Monday, October 14, 2013

The kids were stunned because my talk was stone cold

There are many reasons why kids fall away from the Catholic Church after they graduate from high school. Often it's because they never received a good formation in the Catholic faith in the first place; as the old joke goes, CCD now stands for "cutting, coloring, and drawing." Even if you had perfect teachers and both your parents and your pastors were living lives of outstanding sanctity, it's your decision whether to follow Christ or not. Every day we make choices whether to follow his commandments or not.  Choices have consequences. The choice whether to follow Christ has eternal consequences.

This isn't Beefy Levinson being a mean old radtrad. More than any other New Testament figure, Jesus Christ frequently spoke about the existence of hell and the possibility of going there. Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council's constitution on the nature of the Church, says that he who knows that the Catholic Church was established by Christ for the salvation of souls and yet still refuses to enter or to remain within her bosom cannot be saved. Catholics don't like to consider the Four Last Things anymore because we've imbibed much of the world's materialism. We ourselves check our iPhones every thirty seconds, update Facebook every twenty seconds, and vociferously complain to the chancery if our pastor suggests that not All Dogs Go to Heaven. The Victorians may have been neurotic about sex, but we modern 21st century folks are neurotic about death.

My Protestant and heathen friends find this all terribly offensive. "Your Church teaches that there is no salvation outside of her. Do you think I'm going to hell?" My response is always the same: "I hope not." Father Leonard Feeney was excommunicated for teaching that everyone who is not a baptized Roman Catholic automatically goes to hell. The Second Vatican Council said that Christ's Church is larger than the visible boundaries of the Roman Catholic Church. The sacraments are the ordinary means to sanctity by which we are bound, but God is not bound by his sacraments.

None of this is new or revolutionary teaching but my four loyal readers are smarter than the average bear and I'm sure they can see how those teachings can be abused. It is possible for Protestants and non-Christians to be saved, but if they are it is through Christ alone. It's ludicrous to think that our Savior would entrust us with such a high stakes game without giving us to means to succeed. He gave us reason, free will, the intercession of all the angels and saints, and his own precious Body and Blood. If we are faithful to him and use the weapons he gave us for the spiritual warfare, how can we fail? We cannot fail unless we surrender. That's not to say we won't lose battles against the world, the flesh, and the devil. I lose battles against them every day. Battles may be won or lost, but the war is already won.

Strictly speaking, God does not send anyone to hell. If anyone goes to hell it is, pun intended, their own damned fault. If you are reading this blog, it's likely that you live in a First World Country. You can read, you have access to the internet, you're wealthy enough to own a computer and live in a fancy house in a nice neighborhood. How much time do we spend listening to bad music, watching bad movies, reading bad books, playing bad video games during the week? Presumably you have the use of your reason and free will. Are you prepared to tell your loving Savior, when you appear before his Judgment Seat, that you couldn't spare fifteen minutes a day to say a Rosary, or read the Scriptures, or sit with him in an adoration chapel? You say that you're busy. Are you really?

Some CCD programs teach the same material and yet one will have a higher retention rate than the other. Catholic parents need to think hard about what they expect when they drop their kids off for LifeTeen or whatever. Is youth ministry just a way to keep the kids out of trouble on Sunday nights so they don't go out spray painting trains? Or is it a way to reinforce those things they must do and must know to inherit eternal life?

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy seeing how the press reacts to Pope Francis' comments about the possibility of atheists going to Heaven. Yes, that is official church teaching. No, you can't apply it to yourself, because by reading said teachings, you have given yourself vincible ignorance of Christ and his church.

    That said, my pastor gave a homily on the topic, which was a little too close to the "all dogs go to heaven" heresy. Later that week, I made a photocopy of the CCC section entitled "Outside the Church There Is No Salvation" and left it in his inbox. Of course, I remembered to put certain sentences in bold to make them stand out.