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The Pride of the Church (Part I of II)

September 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Pride of the Church (Part I of II)

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The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur (Week 9 of 12)

Apart from personal pride, we have the pride of faith, the most perfidious of all. We complacently scorn those of different belief and think ourselves hardly obliged to extend our charity to them. We consider that Jews, Protestants, or atheists are hardly our brothers in the true sense of that word, brothers who are deeply loved, who deserve our self-sacrifice, and upon whom we are obligated to bestow a respectful esteem.

In regard to such as these, we seem to think anything is allowed, even calumny sometimes, and we seem less concerned with convincing them than offending them. The gentle words of Jesus, and of St. Paul, too, declare that in the future there will be neither Jews nor Gentiles; all that is forgotten. Let those who have engraved upon their hearts the great doctrine of love learn at least to practice it on all their brothers, whoever they may be. Weak and lowly as I am, I will never cease to protest against fanaticism and to proclaim to all Jesus’ law of love. – The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 151 (Daily Thoughts: 1899-1906, Entry Number Seven)

Having recently joined a new parish after moving across the Midwest, I thought the best way to meet people within my new parish community was to get involved right away. My first opportunity arose after that initial Sunday Mass when Lenten prayer groups were announced – to begin the following week. I didn’t think twice before joining, and, having led a Catholic book club in my previous home, I looked forward to praying and sharing deep discussions about various traditions of the Church with new-found friends.

While I did meet some wonderful people, I learned during the first meeting that the prayer group was celebrating its eighth year as an ecumenical effort among Catholics, Presbyterians, and Methodists, hosted by our parish. We spent our entire Lent discussing a broad spectrum of topics we all shared in common. We enjoyed friendly conversations regarding Sacred Scripture and we shared much freeform prayer; but all discussions were sadly devoid of any mention of Mary, the saints, the Eucharist or Confession – topics critical to our spiritual growth.

So often conversations begged for a mention of some great Catholic tradition. But try as I might, those subjects were unwanted, even among other Catholics in the group – this was to be a friendly discussion group, focusing only on those things we shared in common. While I enjoyed meeting new people, as time stretched on into Holy Week, I felt I had been placed in the very awkward position of opening my Home to all the neighbors, while keeping my “controversial” family bound and gagged in the attic.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the above situation is unique to one parish. Rather, it’s endemic of the entire Church.  In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and argue that we no longer suffer from the pride of faith that Elisabeth rebuffs. I believe we suffer from a LACK of pride in our Faith. Not the bad kind of pride – that we can do without. But we are seriously lacking in good pride. The kind of pride you would take in your country, your home or your family. A pride that speaks to family IDENTITY.

Over the past several decades, ecumenism has spread like wildfire within the Church. While some great things have come from that effort, Catholic identity has been severely damaged in the process. In many parishes I’ve attended, I could almost hear Kumbaya playing quietly in the background, as parishioners swayed to and fro, with all the accouterments surrounding Mass seeming almost Protestant in nature (not that there’s anything wrong with Protestant services – but there’s great beauty and purpose in traditional Catholic music, art and reverence).

In all my years as a Catholic, I’ve witnessed very little snubbing of other religions. Most people with whom I’ve come in contact believe that religious affiliation does not matter, as long as you are a “good person.”

Of course, it’s all part of a greater societal trend – that of universal relativism. What’s good for me is good for me; what’s good for you is good for you. There is no truth, and therefore, there is no TRUE religion.

Since there is no TRUE Religion, being Catholic becomes merely one social choice among many, akin to choosing a restaurant based on nothing more than personal preferences in taste. That said, various traditions within the Faith are, of course, optional as well. Whether I choose to be pro-choice or pro-life, to be sexually active outside of marriage or to remain chaste, to watch pro-football or attend Mass on Sunday – these are decisions I’m free to make because my religion is a Social Decision, as opposed to one based on TRUTH.

I don’t think this is quite the alternative Elisabeth had in mind.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this mindset has led to a mass exodus from the Church. And what do we have left? A significant portion of those who remain, are not “all in.” They are Catholic because they feel comfortable in the Church. It’s not a matter of devotion, rather, it's a matter of social identity.

Yes, we’ve strayed a long way from pride of faith.

Slowly but surely, this problem is being addressed by the New Evangelization. Unfortunately, I think it has created a new problem within the Church.

In our efforts to reestablish our Catholic identity, many of us suffer from another kind of pride. The Pride of Orthodoxy, which I’ll address in next week’s post.

Reading Assignment:

Week 10: A Call to the Interior Life – End of Litany to Obtain a Conversion (p. 189-208)

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Have you experienced pride of faith, or lack thereof in others? Or have you found yourself guilty of either? How have you sought to counter the experience?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from this past week!

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • jrbarrytx

    Your article is very interesting in that I have found the only place I can share my faith is in the Catholic Church, in bible studies and so forth as I have a spiritual solitude that in prevalent in my connection with my Protestant friends and my husband as well. I look at my parish as a blessing because if I had come upon your situation I would question whether or not to return to the Methodist faith of which I was a part of for many years. To not be able to speak of Mary or of the saints or sacraments within my own parish in this type of a setting would be very sad to me and I absolutely agree that is not what Elisabeth had in mind. Thank you for your thoughts but it is disturbing to hear.

    • Vicki

      Thank you so much for sharing your comments! I’m so glad to hear that you have a lovely home in your parish. As for myself, perhaps I should clarify. I no longer belong to that parish – I actually live in another state, and have found a wonderful parish where our family is very happy, and there are many like-minded souls. I used that experience as an example – it was pretty extreme; but I have had similar experiences through the years at various parishes. There is great Hope to be found, however, and seeds of renewal and growth are beginning to sprout within the Church. In some places, we have veritable gardens blooming with passion for the Faith. The point of my article was simply to share that, in my experience, there is not a great amount of the pride to which Elisabeth is referring. While ridding ourselves of that kind of pride is a good thing, the antithesis is not so good either:).

  • A word to all of you who watch pro football: Be chaste in your state of life, pro-life, and attend Mass every Sunday. And Go Broncos!

  • DianeVa

    Thank you for your article Vicki and sharing your insight which I agree with. After having been a Catholic in “name-only” due to ignorance and pride and now having been led by God’s grace by an insatiable appetite to read and research and mature in understanding of the fullness of the Catholic faith, I too have gotten the impression and been told that I have become “too Catholic”. In Catholic Bible studies and discussions I find myself defending Catholicism to the lukewarm, namely to those who have lost their children to another church and they rationalize that as long as they attend some church” that’s ok with me”, or in other “hard to accept teachings” such as contraception, divorce, etc. Here is where the relativism of other denominations dilutes Christianity. The justice of God takes a back seat to unconditional love of Jesus. Sin of presumption comes to mind. I am very proud and blessed that I am Catholic and sometimes I want to shout it out from the rooftops but am snuffed out. Thank goodness in my parish I have many friends who feel the same way but I think we are a minority because of the ignorance of most Catholics. The New Evangelization will hopefully show people the treasure they have in both Scripture and Tradition. Looking forward to next weeks article! Thanks!

  • DJT76

    Dear Vickie: Your comments are a fresh breeze to me. I agree that we have so much to learn about our Catholic faith and teachings that includes all Christian denominations that we miss the mark when we shy away from showing our devotion to our Catholic faith and practices. This is the good pride you speak of . Thank you for your comments. God bless you. Donald

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