Firm belief in creedal tenets is waning, 22% of Catholics worship at the Eucharist to receive Christ’s nourishment, and the Ten Commandments receive a wink and a nod. Time spent in personal prayer, including the praying the Liturgy of the Hours, has been co-opted by distractions. Excessive use of electronic gadgets is one culprit. Bad example and scandal weaken the Body, embarrass the Catholic community, and give Catholicism a bad name. It’s no wonder that Catholicism has been accused of hypocrisy. With few exceptions, the tradition of Catholic culture has lost its authority to influence the age. It is bland and without bite, infected by worldliness, “too much with us.”
The salt has lost its savor. Is the Church deformed, and is it decaying?
Louis Dupré, eminent Catholic layman and cultural historian, together with others, is convinced that “what Christianity needs is genuine Christian interiority for a humanity capable of living a vigorous and free life within one’s culture, whatever its condition may be.” There is no conflict between an interior life and an integral humanism that embraces, from whatever source it may come, all that is true and noble, just and pure, all that is lovable and gracious.
How does Catholicism retrieve its culture and influence in an openly-hostile religious climate? Religiosity repels; so do pietistic platitudes. Instead, smart, sharp, and informed faith attracts because of its predisposition to inner awareness. Those with spiritual depth know that God does matter, and vitally so. Spiritual depth comes with the integration of the divine with the human.
The starting point to interiority is a healthy sense of emptiness, or a sense of helplessness. The autonomous man and woman reject this assertion. Yet, what can we do without God? The Johannine verse, “Lord, to whom shall I go?” You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:67) comforts those who know their need for God.
Objections to Catholicism
Christianity and culture should engage one another, but they don’t always mingle well. The culture would rather see religion concerned with God rather than man, with the absolute and eternal rather than the historical and the transitory. But this is not Christianity. It is true that Catholicism is first a Church at prayer, “but it is also a religion of Revelation, Incarnation, and Communion; a religion that unites the human and divine and sees in history the manifestation of the divine purpose toward the human race.” (Dawson, 18)
The Catholic Arts: Key to the Catholic Faith
When non-Catholics vacation in European countries, what is it that most claims their attention? Catholic art, architecture, and sculpture, and its sacred music, performed in the great cathedrals and even small parish churches. Externals of the Catholic faith are what they first notice and experience. The externals introduce them to the Church giving them the feel of Catholicism, for good or ill. It is to this topic that we shall turn in next week’s essay.