Sunday, July 22, 2012

"The World is On Fire" - Again: Saint Teresa of Avila and the New Evangelization

Information Age technology, like almost everything else, is 'good news/bad news'.

First, the good news.

Just about anyone with Internet access can share ideas, opinions, and viewpoints.

It's a wonderful way to learn how others see the world, and let others discover your point of view.

Now, the bad news.

The same technology can broadcast emotional outbursts. These rants might prompt sympathy from friends, or simply be ignored by the person's friends and acquaintances. Even if they don't share the person's views, they probably understand why their friend is upset, and can 'make allowances.'

For someone who's not part of the person's 'in' group, that fervent statement is likely to look like a lot of crazy talk. A kernel of truth, if present, gets buried in a pile of feelings and assumptions.

That's why I try to be careful about what I post. Enough folks already think the Catholic Church is obsolete and irrelevant, without me reinforcing that notion.

St. Teresa of Avila:
Reform, Yes; "Going Back," No

I think anxiety comes easily in times when society is in upheaval: new technologies changing how folks live; people turning away from the faith their parents took for granted; and upstart nations challenging established powers.

I'm cautiously optimistic, though, about the future.

That's partly because I know a bit about history. That 'society in upheaval' was Europe in the 1500s. Benedict XVI talked about that era, how one woman's actions made a difference then: and how Teresa of Avila can be a role model for Catholics today.
"Pope presents St. Teresa of Avila as model for evangelization"
David Kerr, CNA/EWTN News (July 16, 2012)

"Pope Benedict XVI believes that 16th-century Saint Teresa of Avila is a model for current efforts to launch the New Evangelization.

" 'The ultimate goal of Teresa's reform and the creation of new monasteries in a world lacking spiritual values was to protect apostolic work with prayer,' the Pope said July 16.

" 'Today too, as in the sixteenth century, in the midst of rapid transformation, it is important that trusting prayer be the heart of the apostolate, so that the redeeming message of Jesus Christ may sound out clearly and dynamically,' he added...."
Teresa of Avila started her Carmelite reform 450 years ago, when she founded the Monastery of St. Joseph. The CNA/EWTN News article has more about what the Pope said, including:

"The World is On Fire"

"...In promoting a 'radical return' to a more austere form of Carmelite life, St. Teresa sought 'to create a form of life which favored a personal encounter with the Lord,' the Pope explained.

"Rather than harking back to the past, however, St. Teresa presented 'a new way of being Carmelite' to 'a world which was also new,' Pope Benedict observed. He quoted the Spanish saint's own writings to her religious sisters in which she summed up the 'difficult times' in which they lived.

" 'The world is on fire,' wrote St. Teresa of post-Reformation Europe. 'Men try to condemn Christ once again. They would raze His Church to the ground. No, my sisters, this is no time to treat with God for things of little importance.'

" 'Does this luminous and engaging call, written more than four centuries ago by the mystic saint, not sound familiar in our own times?' asked Pope Benedict in response...."
(David Kerr, CNA/EWTN News)
"The world is on fire" sounds like something written today, or any time since about World War I. The last century hasn't been 'just like' 16th century Europe's experience: but I think there are some parallels.

New technology, from flush toilets and bottled beer to the Mercator map projection was upsetting the serenity of folks in the 16th century. On the political and social front, northern princes embraced Protestant theology. I suspect that 'liberation' from southern Europe's economic and political control was a big factor there.

These days, we've gone from zeppelins and neon lights to the Internet and industrial robots in a few generations. At the same time, European empires were dissolving while shrill secularists and Bible-thumping Luddites agreed that science and religion were completely incompatible. More about that later.

More about new technology in 'recent' centuries:

"The 'Exhilarating Task' of the New Evangelization"

The Catholic Church is old: ancient. For two millennia, we've had the same basic message: love God, love your neighbor (Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825); and everybody's your neighbor (Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825).

'Ancient' and 'consistent' isn't the same as 'decrepit' and 'outdated.'

As a Catholic, I'm expected to love God, love my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor. But I'm not expected to stubbornly cling to the way folks did things in 'the good old days.'

Benedict XVI says we're supposed to use "...methods free from inertia...." That doesn't sound like a strident call to start using quill pens and 19th-century elocution:
"...In the 'exhilarating task' of the New Evangelization, he said, the example of St. Teresa should inspire all Christians because she 'evangelized unhesitatingly, showing tireless ardor, employing methods free from inertia and using expressions bathed in light.'

" 'This remains important in the current time,' said the Pope, 'when there is a pressing need for the baptized to renew their hearts through individual prayer in which, following the guidance of St. Teresa, they also focus on contemplation of Christ's blessed humanity as the only way to reach the glory of God.'"
(David Kerr, CNA/EWTN News)

Living in a Mission Territory

Say 'mission territory,' and many Americans will think of some far-off, exotic place. New York's Cardinal Dolan pointed out that I live in a mission territory: America.

That didn't surprise me as much as it might have. I grew up in a sincerely anti-Catholic area: an experience that led me to become a Catholic. The malignant virtue that drove me to a study of major religions - and eventually to the Catholic Church - may have driven others away from Christianity, or any religion. And that's not quite another topic.

Here's an excerpt from Cardinal Dolan's post. I recommend reading the whole thing:
"Mission Territories"
Cardinal Dolan, The Gospel in the Digital Age (July 17, 2012)

"...Maybe, we have gotten way too smug. We have taken our Catholic faith for granted. As Archbishop Chaput observed, the big problem is a dullness that has 'seeped into church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it . . .These problems kill a Christian love . . . they choke off a real life of faith..'

"...No more taking our Catholic faith for granted!

"No more relaxing in the great things the church has accomplished in the past!

"Cynicism is replaced by confidence . . .

"Hand-wringing by hand-folding . . .

"Dullness by dare . . ....

"...Keeping our faith to ourselves to letting it shine to others!

"This is the New Evangelization!..."

Accepting Creation 'As Is'

I think it's sensible to assume that God is:
  • Smarter than I am
  • Capable of making decisions without my help
  • Honest
That's why I think it's:
  • Prudent to take God's creation 'as is'
  • Possible to learn about the universe
  • Okay to use the brains God gave us
I posted about this Friday:
I can understand why dedicated secularists want to believe that faith and reason are incompatible, and that someone can't be religious and accept the world as it really is. Folks who are loudly religious making the same claims? That, to me, doesn't make so much sense.

An excerpt from the USCCB Blog, overlapping the one I used in Friday's post:
"Faith, Science and a Grownup's God"
USCCB Blog (July 17, 2012)

"...To better understand these points about faith, science and the nature of existence, it's helpful to look at another infamous faith/science flash point: evolution. Like the discovery of the Higgs particle, evolution involved scientific discovery seemingly stepping into territory reserved for God in the Genesis creation accounts. And as the ensuing culture wars have played out from the Scopes Monkey Trial of the 1920s down to the various Intelligent Design-themed skirmishes on school boards, one suspiciously absent player has been the Catholic Church...."

"...In both the origins of the universe and the species, the Catholic Church affirms the important work of science and, implicitly, calls on everyone, Catholic or not, to a more mature understanding of who God is and how God works. It's easy for physicists (and just about anyone, for that matter) to write off religion as somewhere between outdated and laughable when its adherents insist on presenting God, in the words of singer-songwriter Regina Spektor, 'like a genie who does magic like Houdini or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus.'

"With this perception, there is nothing surprising about a lopsided commentary that couples an advanced grasp of science with an elementary grasp of God. It should challenge believers to approach their faith in such a way that, the next time something as tiny as a subatomic particle has universe-defining implications, no one will be able to say, in the the words of the Anglican scholar J.B. Phillips: 'Your God is too small.' "
I see no reason to ignore the wonders that God has designed into every part of creation: or to assume that it's wrong to be interested in my Lord's handiwork. More about that in 'Related posts - Science and religion.'

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

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