Hat tip to reader and commenter, Christene, for bringing to our attention a newly released book by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput: Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. My copy came this week and, as I have begun reading and contemplating, echoes of voices in our community have rung in my heart.
JT Brannigan’s questions linger as I am reading: “Who will be signs of hope to the frightened society? Who will proclaim that Mary intercedes and Jesus is with us? Who will proclaim that God wants our salvation?”
Phillip Frank’s words reecho as well: “I liken this new course for us as the way Jesus thwarted the 5000 after He fed them with the 5 loaves and 2 fish. They, in their hysteria over this miracle, wanted to make Him king. He quickly quieted them with His command for them to “eat His body and drink His blood” and, because of this mystery, they quickly abandoned Him as it was “too hard” to follow. Jesus then turned to his disciples (future sherpas) and asked if they too would leave Him. They, of course, did not. So we, who are still here, have chosen the discipleship (Sherpaship?) of TDL. We have chosen not to abandon TNRS and to trudge on IN the world but not OF the world!”
SteveBC’s words, too, resonate: “A person’s outward circumstances matter little. Which world one actually lives in is determined by what is in one’s heart. A person surrounded by the old world who holds the positives of the new world in one’s heart lives in the new world. Someone who believes that one is living in the new world but whose heart is filled with the negatives of the old world lives in the old world despite that belief. My comments about the old and new worlds and to which world a person is attached are asking people to let go of the dark thoughts and feelings you have been suffering from. If you are constantly on edge and angry about what is going on with the Old World, not only are you in it but you are also of it, for those feelings are what make up the “heart” of that Old World. There is something better for you. Focus on love and God instead of anger, grief, and darkness. Why do you grieve when the New World is a change of heart away from you, and when that change of heart is yours to Choose?”
As we continue to move forward, focusing on the actions and attitudes we embrace in our daily lives, living as so many sherpas scattered throughout the world, I think this new release from Archbishop Chaput has great value for its potential to develop, nurture, challenge and inspire us on our way. Perhaps the following excerpts from the book can help you decide if you wish to purchase and read it.
“More than fifty years after Vatican II, the world is a bloody and fractured place. Some of those fractures reach deeply into the Church herself. But this isn’t news. It’s always been so. Scripture is a record of the same story told again and again, in different ways but always with the same theme, for more than three thousand years. God loves man. Man betrays God. Then God calls man back to his friendship. Sometimes that call involves some very painful suffering, and for good reason. God respects our freedom. But he will not interfere with our choices or their consequences, no matter how unpleasant. As a result, the struggle in the human heart between good and evil—a struggle that seems burned into our chromosomes—projects itself onto the world, to ennoble or deform it. The beauty and the barbarism we inflict on one another leave their mark on creation. But still God loves us, and his love endures forever.”
“TIME PASSES. TIMES CHANGE. Watersheds happen. I sat down to write this book for everyday Catholics and others who love Jesus Christ and his Church more than they love their own opinions; people who know that something’s gone wrong with their country, but don’t understand why, or what to do about it. That expression—“everyday Catholics”—needs some unpacking. In twenty-eight years as a bishop, what I’ve seen is this: Most of the adult Catholics I know have families and demanding jobs. They’re often harried and fatigued and distracted. But they’re nobody’s fools. Most of us ordinary believers were born with plenty of intelligence, and today more than ever, we need to use it. If our mass-media culture works to make people shallow, gullible, angry, and dumb much of the time, it’s because we let it. Since you’re reading this book, you’re probably different. You probably like to think, and want to think, as a grown-up real person, in a mature Catholic spirit of faith. And you might suspect (wisely) that too many people aren’t thinking at all. Adults deserve adult food for thought, and in these pages I’ll try to honor that.”
“But religion only works its influence on democracy if people really believe what it teaches. Nobody believes in God just because it’s socially useful. To put it in Catholic terms, Christianity is worthless as a leaven in society unless people actually believe in Jesus Christ, follow the Gospel, love the Church, and act like real disciples. If they don’t, then religion is just another form of self-medication. And unfortunately, that’s how many of us live out our Baptism.”
“Thus, believers don’t have the luxury of despair. And the idea that we can retire to the safety of some modern version of a cave in the hills isn’t practical. Our task as Christians is to be healthy cells in society. We need to work as long as we can, in whatever way we can, to nourish the good in our country and to encourage the seeds of a renewal that can enliven our young people.”
God bless Archbishop Chaput and his words which inspire us to live the joy of the Gospel even in the midst of difficult days. He is a true sign of hope!