Living the Catholic faith within our culture
by Bishop Tod D Brown
We now live in a society quite different from what we had when most of us grew up, regardless of the culture that nurtured us. Those of us of a certain age became Catholic by a kind of osmosis. Like the air we breathed, our faith seemed to have always been there. We discovered it in and through the culture in which we were immersed: by the way our families celebrated holidays, by the religious images that hung around our necks and the statues that adorned our bedroom bureaus and our dashboards.
We lived with the consistent religious example of those we saw in our families and among our friends. Our imaginations were inspired by the lives of the saints; our weary souls were soothed by the smell of incense as we entered the darkened church; and, yes, our desires and actions were often challenged by the high moral expectations of the Church. Our Catholic faith seemed all around us; something so customary and comfortable as to be taken for granted.
Times have changed and there is much that is worrying about our current society. Channel surf your television and you’ll see people passionate to win the million dollar prize on the game show, or to be the beautiful woman selected by the handsome stranger on the “reality” show. Surf the Internet and your search engines will display information and images about every conceivable thing, and not all on view is worthy of your viewing. Among the many inspiring and entertaining movies playing at the local multiplex, you find those that glorify violence or cater to one’s prurient interests.
In this environment we have now come to think of ourselves more and more often as individuals rather than members of a community, a people who are committed to a common good. We hear ourselves referred to as consumers, not citizens, since the prevailing engine of our society is considered to be our economy, not the sharing of our lives and those lasting values that cannot be bought or sold.
My goal here is not to deplore our culture or to bemoan the evils of society but to simply point out how we Catholics have to be more realistic about how our increasingly secular and changing civilization can and does have harmful effects on our Catholic character and convictions. For years, parents and educators have complained about these effects on our youngsters, but they affect each and every one of us. To remain true, our Catholic-Christian faith today must become more countercultural. We Catholics must never forget that our essential decisions must be more informed by the teachings of Jesus than the cold pragmatism of a consumer economy or our personal whims. . . .
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