Last week, we looked at an isolated little town of our own making called Apathy-ville. We looked at how we got here, and why we are called to reject apathy in favor of fortitude and action.
“Really, most of us live below the level of our energy. And in order to be happy, we have to do more. Now, we can do more, spiritually and every other way. . . so you see how important it is to have in the mind to do all that you can. To work to the limit of your ability. Our world is really suffering from indifference. Indifference is apathy, not caring. I wonder maybe if our Lord does not suffer more from our indifference, than he did from the Crucifixion.”
Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Escaping from Apathy-ville is actually an acceptance of what it means to be Catholic! But is simply being Catholic enough to motivate everyone to authentically embrace the responsibilities of our faith? One would hope so, but perhaps we need these additional reminders:
1. We all received the call to holiness at our Baptism.
“The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by his Spirit, they are ‘holy’. They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do. The apostle Paul never tires of admonishing all Christians to live ‘as is fitting among saints’ (Eph 5:3)” (Pope St. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 16).
2. God made us for Heaven, not this place.
Peter Kreeft reminds us. ”The big, blazing truth about man is that he has a heaven-sized hole in his heart, and nothing else can fill it. We pass our lives trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles. As St. Augustine said: ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
This is not our desitination. We are on a journey to somewhere else. St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote, “We must always remind ourselves that we are pilgrims until we arrive at our heavenly homeland, and we must not let our affections delay us in the roadside inns and lands through which we pass, otherwise we will forget our destination and lose interest in our final goal.”
British author C. S. Lewis echoed this when he said, ”I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”
Please reflect carefully on these two points as we can clearly see how to conduct ourselves on our faith journeys (the call to holiness) and our final destination (Heaven). As Catholics, we are set apart and therefore not to allow ourselves to be assimilated into the surrounding culture. It requires courage, trials and often loneliness to walk this path, but we know what our final reward will be if we embrace our calling.
5 Ways to Escape
How do we escape Apathy-ville? First, we need to acknowledge that perhaps our personal response (and indifference) to the challenges the Church faces is woefully inadequate. Second, we must truly desire to do something about it. Last week, I quoted the teaching of Our Lord and the wisdom of the Saints and others in an effort to illuminate the right path. I have reminded us of the call to holiness which we received at our Baptism and that we are all made for Heaven, and not this place. What else do we require to leave Apathy-ville? Here are five tips:
- Stop practicing “Cafeteria Catholicism.” We can’t pick and choose what we believe and still be authentically Catholic. Follow the Magisterium and authentically practice our faith, trusting that two millennia of Church history and teaching are far superior to what we may come up with on our own. Do not support political candidates who promote abortion. ”Be Catholic, really, faithfully, unapologetically Catholic, and the future will have the kind of articulate and morally mature leaders it needs.” (Archbishop Emeritus Charles Chaput)
- We can’t explain or defend what we don’t know. We may be indifferent to challenges the Church faces because we don’t understand them. Maybe we believe the lies and half-truths being said about Catholicism because we have forgotten or never bothered to learn the truth of what the Church teaches. Poor faith formation for a generation of Catholics is one of the biggest problems the Church faces today. We have to study our faith-the Bible, the Catechism, parish adult education and a number of online resources are readily available.
- Prayer is the key. We can’t remain apathetic about Christ and His Church if we are conversing with Him in prayer each day. Most indifferent Catholics I have encountered are struggling in their prayer lives and yet, turning our thoughts to Him in prayer, thanking Him and asking for His help can be so easy if we will only surrender and acknowledge that we can’t do it alone.
- Put our pride aside. Peter Kreeft wrote: ”The national anthem of Hell is ‘I did it my way.” It must take a pretty big ego to show indifference to Christ and His Church! What we need is more humility and a sincere commitment to put Christ’s will before our own. I know from personal experience that doing it my way has never really worked out well.
- Know the enemy. We rarely hear this in homilies these days and little is written about it in contemporary books or articles. But who stands to gain the most by our apathy towards defending the Church? The Devil is the clear winner. Read the Book of Revelation to see the similarities between modern times and the prophetic visions of Saint John. Heed the words of Saint (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina: “Temptations, discouragement and unrest are the wares offered by the enemy. Remember this: if the devil makes noise, it is a sign that he is still outside and not yet within. That which must terrify us is his peace and concord with the human soul. That which comes from Satan begins with calmness and ends in storm, indifference and apathy.”
What could be said about resisting an indifferent attitude towards our Catholic faith would fill several volumes and much more needs to be written and discussed on this subject. My goal is simply to grab your attention, if only for a few minutes, and tell you we are in trouble if we don’t step up in defense of Mother Church. You may ask yourself what gives me the right to challenge you and everyone else about being apathetic.
To put it simply, I am just like many of you. I am human…and I have my struggles with this problem as well. But, I also know full well we can’t continue looking to others to fight issues counter to the teachings of the Church. What is going on matters to us, our children, our friends, neighbors… the entire world.
The last train is ready to leave Apathy-ville… will we be on board?
Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
“St. Michael the Archangel” (detail) – via Wikimedia Commons – Guido Reni [Public domain]