Dec 8, 2014
Which one of us would fail to respond enthusiastically to Pope Francis’ call to wage war on poverty? In a world dominated by technology, no one can ignore the abysmal misery and sub human conditions in which millions of people live. By contrast, some “privileged” people bathe in revolting luxury. No Christian (no human being) can be excused for not trying to alleviate this horrible situation. Tua res agitur. When our brothers are starving, it is our strict duty to feed them.
The question is: how can I, in the frame work of my daily life, in some modest way respond to this call, without joining the order of Mother Teresa of Calcutta? How can each and every one of us become actively engaged in this war? The first step is to make an examination of conscience and ask oneself honestly: what is the role that luxury plays in my personal life? What is luxury? By it, we can refer to the meaningless accumulation of one and the same object. Monks, friars and nuns have one or possibly two pairs of shoes. But how many people in our rich society, have an army of them with the inevitable consequence that, unless they change shoes several times a day, their purchase was meaningless luxury. Before yielding to the temptation to buy another pair (for the fashion purposely keeps changing), it might be lovingly wise to picture that the money involved could feed a starving family, living in a pig sty. Granted that people who make the headlines, and are constantly in the news, need more clothing and more shoes than the average person, there is always a danger to become addicted to possession as such. This is something that priests ought to remind us of in their homilies. Yet, how often is the word “luxury” — the devil’s make up — mentioned in churches? Even those of us who live “modestly” (and this is a very relative concept) can beat their breast: one only needs open a closet and ask oneself honestly: was this necessary? The excuses are many: it was on sale; my professional work requires change; I might need it next year. We are all talented at self justification: potentially we are all very clever lawyers.
Luxury can also refer to things which are totally meaningless, and are bought because they make us forget for a brief moment the metaphysical boredom affecting millions of people.
None of us has chosen his physical appearance, and rare of those pleased with what they see when facing a mirror. There is a Narcissus lying dormant in most of us: what a marvelous feeling it must be to be enchanted with one’s appearance with the inevitable temptation of admiringly spending much time in front of a mirror. Now the miracle “science” called “cosmetics” promises that “beauty” is available to all of us, if only we become its faithful disciples. Anyone entering a department store, or looking at a flyer from CVS, will be informed about the new “miracle” products which guarantee that we shall become the beauty that we are entitled to be.
Legitimate as it is to care properly for one’s physical appearance, (sloppiness is not a virtue), this should be not confused with addiction to beauty products. It is, alas, a fact, that the amount of money spent on these very expensive items could feed a starving family for weeks or even months. Even though I might be accused of cynicism, I am convinced that it is pure illusion to assume that more makeup, more black, more red, will in fact improve one’s appearance. Pain killers, sleeping pills, drugs are addictive, but so are “cosmetics”: in order to obtain the same result, one must keep increasing the dose originally given, the final result being that a face becomes a mask. Geishas are the endless duplication of a “type”.
St. Francis of Sales urges his spiritual children “...to be always properly attired , but without show or affectation”. (Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, 25) It is a subtle form of charity. Which one of us would like to share a meal with someone whose nails are “in mourning”, whose hair is greasy, whose hands are dirty, whose clothing is stained, with someone who, like cats, shuns water.Granted that it is legitimate to correct a defect such as crooked teeth, but in our decadent society, we are brain washed into believing that to spend much time and money on improving our appearance is a social duty. Cosmetic surgery is a billion dollar business, and is “not yet” covered by medicare. Who knows: a truly socialistic state might one day provide this service. For socialism promises an earthly paradise, and this includes that we are pleased with our bodily appearance.Granted that this “duty” is onerous and takes a lot of our time, it is justified by the “stunning” results that can be achieved by those who have mastered this art.
A morally decadent society is one in which cosmetics reigns supreme and luxury has become a necessity. An ex student of mine—a refugee from Cuba—told me that, cut off from her family for many years, and fearing rightly that they might be close to starvation, as soon as contact was re-established, asked her sister what were the items she needed most: cereals, can food, clothing, medicines? The prompt answer was that what she most wanted were beauty products!
There is another curse in rich societies; to succumb to a law of gravity that identifies new with beautiful. The main concern for “modern man” is that it reflects the spirit of the time, is exciting, attracts attention. Novelty is glorified.Plato remarked that in education, it is crucially important to expose a child to true beauty. It will prove to be a powerful protection against the cult of ugliness: for a child so formed will instinctively reject whatever is coarse and vulgar, but alas, in our society children already as toddlers are exposed to this “disease”. I am referring to modern cartoons to teach them their faith: many of them are so grotesquely ugly that is inconceivable that a child could believe them to be representing Christ, or His Holy Mother, of any of the saints. God is Beauty, just as He is Truth and Goodness, this is why beauty is so crucial in religious ceremonies—something more and more forgotten today even by prelates who should know better: they should be beautiful—so should religious vestments—because they glorify God, not the person wearing them.More and more inane fashions have now penetrated our society: one of them being the insane idea of painting one’s nails green or dark blue. Not only is it an offense against the beauty of God’s creation, but it is revoltingly garish and vulgar. Yet, it is gaining currency. Some mothers even paint the nails of their toddlers. Anyone tempted to buy such nonsense would do well to think for a few seconds that the money spent on such idiocies could feed a whole family for weeks and would then reject with horror this stupid temptation.
Any society is to be judged according to its priorities. We know a great deal about a person if we know what his hierarchy of values is, that is whether he distinguishes between what is essential and non-essential, between an authentic value, what is beneficial and what is merely subjectively satisfying. A society in which self fulfillment, immediate satisfaction, yielding to any craving, are viewed as a “right”, is a society that has dug its own grave. A rich society is, alas, often a society in which money, power, fame, success are the standards of greatness. We are far from the age in which holiness was viewed as a person’s supreme achievement, that is the recognition that to love and serve God is the “Unum necessarium”.
We are not responsible for the face we are born with, but our love of God and neighbor (guaranteeing true self love) will determine the face we shall have in eternity. Saints invite us too use holy cosmetics: charity, generosity, selflessness, concern for others are the best means of making oneself beautiful for eternity.
Man is made for immortality and it is only against the background of eternity that he can understand his calling to live as a person and not as an animal for which the satisfaction of instincts and cravings is a top priority.
This leads me to the heart of this article. How many of us are reminded in homilies,in the class room, that one of the main causes of poverty is vice. In our “brave new world“, co habitation has become a matter of course. It actually means sexual satisfaction without either responsibility or commitment. When done in the past, it was done “under cover”, but today not only is it advertised as “normal”, but moreover, as fully legitimate. Instincts have their “rights”, but if it is financially wiser to postpone committing oneself, these rights have to be respected.
Let us face it: war against poverty is a losing battle unless we fight one of its main causes. Professor Jerome Lejeune devoted his life to trying to help those afflicted by grave diseases which condemned them to live in misery and suffering, but his love for the afflicted taught him that one crucial concern should be to fight the causes of disease: to alleviate the pains and sufferings of our neighbors is, as mentioned, is a strict moral duty; but this might make some of us forget to fight the enemy frontally and attack the causes of very many of these miseries.
How many people are infected with AIDS infect others because of their “lifestyle”. How many people have contagious sexual diseases; a wide variety of sexual partners is a very risky business; alcoholism inevitably leads to human and financial disaster; the same is true of any addiction. Homosexuality being “against nature”—as already mentioned by Plato twenty five centuries ago—is a moral cancer that destroys society for it inevitably kills its heart: the family. That some children have two fathers, and no mother, or two mothers and no father, cries to heaven and is a diabolical invention and to our shame has been legalized. Let us face this truth: a society that legalized the murder of the innocents and gives its place to perversions, is committing suicide.
Schools and universities infected by subjectivism and relativism have gravely failed to perform their noble mission to “educate”; to help young people understand the nobility of personhood and the duty to live according to its demands: noblesse oblige. Those of us who have taught in contemporary colleges and universities, must sadly acknowledge that the “spirit of the time”—the conviction that we have a right to satisfy any craving—has become their dogma. Having betrayed their mission to teach truth, they are in fact “traitors”.
Any society that denies the dignity of marriage, a commitment for life of one man to one woman as proclaimed by God Himself in Genesis, is doomed. Today, there are millions and millions of single mothers—often condemned to live in poverty and misery: fathers have disappeared. A permissive society is a society driving toward an abyss while purposely closing its eyes to the danger.
To eliminate a high percentage of suffering, let us fight the perverse philosophy that is now the warp and woof of our decadent society. How right Mother Teresa of Calcutta was when she claimed that physical poverty is not the worse type of poverty. St. Paul wrote that there are things which should not even be mentioned among us: one of them is “self sex marriage” the sound of which is so shockingly discordant that it must enchant the choir of Screwtape’s disciples. The paradoxical duty of Catholics—nay of every Christian, of every man of good will—is to fight this abomination while showing loving concern to those who have caught this deadly moral disease. It is one of these remarkable Christian paradoxes: hate the sin, love the sinner.
Vice, perversion, immorality, are expressions of man’s refusal to serve God and obey his commands echoing: Lucifer’s words: non serviam.
Inevitably every single second brings us closer to the end of the world. The Evil One, conscious that he is running out of time, doubles his vicious attacks in his last desperate effort to wage war on God. To create confusion is today one of his most efficient tools: to call good evil and evil good. (Isaiah 5-20) To make us believe that to show authentic “Christian” compassion, to those addicted to a vice against nature, we must show our understanding for homosexuality, and spread the lying rumor that just as years ago, the Civil Rights movement opened people’s eyes to the idiocy of racism, so today the clarion call is to convince people that to oppose same sex marriage is another shocking injustice that must be corrected. This claim is to purposely create a diabolical confusion: but whereas no one is responsible for the color of his skin, the same is not true for acts that are against nature. I leave it to experts to determine whether or not this tendency is innate or acquired, this is not the question: what matters is to realize that it is morally relevant, and therefore linked to personal responsibility. A society endorsing moral perversions is a doomed society: the only solution is “revertere ad Dominum”. We are running out of time: May He have mercy on us.