We Weren’t Always So Secular – A Remembrance of Times not Long Past

073013The times in which we live are often described as “secular.” This word comes from the Latin “saecula” meaning “world.” Hence in saying our age is secular is another way of saying our times are worldly.

We may think it has always been so but such is not the case.

To be sure, it IS the human condition to be a little preoccupied with the world. But previous times have featured a much more religious focus than our own. The Middle Ages were especially known for way in which faith permeated the culture and daily experience. The Rose window to the right presents a typically Medieval Notion: Christ (the Lamb of God) at the center and everything surrounding Him.

In those days the holidays were the HOLY days and one’s understanding of the calendar and the time of year centered around the Church’s calendar of saints and feasts. It wasn’t Winter it was advent, and then Christmastide. Even the word Christmas was ChristMASS. Halloween was the “Een (evening before) all Hallows (All Saints Day). Three times every day the Church bells rang the “Angelus” calling Catholics to a moment of prayer in honor of the incarnation. The Bells also rang summoning Catholics to Mass and vespers. In a previous article in this blog (By Their Buildings You Will Know Them) it was noted that even the architecture of the Middle Ages placed a large church at the center of every town.

Those days were not perfect days but they were more spiritual and the Christians everywhere were constantly reminded of the presence of God by the culture in which they lived. Seldom so today. Many people today almost never hear of God on a day-to-day basis.

But the truth is, God is everywhere. He indwells his creation and sustains every aspect of it. The Scriptures say that Jesus holds all creation together in himself (Col 1:17). Most people think of creation as a sort of machine or closed system in which we live. But that is not the case. Creation is a revelation of and experience of God’s love and providence. Not one leaf falls to the ground without God leading it there. Not one hair of our head is unknown and provided for by God. We are enveloped by God, caught up into his presence.

It is especially sad for young people today. Some of us who are a bit older remember a time when God was more recognized. I remember that we prayed every day in my PUBLIC school until I was in 6th grade.

I remember my 4th grade teacher often reminding me when I got out of line: “God is Watching!” She also kept a copy of the King James Bible on her desk and the worst thing a student could do was to put anything on top of the Bible. Within seconds Mrs Hicks would scold: “Don’t ever put on top of God’s Word….!” To this day I have a deep instinct never to place anything on top of a Bible. In that same public school we began each day as our Principal, Mr. Bulware read from the Bible, usually the New Testament, and then we prayed the Lord’s Prayer, then followed the Pledge of Allegiance….One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I remember when Christmas (not “winter holidays”) in School was actually celebrated and that we sang religious songs even in public school well into my High School years. I remember our public high school choir singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” and many songs with religious subjects. Can you imagine a public school choir singing today “O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord” ? Gone are the days.

But we need to teach and help our young people get in touch with God’s presence. Families out to pray grace at meals with their children and have numerous religious images. There ought to be family prayer and observances of the various feasts and seasons of our Church.

Question For Readers: What are some of the websites you might know that are helpful in families staying focused on God? Perhaps there are some devoted to helping Children and Teenagers experience the faith and the cycle of the Church’s year? Perhaps a few of you can also recommend sites that are helpful in this regard.

But the point is that we have to be intentional about placing reminders of God’s presence in our lives and those of our children.

18 Replies to “We Weren’t Always So Secular – A Remembrance of Times not Long Past”

  1. Websites that have helped me to grow tremendously are apologetic websites. They have helped me to discover the intellectual riches of the Christian faith and to strengthen my faith. Apologetics have been integral to me to give an answer for the faith for which we contend. However, I will not venture to list or cite any specific websites since I am Protestant and respect the faith which you defend. However, I will say that I included Catholic apologetics in my personal education in addition to some of the writings of early church fathers.

  2. “Not one leaf falls to the ground without God leading it there.”

    Interesting. I was walking last Sunday and praying and had a “eureka!” moment about God, and then a leaf hit me on the head and distracted me. I can not remember what came to my mind! 🙂

    But back to your subject…Fathers and mothers are the ones who can and should make the real difference in the spirituality of their young children, regardless of what the schools are doing.

  3. Msgr. Pope.
    I recommend the following sites for young and old.

    Saint Paul Outreach campus – http://www.spoweb.org/

    PHATMASS – Apologetic and forums (caution atheist do banter with you) http://www.phatmass.com/

    Steubenville – youth rallies http://www.steubenville.org/home/home_index

    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – http://www.steubenville.org/home/home_index

    Vatican – http://www.vatican.va/

    Catholic Online – Prayers and store – http://www.vatican.va/

    Catholic underground – Social media by Priests in Louisiana. http://catholicunderground.com/

    SPIRITJUICE studios – gives young people the tools to survive and street ministries. http://www.spiritjuicestudios.com/

    Your parish web page or even your Diocesan web page.

    Just a few I go to when in need, I will tell you PhatMass is a Catholic forum site that is open to all persons and some can get nasty with their venom, but is a good way to prepare for people that get in your face when on the street Evangelizing.

    What an exciting time we live in.
    God Bless you all

  4. A few weeks ago, you asked readers to offer suggestions for news sources, from which I discovered catholicpulse.com. Very grateful for that, and looking forward to some new suggestions!

    I print articles from your blog (thank you, Monsignor!) and Spirit Daily for my family to read, since so many of them contain the words my family needs to hear!

    One website that my entire family has visited regularly since we first clicked onto the internet is Focus on the Family’s “Plugged In” (www.pluggedin.com). This website offers wonderful, thorough reviews on hundreds of movies, videos, games, TV shows and music, all written from a Christian perspective. The reviews always include a “spiritual content” segment. We almost always check these reviews before we rent a video or purchase a video game. I love this site since it helps all of us to consider our Christian values in our entertainment.

  5. I find it interesting that in our world of today, the major days of celebration during the year are still those of Christian origin – Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Fat Tuesday. Unfortunately, these celebrations have all been stripped of their original Christian associations and are now merely vehicles of vulgar materialism and self-indulgence. Sad.

  6. We share this excellent blog with our children.
    Also listen to audio sancto [http://www.audiosancto.org/ ] and Fulton Sheen.

    And we are filling our home with religious art.


  7. Just a Closer Walk with Thee was one of my dad’s favorite songs. R.I.P., my dad. “….One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”–It is impossible for me to put into words the arrogance I see in the word
    ‘indivisible’ in the Pledge of Allegiance. Can’t help you with any Catholic websites for children.

  8. I would like to recommend the website:


    This is the blog of the Dominican Student Brothers of St. Joseph Province, who live and study at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. They produce a short blog entry each week day on a variety of religious categories. I think that everyone, but especially young adult Catholics, would benefit from their astute Catholic perspective on important cultural topics.

    For full disclosure, I want to mention that I am the father of one of the Dominican student brothers who contributes to the blog. However, please read the blog to judge the validity of my comments.

  9. Father, it may not surprise you to know that not every place has secularized to such a great extent, especially when you leave this country. Why, where I am right now, Manila, the churches still ring the Angelus (and it is even broadcast on the malls’ loudspeakers), weekly novenas actually cause grinding traffic jams and prayer is encouraged in the schools’ pledges of allegiance (the fact the Catholic schools are stronger here helps too). And all this without a concordat! Sure, Manila is far from Paradise, but it has not, thank God, lost the Faith.

  10. Here are some general Catholic webs sites I’ve found:

    For families – http://www.revolutionoflove.com http://www.omsoul.com http://www.dads.org http://www.catholicfamilyministries.com http://www.catholicmom.com

    For young adults / older teens / college age – http://www.chastity.com http://www.focusonline.org

    For kids – http://www.catchat.ca/ ( includes promotion of cd’s and DVD’s) http://www.catholic-kids.com (includes links to other Catholic websites for kids)

  11. I have a tendency to view things quite dismally concerning the prominence of Christianity in the public sphere, but in this case, I’m a bit more optimistic. I teach at a public school in Iowa and hearing Christian hymns at concerts is not at all uncommon, at my school or the surroundings schools.

  12. thank u Msgr. Charles pope for this life-enriching piece of work. God bless u.

  13. I strongly recomend the little books published by One Caring Place, the Elf-Help Books. They are wonderful for every person at every age.

  14. For moms, I recommend the In The Heart of My Home blog by Elizabeth Foss. She writes a lot about integrating the Church calendar into family life.

    With respect to your experience in school, Monsignor: it frankly makes me nervous that the Protestant religion was that prominent in school. I do understand that that was probably better than today’s secularism, but I am quite suspicious about the way the bible is “used” by Protestants to marginalized Catholics.

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