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"Complacent Catholic -- Do Not Disturb"

by Lois Donahue

Way, way, way back I wrote telling you I was a ‘confident and content’ Catholic. Confident because, in looking at the world around me, I saw and heard so many different ways in which what God had to say to us was interpreted and presented that it only made sense to me that God – knowing our humanity so well – would funnel the fullness of His truth through one source – one church - that He would provide a reliable authority we could turn to when we were confused by contradictions and plagued with questions.

I’m not in any way implying that God would disallow other “faiths” to share with the world whatever truths the Holy Spirit make known to them. But let’s face it – when it came down to “true or not true”, wouldn’t it be logical that He would have seen to it that we would have a place to turn with CONFIDENCE for the answers and the guidance He wanted us to have and knew we needed? Since I had found that place in the Catholic Church, where and how would I find spiritual CONTENTMENT except in listening to the voice of the Church He identified as “His” and trying my best to live according to its official teaching? So far so good but, unfortunately, from ‘confident and content’ I too easily slipped into a state of COMPLACENCY (defined in the dictionary as – “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often unaware of some potential danger”). I confess that, in a way, I had wrapped myself in a kind of self-styled cocoon and then pretty much hung out a neon sign flashing “Do Not Disturb”. I allowed myself to become somewhat of a spiritual hermit – living in my quite comfortable cocoon dealing comparatively well with what I considered to be the basics of what God expected of me – ‘keep My commandments’ – ‘love thy neighbor’ – ‘do unto others’ etc. All the while living under the absurd assumption that I knew the mind of God. I didn’t want to be bothered with anything ‘disturbing’ which might be happening in the world around me. Even when my conscience prodded me into at least half-listening to voices outside my cocoon … even when I began to sense that all was not well, I defensively adapted the it’s-not-my-problem attitude. However, my conscience overcame my stubbornness and I finally became aware that, at least in a great number of cases, “it was my problem” or as we’ve heard so often – if you don’t become part of the solution, you remain part of the problem….and certainly in this day and age our world has an over abundance of problems.

About then, God, with the wisdom of His Fatherly tough-love, saw to it that I remembered hearing a very wise priest explain that ‘God had not randomly created us…that each and everyone of us was intentionally put into this world with an individualized mission, be it large or small, whether, in the eyes of the world, it be noteworthy or insignificant,…a mission which was a significant part of His plan for salvation and chosen by God to accommodate the gifts He chose to give us and the circumstances He knew lay ahead in our lives.’ Well that was the end of my impenetrable cocoon in which I had lived much like someone who had been given an entry-level position in a family owned business and was then presumptuous enough to write her own very minimal job description. But now things were different and my immediate response was – ‘Oh great, God has given me a job and I haven’t the vaguest idea exactly what it is.’ (You see, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do well without explicit instruction. I’ve kind of lived with the nonsensical wish that when God wants me to do something He would get some white poster board, a black felt pen and give me specifics like “Lois, when this happens, you do this..” – (followed by clearly defined detail)

Not surprisingly, this time (as usual) no felt-penned poster board dropped from heaven. However, thanks to God and a persistent conscience, I finally did admit to myself that my attempt to completely escape from the human world was definitely not what God had in mind for those of us who were part of the ‘laity’ of our Church. I accepted the fact that our mission, our job, our responsibility lay in the reality of the kind of taken-for-granted world of our everyday lives. (As today’s Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it – “By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and direct them according to God’s will.” #898 and then it adds – This duty is more pressing when it is ONLY THROUGH THEM that men can hear the gospel and know Christ.” #900

The realization that God wanted me to be involved in the social, economic and political realities of my personal life came a good many years ago and leaves me today with two things to admit. First – that, in no way, have I even come close to earning a gold star for replacing good intentions with “doing something” and Second – that this part of my mission as a Catholic lay woman has become much more demanding. Maybe it’s just me but I see so many things in today’s popular culture that seem to be attacking life as God meant it to be. (Oh, that brings to mind the humorous comment “seeing what’s going on in this country must tempt God to dig up Sodom and Gomorrah and apologize.”)

But back to those ‘so many things’ I just referred to, let me list a few:

Sanity is out; insanity is in.

Morality is out; pornography is in.

God is out; dubious spirituality is in.

Discipline is out; ‘anything goes’ is in.

Killing the unborn and the elderly is out; saving a two inch, 6 oz rodent is in.

Ethics is out; ‘whatever works’ is in.

Good taste is out; ‘shock’ is in.

Personal responsibility is out; filing a law suit is in.

Well-informed voting is out; apathy and thoughtless ‘break it-burn it-destroy it’ protesting is in.

One last thing --- personally I’m discouraged that so many have apparently forgotten the teaching of the ‘real’ Bible and instead choose to live according to the far less demanding message found in what has been defined as the ‘nice’ gospel --- be nice – be understanding – be open minded no matter what—which reminds me of Chesterton’s words, “don’t be so open minded your brains fall out”. To sum it up – it’s a mess out there folks.

Perhaps I am sounding excessively cynical but what is probably responsible for that is an article I recently read reminding, or perhaps I should say warning, us of what our children and our grandchildren might be facing in the years to come if this trend is allowed to continue. This left me wondering both, if I have contributed to the ‘mess’ being passed on to them, either by what I have or haven’t done, and if I have helped or hindered giving them the strong foundation of faith they will need to deal with whatever awaits them.

Oh, I know there’s always hope. However, listening to my conscience’s on-going repetition of the familiar ‘for evil to triumph requires only that those standing for what is good do nothing’, I’ve come to believe that, while prayer is certainly always the essential faith dimension of hope, there are situations when God, in a way, puts some of His own ‘faith’ in us…as the words of St. Augustine tell us, “The God who created you without you - will not save you without you”. And that seems to have brought us right back to our ‘mission’ of standing up for what is good and speaking out against what is evil in the day-to-day happenings of this misguided world.

Let me close by assuring you I’ve pretty much given up on the whole “poster board” thing and have long since come to the conclusion that each and everyone of us must make our own “what and when” decisions. Consequently, I figure the best thing for me to do is to follow life’s path – hoping and praying I will not only recognize any ‘mission’ opportunities along the way but that I’ll have the good sense and the courage to respond. Who knows, as a believer in miracles and with a great abundance of God ‘s help someday I just might be able to talk myself into believing that I’m not only a confident and content Catholic but, at least in a marginalized sense, a courageous one. We’ll see.

Now I leave you with the challenging words of a man named Richard Bach which someone once shared with me – “Here’s a test to find out if your mission on Earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t”.

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"Nothing should
frighten or grieve you.
Let not your heart be troubled. Am I, your Mother,
not here with you?"

"Nothing should
frighten or grieve you.
Let not your heart be troubled. Am I, your Mother,
not here with you?"

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