Monday, April 27, 2020

Looking for Perspective II: The Chatter Machine

This is a slippery step
What is the biggest problem orthodox Catholics face today?

Infelicitous clergy who whisper into the ears of the pope? No.

A conspiracy afoot to re-suppress the pre-Conciliar rites of Mass or to dampen the growth of the Traditionalist movement? No.

The secularization of common culture with its disheartening accompaniment of derision for Christ, distrust in the Church, and the worldliness of other Christians? Still, no.

The greatest problem is that the Christian can care more about these things than about the practice of the Faith. Faith is, according to every Catechism, a gift from God and the inception of belief, preceding even Baptism, for we petition Faith and the promise of eternal life from the Church before entering the cleansing waters of the font.

People will spend hours a week reading about the latest moronic thing a German bishop said or what writers speculate over a Vatican survey. Concern over current events has its place and no success reform movement has ever transpired in the Church without a genuine interest in current events. Current events, however, do not constitute a full time practice of Christ's precepts or greater spiritual communion with Him.

The news and religious gossip chatter machines on the internet can eventually become a sort of spiritual pornography, something addictive and stagnating to real personal growth. News blogs and chatter machines cater to the lowest common denominators of religious people: fear, disbelief, and isolation. The propagators of these texts are rarely conscious of stirring concerns, they share the same nerves as their readers and listeners. Still, would many of them have followings and be able to earn livings by discussing what is actually beneficial to the soul? Many would, but more wouldn't.

I knew a young lady many years ago who lost her mother at an early age. She came from serious money, a large family fortune made in Imperial Hong Kong before the Communists took it over. Her emotionally abusive father and her heiress grandmother then dissipated most of it suing each other and making frivolous expenditures that could not be sustained for the five decades since they started. She was left with very little and was understandably bitter. She made the decision to surround herself with good people, including a good Catholic and a good Coptic Christian. Every time these beneficial influencers would share their joy or time with her she initially became quite happy herself until she reminded herself that she had been shafted in life and that she should retreat into her bitterness. Acerbity and anger became her default emotions, which could only be assuaged by excessive sympathy. She knew this was unhealthy and she knew what she needed to do to get out of it, but more often than not her nerves and misery were more comfortable and familiar than the uncertain promise of a new life. A decade later she has improved much and I am happy to say is a substantially different person.

Years of ghettoization, which only began to subside after Summorum Pontificum, have colored the Traditionalist movement specifically in a bad way. Every bit of nasty news or rumored cause for concern sends people back into the paranoid culture of 1994. But what of sanctification? Concentrating on what is malevolent is not just a waste of time, it eats away at the soul.

Rather than reading about threats to the traditional liturgy read about the merits, history, and ancient theology of the old rites. Time spent tracking the heterodoxy of the German episcopal conference could be better spent making an in house retreat following the spiritual exercises of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, of Saint Francis de Sales in his Theophilia, or the Hesychasts. We can read the Scriptures and familiarize ourselves with more than the famous stories that appear on Sunday Masses per annum. We admire the spiritual masters when we hear about them and almost lament that in our dour, de-Christianized time that we cannot do the same, but the truth is we can if we only want to do so.


  1. There's nothing better than a Doctrinal refresher course, may I recommend Monsignor Alfred Gilbey's book WE BELIEVE in conjunction with INTRODUCTION TO THE DEVOUT LIFE; we could go back to basics as is wisely suggested here.
    Thank you for this good encouraging post- a wake up call to everyone of us.

    1. "We Believe" is a fantastic little volume that I always recommend to inquirers. Thank you for reminding readers of its many merits.

  2. "following the spiritual exercises of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux"

    Have these been collected in a book? Thanks very much -

  3. (T)he truth is we can if we only want to do so.

    Thank you! While I'd argue, maybe, that most of us have a sort of responsibility to be aware of what major events & nonsense are afoot, I stopped more than a year ago following the daily slurry of facts and quasi-facts and outright fictions that course through the ether, using that time for reading and prayer and doing: much more spiritually profitable and probably healthier to boot.