by Fr Richard Heilman | February 18, 2016 3:17 PM
This past September 29, on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, AZ, promulgated an Apostolic Exhortation calling men to step “Into the Breach.” Bishop Olmsted began his exhortation with,
“I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.
The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be (1 Peter 5:8-14). This battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident. Since AD 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, infant baptism has dropped by 28%, adult baptism has dropped by 31%, and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%. This is a serious breach, a gaping hole in Christ’s battle lines.”
More and more bishops, Catholic writers and speakers are recognizing this “serious breach.” Personally, I have been engaged in men’s faith formation for most of the last half of my 28 years of priesthood. Those of us who have been at this for a while are recognizing, with greater clarity, that the underlying challenge is the need to reclaim the surrendered ground of the supernatural. This is the antidote. An antidote is defined as “a substance that can counteract a form of poisoning.” The poison we have ingested for at least 50 years is the poison of secular humanism, inside and outside of the Church, which has made men “spiritually sick.”
In a recent article by Bishop Robert Barron, entitled “What Makes the Church Grow,” he points to the dramatic growth of Christianity on the continent of Africa. To what does he attribute this growth? Bishop Barron writes that it is “because the version of Christianity on offer there is robustly supernatural … African Christianity puts a powerful stress on the miraculous, on eternal life, on the active providence of God, on healing grace, and on the divinity of Jesus.”
I believe the statistical declines are showing this spiritual sickness. Catholic leaders seem to look for short-term results by doing the “Rebuilt Parish” thing, and all like it, while they, by and large, tamp down on more transcendent and sacred liturgies. But, attrition (the aging hippies passing on), and offering nothing of real “substance” for young people, is seeing our active parishioners steadily decline.
With these latest grim Pew Research findings, Fr. Dwight Longenecker goes on an important rant in his powerful article entitled, “Why Are The Nones Leaving Religion.” You can read the whole thing over there, but this is the heart of the article …
People are leaving religion in droves because it’s not religion anymore.
It’s become a charity with meetings on Sundays, and the problem is modernism. Modernism is the idea that the supernatural is out of date and unbelievable. The “de-mythologizers” tried to weed out all the miracles and supernatural elements from the gospels. For the last hundred years their influence has gained in seminaries and pulpits across the world.
Tales of the supernatural had to be removed. They didn’t fit with the modern world. Doctrines about devils and angels, heaven and hell had to be quietly excised from the faith because they were primitive and medieval and incredible to modern folk. Transubstantiation? A pious medieval philosophical explanation of what we all know is really symbolic. Supernatural revelation? No. Religion is all man made. Miracles? We know they don’t really happen.
Religious leaders–and I mean Catholics and Protestants alike–turned the Christian religion into an organization that does good works …
For Catholics? The necessity of the sacraments and a life of repentance and faith? Nah.
You only had to go to Mass if you really wanted to. Lay people who were married were just as able to be holy as priests and nuns. Confession? That’s only for people with low self esteem. Marriage? We can be flexible on that. It’s all about mercy after all.
Well, people aren’t dumb.
They concluded that if religion was really only about peace and justice and social work, then why did one have to get up early and go to church and sing dreary hymns and listen to a long, badly prepared homily by an uncomfortably over fed windbag? Why go to church anyway? If it was really only about social work, then why the early weekend pep talk with music? Why not sleep in?
Not too long ago, I wrote an article which posited that we are facing a monumental heresy in our times that equals or surpasses the greatest heresy of all times, which was Arianism. While Arianism openly denied the divinity of Christ, I called this modern heresy “Stealth Arianism.” St. John says, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). While not many today openly deny the divinity of Christ by their words, far too many deny His divinity by their actions.
Here is an excerpt from that article …
“Over the past 50 years, the Stealth Arians have done everything within their power to remove from our lived experience of Catholicism anything that would point to the divinity of Christ, and the supernatural quality of our faith. Everything has been stripped from our churches – sacred art, sacred architecture, sacred music, and the sacred elements of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – and we are left in the barren desert of the banal. It is no wonder many Catholics think nothing of approaching the Most Holy Eucharist dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, and grabbing the host like they’re reaching into a bag of chips. As Flannery O’Connor said, ‘If it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ It’s more surprising that these individuals even bother to attend Mass at all.”
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is a “War on the Supernatural.”
My church (shown below) – St. Mary of Pine Bluff, WI – was built by tenant farmers in the 1800s. They didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but they knew it was absolutely essential to build something that glorified God. Why? Because without such reverence and transcendent beauty, they knew the faith would fade away, and few would believe in the Real Presence any longer.
Well … they were right. Over the past 50 years, a few elites ran roughshod over the innocent faithful in a campaign to protestantize (or, even, secularize) the Mass, and gut out our churches (St. Mary’s miraculously escaped the wreckovation of the modernists). Now, here we are with less than 30% of Catholics practicing their faith in America. In most places in Europe, it is down to less than 10%. And, in most parishes, those who do attend, do so in their worst recreational attire while they mindlessly grab the host, like they are in some sort of cafeteria line.
As a priest in 2015, I believe THIS is the charge that is set before us in our times, and I am absolutely committed to this restoration of sacred beauty and reverence. This is WAR!! It is a war on the supernatural. There is a growing fervor among Catholics who are choosing to stand against this modernism, with all of its haughty avant-garde pretense, looking down its nose at those who would have the audacity to persevere in their outdated belief in the supernatural. Well, I will not tire in my stand against this insidious infection that has made our beautiful Catholic faith sick! It’s time to restore ourselves to health again; it’s time to restore a sense of the supernatural!
Go HERE, to see what I believe is a very concrete and necessary step to administer the antidote to this poison of secular humanism that has spread inside and outside of our Church.
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