Physical starvation is not a problem here in the affluent west. And thus one might ask what the stages of starvation could possibly have to teach us about the problems we face in the West. But they do.
The form of starvation that is a problem here in the affluent West is spiritual starvation. It is a strange starvation to be sure, for it is largely self-inflicted. Further, it seems to be at an advanced stage.
I am told that as starvation advances there comes a time when a kind of lethargy sets in and, though one knows he is hungry, he lacks the mental acuity or focus to want to do much about it. This seems the stage of spiritual starvation at which many Westerners are. Most people know they are spiritually hungry and long for something. But through a kind of lethargy and mental boredom they seem little inclined to do much about it.
I’d like to take a look at some of the stages of physical starvation and speak of their spiritual equivalent. From several medical sites, it would seem that starvation unto death has some of the following stages. I will list the physical stage and them describe what I think is a spiritual component. Please understand when I use the shorthand “we” I am not necessarily talking about you. “We” here is a general term to indicate a large number in our culture, and perhaps a majority in our culture.
- Early signs of starvation include weakness– Surely in our time of spiritual starvation there is a great moral weakness that is evident. Simple manifestations of ordinary self control about sexuality, and general self discipline seem increasingly lacking in our culture. Many are too weak to keep the commitments they have made to marriage, religious life and the priesthood. Addiction is a significant issue as well and is manifest not only in alcohol and drugs but includes addition to pornography, and addiction to greed as we are obsessed about more and more possessions, and do not seem to be able to live without them. Many increasingly declare that they are not responsible for what they do and/or cannot help themselves. There is a general attitude that it is unreasonable to expect people to live ordinary biblical morality, that it is unreasonable to have to suffer, or endure the cross. All of this manifests a kind of weakness and a lack of courage and strength as spiritual starvation sets in.
- Confusion– As spiritual starvation sets in, the mind gets cloudy and thinking becomes murky and distorted. There is thus, lots of confusion today about even the most basic moral issues. How could we get so confused as to think that killing pre-born babies is OK? Sexual confusion is also rampant so that what is contrary to nature (homosexual acts) is approved and what is destructive of the family through illicit heterosexual behavior is widely approved as well. Confusion is also deep about how best to care for the poor, how to raise, properly train and discipline children, how to effectively educate children and so forth. Confusion is a second sign of spiritual starvation
- Irritability– As spiritual starvation progresses, a great deal of anger is directed at the Church whenever she addresses the malaise of our times. Beyond merely the Church there is an anger and resistance to lawful authority and respect for elders and tradition. St. Paul describes well the general irritability of a culture that has suppressed the truth about God and is spiritually starving: They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. (Romans 1:29-31). Since we are starved spiritually of the common meal of God’s word and revealed truth and have rejected in the natural law, we have been reduced to shouting and power struggles. We no longer agree on the essentials that the “food” of God’s truth provides. We have refused this food and, starving, we have become irritable and strident in our culture.
- Immune deficiency– As our spiritual starvation grows we cannot ward off the increasing attacks of the disease of sin. We more easily give way to temptation. Deeper and deeper bondage is increasingly evident in a culture that is deeply mired in sin. Things once thought indecent are now done openly and even celebrated. Many easily give way to sin and consider any suggested resistance to it to be unreasonable and impossible. Sin spreads more widely. STDs have rapidly spread, teenage pregnancy, abortion, Internet porn are becoming rampant. Divorce and cohabitation have spread widely. Sin, like a disease, spreads because, spiritually starving, we are less capable of fighting off the effects of spiritual disease.
- The middle stages of starvation occur after all the fat cells have been depleted and the body starts to feed on it’s own muscle tissue – And we too, as we spiritually starve start to feed on our very own. We kill our children in utero and use embryos for research. We euthanize our elderly. In gang violence young people kill other young people. We see strife, power struggles and wars increase. In tight economic times we who have depleted the fat cells of public funds and amassed enormous debt, instead of reasonably restraining our spending and re-examining our priorities, we turn on one another for the scraps that are left and refuse to give an inch of our entitlements. Starving people can be desperate and often turn on others. But in the end, we as a body are consuming our self, A fifth symptom of spiritual starvation.
- After this point, your internal organs will shut down one at a time– In the spiritually starving west many of our institutions are becoming dysfunctional and shutting down. Our families are in a major crisis. Almost of half of children no longer live with both parents. Schools are in serious decline. Most public school systems have been a disgrace for years. America, once at the top of worldwide academic performance, is now way down the list at about 17 or 18. Churches and parochial schools also struggle as Mass attendance has dropped in the self-inflicted spiritual starvation of our times. Government too is becoming increasingly dysfunctional as strident differences paralyze and scandals plague the public sector. Yes, as we go through the stages of starvation, important organs of our culture and nation are shutting down and becoming dysfunctional.
- The final stages of starvation will include: hallucinations, – St Paul spoke of the spiritually starved Gentiles of his day and said, their thinking became futile and their senseless minds were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools….Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:21-22,28). Hence as we in the West become increasingly starved, spiritually, our thinking becomes increasingly bizarre, distorted, fanciful, silly, vain, and often, just plain stupid and lacking in any common sense. Since our soul is starved we hallucinate.
- Convulsions and muscle spasms– Violence and turmoil run through our culture as basic social structures shut down and become dysfunctional. The breakdown of the family leads to many confused, incorrigible and violent children. And not just in the inner city. Violence, shootings and gangs have long been in the suburbs. Even non-violent children have short attention spans and are often difficult to control and discipline. ADHD may be over diagnosed but hyper stimulated children with short attention spans are a real problem for us. Adults too manifest a lot of convulsive and spasmatic behaviors, short attention spans and mercurial temperaments. As we reach advanced stages of starvation in our culture, convulsive and spasmatic behavior are an increasing problem.
- An irregular heart beat– In the spiritually starving west, It is not as though we lack all goodness. Our heart still beats but it is irregular and inconsistent. We can manifest great compassion when natural disasters strike but still be coarse and insensitive at other times. We seem to have a concern to care for the poor but abort our babies and advocate killing our sick elderly. Our starving culture’s heartbeat is irregular and inconsistent to say the least. Another sign of spiritual starvation
- A sleepy and comatose state– Our starving culture is sleepy and often unreflective. The state of our terrible fall eludes many who seem to barely notice the deep symptoms of our spiritual starvation. St Paul says, So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled (1 Thes 5:6). He also says, And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed (Rom 13:11). Jesus speaks of the starvation that leads to sleepiness in this way: Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap (Luke 21:34)
- And then Death– Spiritual death is the final result of starvation. We become dead in our sins. The Pope recently said that the lights are going out in Europe. As Europe has forsaken its spiritual heritage and embarked on a self-imposed spiritual starvation its birthrates have dipped steeply. It is quite possible that, in the life time of some of the younger readers of this post, Europe as we have known it will, quite literally, cease to exist. Western liberal democracies that have starved themselves to death will be replaced by Muslim Theocratic states. But this is what happens when we starve. Death eventually comes. America’s fate at this time is less obvious. We do have many on a spiritual starvation diet, but many here still believe and there are signs of revival in the Church here. Pray God the reversal will continue! Pray too that it is not too late for Europe.
Thus, while we know little of physical starvation in the affluent West, spiritual starvation and its symptoms are manifest. Mother Teresa once spoke of the West as the poorest part of the world she encountered. That’s because she saw things spiritually, not materially. One of her sisters recently spoke to students from Christendom College who worked with her among the poor in Mexico. She had this to say as reported by Cassidy Bugos:
In the East [India], the soul is different. It is stronger, as she put it, and solid. Whether a person is Christian, or Hindu, or Muslim, or Buddhist, he is a solid Christian, a solid Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist. He will not lose faith because he is hungry, or because he is well-fed. And in India, if people are hungry, they are still happy. The poorest people on the streets, she said, are the happiest. If they have food today, they are happy; they do not wonder if they will have food tomorrow. Their joy, she insisted, is something unlike anything you see on any face in the West….
Here in the West, she said, it is different. Here most poor people have enough [materially], even though they don’t understand how little “enough” is. But they are unhappy, she said…..They are unhappy, because they have no God. That is the real poverty. The farther North you go in America, she added, the more wealth you see, and the less joy you find. Those people….the depressed, and the sad people “with no God and a great big house”, are the poorest of the poor. That’s what Mother Teresa meant. It is hard, she added with a sigh, to find Christ in them. …We must put Him there. …
More than that, she wanted us to understand whom we were serving, when we served anyone’s spiritual or material needs. We were serving Christ. When one of “the Grandmas”, blind and deaf, cried out from her wheelchair, “Agua, por favor!”, on the wall over her head we were bound to see a crucifix and beside it the motto of the Missionaries of Charity, the two words, tengo sed. “I thirst.” 
Be well fed spiritually! Spiritual starvation is an awful thing. It is the worst thing.
Now this post has been a bit heavy. So I hope you won’t mind a little humor in this video. The video, though humorous makes an important point: You’re not you when your hungry. Spiritual starvation can rob us of our identity as joyful children of God meant to be fully alive and fully functioning. Ultimately we are meant to be Christ, to become what we eat in Holy Communion. When we do not eat we are not “ourselves.” This video is trying sell snickers, but please understand I am talking about Jesus. And if you’re hungry, you’re not your self.
14 Replies to “What do the Stages of Starvation have to teach us about the demise of the West?”
This is an excellent piece, Monsignor. I am saving it. I really appreciate the sister’s words (who spoke at Christendom College) about having “enough”. I, too, have “enough” and yet so often I feel down.
My heart gets weighed down when I see the effects that our culture has had on my children and I feel powerless to change their thinking. I pray and correct and admonish, but my words are drowned out. They’re like a drop in the ocean. However, God is faithful. My hope is in Him.
It is time for the American people to wake up and turn back to God. My husband and I pray that God will raise up moral leaders, but then we realize that the American people always reject them during elections. Also, we pray that Americans would stop starving themselves and turn back to God.
“The Pope recently said that the lights are going out in Europe. As Europe has forsaken its spiritual heritage and embarked on a self-imposed spiritual starvation its birthrates have dipped steeply.”
How true. When I was in Rome, it amazed me how even cab drivers who should know better do not know the names or locations of some of the great ancient churches in the city. Some of those churches have stood on the same site for over 1,500 years. Yet, many Romans today just pass them by without a moment’s thought.
As Hilaire Belloc said, “Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe”. Without the Faith, there can be no Europe.
Yes, we are confused in 2012 the Obama Administration uses $542 MILLLION DOLLARS of tax payers money to fund Planned Parenthood. An organization that kills children! Children are assets and potential tax payers, but we have killed our 56,000,000 taxpayers who could have saved the Social Security system. To all of you materialists out there, enjoy working until you drop dead. Or, enjoy the materialists taking you to Euthanasia Land because they see you (grandma/grandpa) as a burden and they don’t want you to sink the economic ship. And death will come to full circle (those who abort others and when they get old the young will kill them).
When the liberals get old, there will not be any young to kill them, they will have all been aborted. OTOH, the Chinese, seeing all this land literally undefended, will have no problem crushing the old geezers under their tanks when they invade and conquer.
Well. OK, except with their one child policy, they’ll be too busy staffing nursing homes in their own land.
Hilaire Belloc’s comment (“Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe”) recalls another comment by his friend G.K. Chesterton: “The Church grows young as the world grows old.”
This post is spot on Monsignor! We dwell in a land of plenty and yet everyone is lost in darkness. We need only to seek The Truth…for He is truly present to us in His Church. Life without Jesus is hell just as our existence after time will be. We choose life or death, unfortunately it seems most in our time desire death. We have a weapon according to Scripture, “The Woman and Her Seed will crush the head of Satan!” Pray the Rosary daily…our time is short!
Even when viewed from a material perspective, a culture starts to die when the adults are no longer having enough children to replace their generation. Most of Western Europe is in that situation today, and the USA, if not in that situation, escapes it ONLY because recent immigrants of Hispanic or Asian descent are still having children.
Some smaller groups still devoted to having families and children still exist, but these are definitely the minority.
When pornography and video games replace adult decisions to marry and have children, the society is dying.
Very good post but I’d just add that many of these problems exist and are growing in Latin America and Asia also. It’s not just the West that is spiraling down.
Thank you Father for this post. I so needed to hear this truth today. So much to digest, I’m glad I have the weekend to contemplate and pray on your theme. God Bless!
No children no happy.. So true, Sirs..
Why isn’t this message preached at every Mass every Sunday?
Chesterton’s comment (“The Church grows young as the world grows old”) has another meaning for the Church in our time. Consider how the younger Catholics are predominantly traditional and orthodox, while their parents and grandparents include many modernists.
I’m not the first one to say this: I don’t worry about my generation in the Church (born 1970s-1990s); I worry about the older generations.
I agree with most of this. There are two statements in this article, however, that I must take exception to. The first is this line at the beginning of the article: “Physical starvation is not a problem here in the affluent west.” That is a statement that can be misleading as to the true facts about hunger in the United States. According the Poverty USA website, a link to which is on the USCCB website,
“In 2012, the USDA estimated that 14.5% (or 17.6 million) of US households were food insecure—meaning that they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line.”
Of course, those who suffer from food insecurity must access government programs. The website continues:
“Again, there are programs that help. Fifty-nine percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs, such as SNAP (food stamps).”
That brings us to the next statement in the article which causes me concern:
“In tight economic times we who have depleted the fat cells of public funds and amassed enormous debt, instead of reasonably restraining our spending and re-examining our priorities, we turn on one another for the scraps that are left and refuse to give an inch of our entitlements.”
With all due respect, that statement gives the impression that those who participate in government programs are clamoring for luxury items rather than receiving what they need to survive. The budgetary problems of the United States, such as they are with a fiat currency, would better be attributed to a military budget that exceeds that of the next ten nations combined. http://pgpf.org/Chart-Archive/0053_defense-comparison.
The spiritual issues that the article describes are real and severe. They will only worsen if we turn on the poor who need such things as the SNAP program, or the elderly who rely on their social security, or any of the needy in our country. For those who prefer that the Church take on the entire load of these social issues, I suggest that a workable program that can accomplish that be in place before anyone becomes too strident in such advocacy. Letting people starve is not Christian, and it is certainly not Catholic teaching.
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