Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dying to Ourselves, Dying to Self: Not Exactly a Feel-Good Religion?

This Lent, at Mass, we've been singing "Create in me a clean heart oh God ... If we die to ourselves and live through your death / Then we shall be born again to be blessed in your love."

My son asked me what "die to ourselves" meant.

Good question.

I told him that my take on it was that we were supposed to react to temptation like we were dead. And, that he should ask me again, when I'd had time to do a little research.

Sounds like this is sort of what St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort had in mind, when he wrote:
"...Secondly, in order to empty ourselves of self, we must die daily to ourselves. This involves our renouncing what the powers of the soul and the senses of the body incline us to do...."
That was part of Chapter Two / "Third principle: We must rid ourselves of what is evil in us."

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church" makes similar points in ARTICLE 5
. As usual, terms need to be defined:
"...Feelings or passions are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil."
Since I speak American English, I think something needs to be made clear here. "Passion," in this context, isn't (necessarily) sexual desire. "Love" doesn't (necessarily) involve sex. Don't get me wrong: I think that human sexuality is a hoot. God didn't need to make the way people make more people so much fun - and I'm rather glad He did.

I'm getting off topic: but not by much. Back to the Catechism.

Trust Your Feelings: No!

Back to the Catechism:
"In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will. Passions are said to be voluntary, 'either because they are commanded by the will or because the will does not place obstacles in their way.' It belongs to the perfection of the moral or human good that the passions be governed by reason." (1767)

"Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed...." (1768)
The way I see it, there's nothing wrong with feelings: as long as we're running them, and not the other way around. If you think that sounds cold and hard, I'd agree: as cold and strong as steel; hard and clear as diamond. And, as beautiful and lasting.

God Makes Good Stuff

Man, humanity: not so much. Again with the Catechism: While discussing the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, the Catechism touches on doing things God's way. I've highlighted some points here:
"...Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear 'man'—this is what God has made; when you hear 'sinner'—this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made. . . . When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light." (1458)
That sounds a bit like 'dying to ourselves.'

Catholicism: Not a 'Feel-Good' Faith?

In the long run, I think that all this 'dying to self' and not galloping after every hare-brained impulse feels better than the alternative. But, I'll admit it: Being Catholic isn't for people who want to have bright, happy, feelings, 24/7.

We're not a bunch of dour party-poopers, either. The Lord we worship provided the best drinks at a wedding feast, remember. (John 2)

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

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Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.