Five Gifts of Light The World Needs This Christmas
If prayer and pen are efficacious and can be converted into gifts, I would like to utilize this possibility and be an instrument, this Christmas, for indulging in such an unusual form of gift giving.
My “gifts” would be of an intellectual nature, “lights,” as it were, in accordance with the Holy Father's mysteries of light. Christmas itself is about light that dispels darkness and illumines the mind and heart so the message of Jesus can be more clearly discerned.
My “gifts,” therefore, are intended to illuminate five areas of darkness that have clouded certain truths of the Catholic faith. It is hoped, naturally, that my “gifts,” which are merely restatements of axiomatic truths, will be well received and not exchanged for something more trendy.
Or to put it another way, there are a few lights on the Christmas tree that are flickering and need a little tightening so they can shine again with their original unwavering brightness.
1) Religion cultivates spirituality.
The secular world is in love with spirituality. It is religion it objects to. Thus the prevalent false dichotomy between spirituality and religion.
A certain book is in circulation that tells the story of God's plan for global peace. The plan, entrusted to a monk, is completely sabotaged by members of organized religion. The problem with unorganized spirituality, however, is that it soon becomes disorganized spirituality. No one cries, “I love baseball, but I don't like organized baseball. Umpires are spoiling the game.”
The purpose of the Catholic faith as a religion is to test and clarify spirituality, to ensure it is directed to God and in harmony with the needs of one's neighbor. Religion is to spirituality what music is to dancing, engineering is to mathematics and what a directed life is to an amorphous impulse.
2) The Catholic faith teaches truth.
Do Catholic churches need to make available material that promotes abortion, same-sex marriage, human cloning and so forth so churchgoers can become acquainted with the “other side”?
The “other side” is represented adequately enough by an almost incessant bombardment through the media and other highly visible avenues of secular culture. Churches have a duty to represent the truth of Church teachings. They have no need of either sleeping with the enemy or having the enemy sleep with them.
When a math teacher explains that two plus two equal four, he incurs no responsibility to represent contradictory viewpoints. Adam and Eve might have been better off had they not considered the viewpoint of the Serpent.
3) Catholics are fundamentally humanists.
Secular journalists never tire of complaining that Catholics are forever trying to “impose” their faith values on the public. But Catholics do not try to impose Sunday Mass, Ash Wednesday abstinence and holy days of obligation — which are faith-based — on non-Catholics. In fact, they could not “impose” any values on anyone, even if their lives depended on it.
Values are intrinsically non-imposable. Moral issues, such as abortion and euthanasia, however, are quite different. Catholic morality is not a matter of faith but of reason's response to the natural law. It is through the universal faculty of reason that Catholics embrace all other human beings. We all begin at ground zero.
Issues involving human rights are not narrowly Catholic but represent a convergence that unites all human beings. Catholic morality is simply anthropology put into practice.
4) The dogma is the drama.
Dogma, which simply refers to teaching, is neither stifling nor a barrier to creativity. Without dogma the Church would be devoid of content and, as a result, unintelligible. She would have no story to tell. According to Church dogma, man is able to know something about God and yet this knowledge is infinitely less than what God is in himself. Consequently, there is endless opportunity for creativity, as man navigates between the finite and the infinite.
Thanks to her navigational instruments, a ship can explore no end of hitherto unknown regions. But take away these instruments, and the ship is lost. “I would not have sought Thee had I not already found Thee,” Pascal wrote. The dogma, which gives us the confidence that our voyage has meaning and direction, is the drama.
5) Christ must come first.
Everyone wants peace. But how many are willing to pay the price?
Peace is not simply an object of choice. It is the fortuitous consequence of choosing to live life well. If I put myself first, I inevitably find myself in conflict with all others who put themselves first. My ego is no more spacious than itself and can hardly be a peace formula for as small a multitude as two, let alone all the people in the world.
Christ's way of love and truth embraces all mankind. Without him, as St. John the Evangelist tells us, we can do nothing. The formula for JOY is (J)esus first, (O)thers second and (Y)ourself third. “Thy will be done,” is a simple, prayerful acknowledgement of the primacy of Christ, who is, par excellence, the Prince of Peace.
Don DeMarco is an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.