The Catholic faith changes hearts, by nourishing minds. We act, by our will, on what is given to our intellects. So when the intellect is nourished by the divine wisdom given to us by God, and voiced by the Catholic faith, the whole person is converted. We become more like God. We reflect, more acutely, the Divine Character.
How are Catholics’s minds nourished by God? Well there are three main forums or environments where that happens.
“Exposure to the Truth starts with the family”
It starts first in the family. That’s where children are first exposed to the Truth; that is, their first exposure to Catholicism. From crucifixes, to images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to devotional candles, rosary beads, and being taught to pray, this is where exposure, and the application of the truth begins, for a child. It’s also, perhaps, the most substantial exposure, since the family structure brings with it a particular authority that cannot be reflected or mimicked anywhere else. This authority lends credence to the Truth in the mind of a developing child. It builds a child’s trust in the faith, and leads to the discovery of familiarity between the child and God.
Next, a Catholic is further formed and nourished in the Catholic classroom. They’re taught the usual math, science, grammar, and so on. But they’re also taught about their religion, and how it applies to the other things they’re learning, and how it applies to life. They learn that the faith is alive.
“…Catholic is nourished from the pulpit.”
Finally, a Catholic is nourished from the pulpit. That’s where a Catholic’s catechesis—their education about the faith—continues in a way that is unique to the setting of the Holy Mass. They are learning about doctrine—even if the word “doctrine” isn’t used—from the authority of the Church; the priest, who is Christ’s representative in the parish. They’re learning how to interpret and understand the scriptures. They learn from the Church what the Church teaches. They’re learning how the living faith animates and unites the community. They’re learning about Priestly paternity, and communal fraternity. These things not only form the mind, they sustain the person in their path to holiness throughout their lives.
But today, we face an unprecedented crisis throughout the Church culture, and throughout the world. After 50 years of consistent attack, assault, and degradation due to the sexual revolution, divorce, contraception, and the redefinition of marriage, the family is broken. Many families are divided, and where you find families that are not divided, many of them are not teaching their children the faith; some aren’t even living it. And so many children are not being raised in a faith-filled household. In fact it isn’t even uncommon for a child to enter into a religious education program without even having learned basic prayers.
Enrollment in Catholics schools is at an all-time low. Catholic schools are closing. And where schools remain open, it’s difficult to find one that is teaching the faith purely, without reduction or modification by the teachers. Sometimes the teachers barely know the faith themselves, how on earth do we expect them to teach it? Or you also find teachers handing down a disfigurement of the Catholic faith, created by their secularized and modernized opinions of what Catholicism should be. It’s increasingly more difficult to find exceptions to this tragedy.
What we have left, then, is the pulpit. And that is the epicenter of perhaps the greatest tragedy of all; the modern Catholic homily. Now, you can still find priests giving good, strong, enthusiastic homilies, complete with doctrine, theology, and philosophy in a way that can be understood by the average Catholic. Let’s recognize that. There are priests and other homilists who work hard, under enormous pressure, to teach, to catechize, to inspire and challenge their flocks.
“…too often this courage or desire is nowhere to be found”
But all too often this courage or desire is nowhere to be found in far too many parishes throughout the Church. The people are given little-to-no Catholic teaching. They’re not given Catechesis, they’re given pep talks. Motivational speeches laced with “Jesus loves us” and “Jesus is mercy” and “God is love” and “Care for your neighbor”. Those are all true things, and people should be hearing that. But that is not the fullness of the faith. People also need to hear about Catholic doctrine. They need to hear about morality, and applied moral theology. They They need to be reminded that sin is destructive and wrong, that hell is real, and that one can and does lead to the other. They need to be guided in their path to holiness, not a path to feeling good. They need to know that joy doesn’t come from hearing about the Gospel, it comes from living it. They need to understand that living the Gospel doesn’t mean choosing the parts that they like, it means living it in its fullness…every part of it. They need to be prepared for the world they are facing right now in their daily lives. They need to be reminded that abortion is murder, that premarital sex is sinful, and calling it “love making” doesn’t turn it into a virtue. They need to hear that confession is important. They need to hear that the Holy Eucharist is the True body and blood of Christ, and therefor, we must receive His body worthily, and correctly when going up for communion. They need to be taught how to be Catholic. They need to be taught what the faith is, how it applies, why it’s the truth, and why it should change us.
We hear in scripture that Our Lord will separate the wheat from the chaff and judge the sinner, and the righteous, giving each what they justly deserve (heaven, or hell), then in the homily that follows we hear about Jesus’ mercy and love; not about his justice, or his desire that we turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.
The emotions are evangelized this way. Not the mind. It’s a sort of spiritual masturbation. When we reduce the faith to an emotional exercise, we teach people to be self-absorbed, that it should feel good, and make us happy. That it should give us gratification, not challenge. We teach people that we ourselves—NOT the Lord Jesus—are the center of the faith.
We fail to inform their minds of the truth. We give them an archetype of Jesus, and fail to give them the fullness of the TRUE Jesus Christ—the Lord who came to us as redeemer, and will return to us as Just Judge. The Lord who loves us, but loves us with the truth, not with fluff. The Lord who is merciful, but is also just. We fail to give them the True Faith; the faith of challenge, reward, trial, tribulation and glory, the faith of deeper discovery and familiarity with God, the Eternal Truth.
The Catholic Parish is the last hope for the formation of Catholics. And—by and large—that too is failing, just as we have seen in the family, and in Catholic schools. There is a crisis of faith and of courage throughout the Church. There is a crisis of luciferian indifference in many chanceries, where many bishops are more concerned about the accounting books than they are about the formation of the souls placed in their care. Who insist that good priests tone down their homilies, because offending the donors is more terrifying to them than offending our Lord; where losing money is a greater concern to them than losing souls.