Sunday, May 19, 2013

Seeing the Horizon

Quite a few Catholics smile now and then, some of us occasionally seem cheerful, and Catholic fundraisers are notorious for their acceptance of gambling: Bingo, usually.

By some standards, we're not very 'religious.'

Setting the Tone

I grew up where quite a few folks were 'Christian' at the top of their lungs. Many seemed dedicated to proving that religion was a psychiatric condition, and some were downright grim.

On the 'up' side, their goofy version of spirituality started me on a search that led to my becoming a Catholic.

Even Americans who don't commit evangelization with a blunt Bible often assume that being grim and being Christian go together. Evangelization, by the way, is part of our job: and that's another topic. (October 7, 2012)

The 'oh woe all ye faithful' part of America's version of religion and spirituality goes back a long time.
"Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."
H. L. Mencken, The Quotations Page
Puritans weren't the only ones with a somewhat strict approach to their faith, and that's yet another topic:

Pickled Peppers

Happily, being a Catholic means that I'm allowed to be happy.
"Pope: Sad Christian faces are like pickled peppers"
CNA/EWTN News (May 10, 2013)

"Pope Francis underscored the importance of being joyful by contrasting sad Christian faces - which are more like 'pickled peppers' - with the testimony of a beautiful life.

" 'Sometimes these melancholic Christians' faces have more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life,' Pope Francis said May 10....
Looks like "melancholic Christians," aren't limited to America. Maybe it's part of human nature, maybe it's connected with the vein of dualism that runs through Western civilization:
Perennial pessimism might make sense for someone who didn't see much hope for the present or future. For someone who takes Jesus seriously - and that's still another topic. (January 13, 2011)

I've put excerpts from another news item about what the Pope said at the end of this post, one that includes more of what Pope Francis said.1

Fun is Good: Joy is Better

"...'If we keep this joy to ourselves it will make us sick in the end, our hearts will grow old and wrinkled and our faces will no longer transmit that great joy, only nostalgia and melancholy which is not healthy,' he added....

"...The pontiff told them Christians should not keep joy 'bottled up' for themselves because they risk becoming nostalgic.

"Christian joy is not like 'having fun, which is good,' he explained, rather it 'is more, it is something else.'

" 'If we want to have fun all the time, in the end it becomes shallow, superficial, and also leads us to that state where we lack Christian wisdom, it makes us a little bit stupid, naive, no?' Pope Francis said...."
(CNA/EWTN News)
I like that: Having fun is okay, but it's possible to have too much of a good thing.

About happiness, it isn't the same as giggling all the time. Being who we are supposed to be is closer to the mark:
"HAPPINESS: Joy and beatitude over receiving the fulfillment of our vocation as creatures: a sharing in the divine nature and the vision of God. God put us into the world to know, love, and serve him, and so come to the happiness of paradise (1720)." (Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Complete, unmixed, full-bore joy won't come in this world, but we get a sort of preview now and then. (Catechism, 1803, 1804, 1820-1832)

Eyes on the Horizon

"...'Joy is something that does not come from short term economic reasons, from momentary reasons, it is something deeper, it is a gift,'...

"...The pontiff described joy as 'a gift from God' that 'fills us from within' and 'cannot be held at heel, it must be let go.'

" 'It is a virtue of the great, of those great ones who rise above the little things in life, above human pettiness,' said Pope Francis.

"He explained that it is a virtue 'of those who will not allow themselves to be dragged into those little things within the community, within the Church' and that 'they always look to the horizon.'..."
(CNA/EWTN News)
I don't always see the horizon, but I'm learning to keep my eyes on the horizon: and what lies beyond.

Related posts:
Background:
1 Excerpt from the news:
"Pope at Mass: Christian joy far from simple fun"
Vatican Radio, via News.va (May 10, 2013)

"(Vatican Radio) Christian joy is a pilgrim joy that we cannot keep ‘bottled up’ for ourselves, or we risk becoming a 'melancholy' and 'nostalgic' community. Moreover, Christian joy is far from simple fun. It is something deeper than fleeting happiness, because it is rooted in our certainty that Jesus Christ is with God and with us.

"This is the lesson that Pope Francis drew from the Acts of the Apostles at Friday morning Mass as he described the disciples joy in the days between our Lord's Ascension and Pentecost and what we can learn from them....

"...'A Christian is a man and a woman of joy. Jesus teaches us this, the Church teaches us this, in a special way in this [liturgical]time. What is this joy? Is it having fun? No: it is not the same. Fun is good, eh? Having fun is good. But joy is more, it is something else. It is something that does not come from short term economic reasons, from momentary reasons : it is something deeper. It is a gift. Fun, if we want to have fun all the time, in the end becomes shallow, superficial, and also leads us to that state where we lack Christian wisdom, it makes us a little bit stupid, naive, no?, Everything is fun ... no. Joy is another thing. Joy is a gift from God. It fills us from within. It is like an anointing of the Spirit. And this joy is the certainty that Jesus is with us and with the Father'.

"A man of joy, the Pope continued, is a confident man. Sure that 'Jesus is with us, that Jesus is with the Father.' He asked: Can we 'bottle up' this joy in order to always have it with us?

" 'No, because if we keep this joy to ourselves it will make us sick in the end, our hearts will grow old and wrinkled and our faces will no longer transmit that great joy only nostalgia, melancholy which is not healthy. Sometimes these melancholy Christians faces have more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life. Joy cannot be held at heel: it must be let go. Joy is a pilgrim virtue. It is a gift that walks, walks on the path of life, that walks with Jesus: preaching, proclaiming Jesus, proclaiming joy, lengthens and widens that path. It is a virtue of the Great, of those Great ones who rise above the little things in life, above human pettiness, of those who will not allow themselves to be dragged into those little things within the community, within the Church: they always look to the horizon'.

"...Joy is a 'pilgrim,' Pope Francis reiterated. 'The Christian sings with joy, and walks, and carries this joy.' It is a virtue of the path, actually more than a virtue it is a gift:

" 'It is the gift that brings us to the virtue of magnanimity. The Christian is magnanimous, he or she cannot be timorous: the Christian is magnanimous. And magnanimity is the virtue of breath, the virtue of always going forward, but with a spirit full of the Holy Spirit. Joy is a grace that we ask of the Lord. These days in a special way, because the Church is invited, the Church invites us to ask for the joy and also desire: that which propels the Christian's life forward is desire. The greater your desire, the greater your joy will be. The Christian is a man, is a woman of desire: always desire more on the path of life. We ask the Lord for this grace, this gift of the Spirit: Christian joy. Far from sorrow, far from simple fun ... it is something else. It is a grace we must seek'...."

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