by Fr Richard Heilman | December 13, 2015 8:45 AM
This past Halloween, we saw many children dressing up as their favorite superhero. Many of these children are looking forward to superhero Christmas gifts. Children like to pretend they possess the superpowers of their favorite superhero. And, in just a few days, the highly anticipated Star Wars film premieres, “The Force Awakens.” While there is much secrecy as to the meaning of this title, it seems to imply that “The Force,” which had been dormant, rises to its former power.
Whether it is costumes or video games or movies, we (not just children) seem to be fascinated by the notion of “superpowers” or “The Force,” even if pretending. Why is that? I believe it is because we all know, at a spiritual level, that there is a power that is not pretend … it is REAL! In fact, you and I are called to be actual SUPERHEROES with actual SUPERPOWERS!
Fr. John Hardon wrote:
“St. Thomas Aquinas believed that man is more than a composite of body and soul, that his is nothing less than elevated to a supernatural order which participates, as far as a creature can, in the very nature of God. Accordingly, a person in the state of grace, or divine friendship, possesses certain enduring powers, the infused virtues and gifts, that raise him to an orbit of existence as far above nature as heaven is above earth, and that give him abilities of thought and operation that are literally born, not of the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
In his classic spiritual work, The Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales wrote:
In so far as divine love beautifies our souls. And makes us pleasing to His divine Majesty, it is called grace; in so far as it gives us strength to do good, it is called charity; but when it reaches such a degree of perfection, that it makes us not only do the good, but do so carefully, frequently and readily, then it is called devotion.
Pope Benedict XIV, whose chapters on heroic virtue are classical, thus describes heroicity:
“In order to be heroic a Christian virtue must enable its owner to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure, from supernatural motives and without human reasoning, with self-abnegation and full control over his natural inclinations.”
An heroic virtue, then, is a habit of good conduct that has become a second nature, a new motive power stronger than all corresponding inborn inclinations, capable of rendering easy a series of acts each of which, for the ordinary man, would be beset with very great, if not insurmountable, difficulties.
The way I like to put it is that someone participating in the Divine life under the power of supernatural grace, is able to simple say, “Of course” … “Of course I will help that person in need … of course I will adhere to the teachings of the Church … Of course I will worship God with due reverence … of course I will live every moment of every day with the intention of bringing Christ’s love and joy to every person I meet.”
“Participation in the Divine life” … this is the “real force” … this is what it means to be empowered by grace! And this, I believe, has been lying dormant, by and large, for a number of decades, because we have “denied its power.”
In his letter to Timothy, St. Paul warns of these times:
But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power. Reject them” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Pope Benedict XVI said, “the true problem of our times is the ‘Crisis of God,’ the absence of God, disguised by an empty religiosity.” Many want to blame Vatican II for this secularized version (“pretense of religion but deny its power”) of Catholicism we have endured. But, it is not that simple. Many factors inside and outside of the Church contributed to this “denial of supernatural power.” I will not go into those here.
Yet there are signs of an “awakening,” particularly in those churches teaching and worshiping with a “sense of the sacred or supernatural.” These are the places seeing a rise of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Why? Because at our deepest level – the spirit level – we all know this is real and true and right. People are not likely to devote their lives to just “an organization doing nice things.” But, start talking about and worshipping as though there is, in fact, a real calling to be Superheroes – heroic virtue infused by the power of supernatural grace – then see how “attractive” that is!! Yes!! The Church grows by “attraction” … superheroes with superpowers – supernatural grace – living extraordinary lives of heroic virtue. THAT is attractive!!
Our world needs saints right now. Evil people are being aggressively evil, while far too many are not “aggressively saintly.”What “force” will keep evil at bay? What force will convert evil to good?
Pope Benedict XVI said, “The heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind … the Evil One has power in this world, as we experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God.”
The time is now to awaken the “real force” capable of transforming our world; the time is now to say “YES” to our call to be the superheroes infused with superpowers; the time is now rebuild the army of saints.
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