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A Childlike Faith

We are exhorted to have the faith of a little child. What does that mean?
Some people, I think, use that as an excuse not to understand, not to study the faith and the Church’s teachings. But what is the faith of a child, really?

I am a father of four. My children love me and have a faith in me. They trust me in such a way that humbles me. How can I imitate that in my love for and faith in God?

1. They trust me. When I throw my child up in the air, he or she squeals in delight with the sure knowledge that I will catch him or her. When I kiss my son goodnight, he goes to sleep knowing I will be there in the morning. Do I trust God with my very life? Or do I always question Him and try to run my life according to my will?
2. They love me unconditionally. Sure there are the temper tantrums when I do not give them what they want – that is the childish part. But even those always end with them in my arms, enjoying just being with me. Do I love God unconditionally? Do I praise Him even when things don’t go my way? Or do I have fair weather faith? Do I pray more when things are good and abandon Him when things are bad?
3. They are happy to see me. When I get home from work they shriek with excitement and throw their arms around me. I am eager to see the Lord? Do I get excited about the Holy Eucharist? Am I reverent and joyful at Adoration? Or do I leave Mass early and complain when the homily goes over ten minutes?
4. They learn from me. My children are eager to learn from me. They want to know my past, my goals for the future, how I see the world, and how I live in it. They sit at my feet (usually figuratively) and learn from me. Am I eager to learn from the Lord? Do I study scripture? Do I read about the Saints? Do I read the Catechism? Do I pay attention at Mass? Or do I think that all that stuff is for priests and nuns and if I just go to Mass once a week I’ll be ok?
5. They are obedient. This is the most important show of love, to me. When my children are obedient, they are telling me that my word and my desires are more important to them than their own. That is humbling to me, especially as they grow older. It is an awesome responsibility. Do I show God that same obedience? Do I show it to His bride, the Holy Catholic Church? Or do I pick and choose which of His teachings to follow? In my arrogance do I think I know better than 2000 years of teachers, know better than the Lord Himself?

So a childlike faith is not a childish faith. A childish faith has no depth, no substance. It is arrogant. It is based on emotion and is easily led astray.
A childlike faith is trusting, it is full of unconditional love, it is joyful, it is eager to learn, and it is obedient.

Oh God, grant me the faith of a child.

Conspiracies, Illusions, and Truth

While praying today, the thought entered my head that most we are fed from the news and from politicians is illusion. It occurred to me that if one assumes that our political theater is a highly correographed kabuki dance, it all makes so much more sense. The wars in Iraq and Afgh are winding down just in time to let us wind up for war in Iran. The flip-flop in power from democrat to republican to democrat and now back to republican again never changes anything but keeps people excited, thinking that their involvement is changing something. Was the financial crisis a carefully orchestrated power grab? Is the tea party movement just another vehicle to let people vent their frustrations without risking real revolution? Is all of this theater just designed to set the stage for the evil one to consolidate power and create that one-world government necessary to set the stage for antichrist? He numbs the people with fast food, birth control, pornography, drugs and alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, television and movies, video games, and the internet. In that numbness they forget about God and become pliable clay for the antiChrist to mold. What is real, what is manipulated, and what is pure illusion? So hard to discern. People of power will never again put themselves in the position of the French royalty at the end of the 18th century. There will be no more revolutions, and no more guillotine for the deposed aristocrats. The unruly peasants are given the needle and told to anesthetize themselves, and they willingly obey. Our royalty is too smart to just let us starve. They fatten us on poisons and feed our lusts so that we are sated pigs drowning in our own muck.
The only answer, the only way out, is to listen to those difficult words of God. To realize that the kingdom of heaven is in the breast of the righteous follower of Christ. To take up our cross with joy and teach others to take theirs. We have to turn off the television, break our addictions, and ignore the lies and temptations of the corporate and political class. We have to turn our minds and hearts to Christ. Let His Blessed Mother guide us to Him.
And how do we know that our faith, too, isn’t just another illusion? How do we know that the Church isn’t an active player in this grand “conspiracy”? We have to continually ask ourselves the question, “cui bono?” Who benefits?
When we dutifully feed the stock markets through our 401ks, who benefits? Wall street elites. When we treat politics like a professional sport and root root root for our team, who benefits? Career politicians and the invisible puppet masters who are always there no matter which new faces are front and center of our television screen or which names are in front of the (R) or (D) on the ballot. When we throw away most of our income on food that makes us obese, liquor that addicts us, toys and games that steal our intellect, entertainment that inflames us to sin, and activities that keep us docile and dumb, who benefits? The elites who gladly take up that money and tell us what to buy next. When we take out mortgages on houses we cannot afford and then default and go into foreclosure, who benefits? The banks who got all that money in the first place and then get the property, too, so that they can turn around and sell it again to the next chump.
But who benefits when we devote ourselves to God? When we follow the church’s teachings? When we treat marriage as sacred? When we refuse to abort or contracept? When we reach out to the poor and marginalized?
Who benefits? WE DO. Only when God-focused do we decide NOT to hand over our freedom to our betters. Only when God-focused do we gain wisdom rather than dull our senses. Only when God-focused do we gain happiness that is not dependent on getting our next fix of addictive filth. The Church is the antithesis of this secular pusher of lies, this Dr. Feelgood who claims he is just giving us what we want, who claims he is bringing us the blessings of self-esteem, self-satisfaction, self-determination, self-love.
It is not an easy choice, to walk away from the glitz and the saturating lust, to put down the needle (or the glass or the money or the porn or the game or the toy) that promises to let us escape from ourselves, to forget for awhile that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if Bush and Obama are the same or different. It doesn’t matter which conspiracy theories are true or just the fevered imaginations of over eager brains. One conspiracy is true. The conspiracy of the Father of Lies, who wishes to deceive us, to seduce us, to draw us from God. That is the conspiracy we must fight, even if it costs us our lives. And it will.

Fast Food Faith

As Catholics, do we treat the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a fast food joint?
Do we zip in at the last minute, feeling relieved on those Sundays when we actually find our seats before the usher rings the bell and the procession begins?
Do we pump our fists in excitement (discreetly, of course) when we realized that the priest has just given an uncharacteristically short homily?
Do we start checking our watches after communion, congratulating ourselves for not being one of those people who leave early but earnestly praying for Father to fold those altar linens just a little more quickly?
Do we feel frustrated when Father introduces a speaker right before closing prayer?
Do we pack our things and put on our jackets during the final blessing, then wait with calves tensed like sprinters at the starting line for the recession to pass by?
Do we choose our parking spaces for the easiest, quickest getaway?
Do we drive away knowing that the next time we’ll see the parish is next Sunday, when once again we’ll rush in at the last minute, eager to get our weekly Mass obligation over with so that we can get on with our weekend?
No, of course it isn’t we who do that. It’s always someone else, right?

Why do so many Catholics treat our churches like fast food joints and the Body and Blood of the Lord like an extra value meal? Shouldn’t there be something more to it? Even those of us who would never dream of missing a Mass, who pray the rosary daily, go to confession regularly, or who attend eucharistic adoration are guilty of this.
What is the issue? Read Acts Chapter 2and 4. One of the essential elements of Christianity is community. It is in community that we practice love of neighbor. It is in community that we learn. It is in community that we strengthen our faith. When we zip in for Mass, for confession, for adoration, we are setting ourselves as apart from the Catholic community and a part of the world, in spite of our devotions.

A common observation is that protestant churches do a better job of welcoming newcomers and building community. I have often dismissed this fact, saying that church shouldn’t be a social club. Of course that is true, but it misses a bigger point. The reason, I believe, that protestants do a better job of community building is that community is all they have. They don’t have the sacraments, the Mass in particular. Without community, they have no reason to go to church at all. They could read their bibles at home and be just as saved as they think they are.
We are blessed by the sacraments, and they are our first priority. But community is important, too. When a baby is baptized at Mass, it is a wonderful thing to know the family. When a parishioner is ill, it is a wonderful thing to have parish friends call and visit. It is wonderful to have friends who share in the culture-defying values that devoted Catholicism demands. Friends who believe that marriage is forever, that abortion and contraception are evil, that charity and love of God, rather than a desire to get ahead, should drive our actions. Through this community, we truly make one Body of Christ, not a disconnected collection of believers.
So ditch the fast-food. Spend time with your parish family, and enjoy the meal, a true meal of thanksgiving.

About This Blog

Shortly after adopting St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower, as our patron saint, I began to notice certain phrases cropping up in our family conversation. “That’s not very Little Way,” we would admonish ourselves after giving into the temptation to go out to dinner rather than cook together. “That is very Little Way!” we would say after deciding to spend the day collecting items to give away to charity.
St. Thérèse’s Little Way was developed from the perspective of an individual, a cloistered Carmelite nun. How can a family live the Little Way, when we have no choice but to live out our lives engaged and immersed in a world growing increasingly hostile to the Word of God? That it what I am exploring in this blog. At the very least, it will help me to put my thoughts in order, to become a better husband and father. And maybe, just maybe, someone else might read this and find something useful.