (click and scroll) I have hit the point many times that it's not enough to know the dogmas and doctrines of the faith; we have to teach it in  a way that is led by the virtues.

Without further delay, here is something I want to share from the archives of Fr. Hardon's writings.  This comes from a sermon: The Essence of Christianity: Loving the Unlovable.

Orthodoxy without Charity is Not Christianity 
We are living in the most convulsive age in human history. We are living in an age, our century, where there have been more martyrs for Christ than all the nineteen hundred years from Calvary put together. Yet, as deeply and as terrifyingly as our Faith is being challenged let’s make sure we know what Christianity really is. Of course we must believe. We must be orthodox believers. We must believe that Christ is the living God who became Man. We must believe that His mother is the Mother of God. We must believe that Jesus Christ is on earth in the Holy Eucharist. We must believe how the Bishop of Rome is the Vicar of Christ. 
We call that orthodoxy. But I want to be very plain, orthodoxy is not enough. One of my favorite phrases is “orthodoxy without charity is not Christianity”. 
In other words, we must have, dear God, a strong, dare I say it, heroic faith in our day. When bishops are openly declaring, “I, I am the Vicar of Christ”, we’d better have a strong faith. But faith, otherwise known as orthodoxy is not enough. It must be faith joined with selfless charity. And that my friends, that is what will convert, and I hope you agree with me, a paganized America. 
Once a Christian nation, millions have lost their faith in Jesus Christ. But if we’re going to retrieve these lost Christians, some sadly, members of our own family, people who are nearest and dearest to us, we must not only believe strongly, we must love selflessly, and of the very ones who don’t love us. It is then faith combined with Christ-like charity that will convert. And how our country needs re-conversion beginning with the two capitals of paganism in America. You may be surprised. They are Chicago and Detroit. 
Lord Jesus, make us channels of your grace to others. Deepen our faith in you as our God; our trust in you as a source of all the strength we need in today’s unbelieving world. But above all, dear Jesus, give us something of your selfless love so that like you, we too, may be willing to lay down our lives for those who do not love us, because in loving them we will be communicating grace from you through us to them, because dear Jesus, only faith and love can convert a sinful world. Jesus, we love you. Out of love for you we want to love those who do not love us, because in loving them we are showing how deeply we love you who died on Calvary out of love for us. Amen. 
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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