It Happened on Our Watch – As Seen in a Commercial

052915-bWhen I saw the commercial below, I was struck with a twinge of guilt. The words of a poem by William Butler Yeats came to mind:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,
and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yes, something struck me. In this commercial, anarchy, destruction, injustice, violence, and pure chaos are shown. And yet all the while our superhero, with the “bat phone” screeching in the background calling for help, is wholly distracted, flipping through the channels unaware that the world around him is descending right into Hell. He is turned inward, wholly focused on his own little world.

Is this what we’re doing? Are we the superhero slouching on the couch as the world and Western culture descend into a maelstrom? Innocence lost, the blood-dimmed tide of the 20th century with perhaps more 100 million put to death in war and for ideological purposes, moral anarchy swept in on the four horsemen of the apocalypse: relativism, secularism, individualism, and the sexual revolution.

And while the wicked have been marching with passionate intensity, the good have largely been asleep, lacking any intensity for the battle. All around us are divorce, abortion, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, broken families, increasing lack of self-control and discipline, declining school test scores and graduation rates, the inability to live within our means, climbing poverty rates for children, drug and alcohol addiction, plummeting Church attendance … the list could go on and on.

And where have we been as a Church—as Christians—in a world gone mad? Where, for example was the Church in 1969, when “no-fault divorce” laws began to be passed? It would seem we were inwardly focused: moving furniture around in our sanctuaries, tuning our guitars, having debates about liturgy, Church authority, and why women can’t be ordained. These are not unimportant issues, but in being so focused on them, we lost the culture.

Yes, it happened on our watch. I am now past fifty, and I cannot say that it is all the fault of the previous generation. Even in my relatively short span on this earth, the world as I knew it has largely been swept away, especially in terms of family life. And now it is up to me to try to make a difference.

How about you? It will take courage and an increasing conviction to live the Catholic faith openly. No more of this “undercover Catholic” stuff, no more trying to fit in and be liked. It is long past midnight for our culture, our families, and our children.

In the commercial there is something very wrong with the scenario: the superhero ignores the cries for help as the phone screeches. It’s time for our superhero to get off the couch, pick up the phone, re-engage, and get to work. It is interesting to note that the movie he is watching shows a wolf being set loose. Jesus says, Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matt 7:15). Indeed, many wolves preaching (false) tolerance and spouting other pleasantries have badly misled people and spread error, calling what is sin “good” and misrepresenting biblical tradition.

Well, fellow superheroes, the last time I checked, we are supposed to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It’s time—long past time—to bring Christ’s power back to this world. It’s time for us to get off the couch, pick up the phone, re-engage, and get to work.

Don’t just watch culture, direct it.

27 Replies to “It Happened on Our Watch – As Seen in a Commercial”

  1. What happened in 1969 when no-fault divorced was passed? Sounds like Pope Francis’ concern about a self-referential Church. Spot on. Divorce already redefined marriage. We are at a logical destination.

  2. There has been so much talk about ecumenism and the new evangelization. Perhaps we would be better off trying these ideas out in our own house before we send the unprepared masses out among the wolves? Just saying . . . it seems we have big ideas with very little planning.

    1. Dave, Could be a simple as picking up the phone: how would you like to join us for Mass and lunch afterwards? or, when out, grace at meals? 🙂

      1. I cannot speak to the congregation present in my Parish and give them the essentials of the Catholic Faith. That seems to me to be the point of having a Catholic Parish with a priest and and bishop who looks over all the parishes in his diocese.

        I was speaking of the pew-warmers who contracept, vote for pro-abortion politicians and find that same sex marriage is fine among a host of other issues that are going on and the ‘hero’ is too busy to fight off the evil. If it doesn’t come from the hierarchy (the ordinary ‘hero’ we await), it isn’t going to get the job done. Most are indifferent to it all and we have no plan to fix our own house before we put forward ideas of going out into the world to do ecumenism and to pursue the new evangelization. What on earth can the pew-warmers do when they don’t know the rules of the game or what they are expected to be able to do? Most of the sheep are lost and are not even aware that they are. We desperately need some preparation if we are going to do something useful as a people.

        1. I guess I am totally amazed at where this thread has gone as it has nothing to do with my point at all. I have been saying grace in public ever since I became Catholic and have invited many people to Mass with me and have actually made converts of a number of people. That isn’t the issue.

          The issue is that the people who are most in need of evangelization are most of the folks sitting in the pews on Sunday. They are either poorly formed Catholics or completely uninformed. We as a Church are supposed to be involved in ecumenism and the new evangelization are we not? How do we do that with people who need to be evangelized themselves and are practicing members of the Catholic Church?

          Is there a plan to prepare these people to understand and accept the teachings of the faith or are we to simply let them loose to spread their errors and give a false impression to those outside the Church as to what we believe?

          Like I said: we have big plans with little preparation being done. It’s going to take more than making the sign of the Cross to get to meaningful and orthodox dialogue with others about the Catholic Faith.

      2. My husband insists that we always pray before meals, even at restaurants – and my son and I do it even when he’s not with us. I can’t count the times that people have come up and said ‘it is so nice to see that.’ Of course I’m happy to be giving a positive witness, but it really makes me sad that it is seen as so unusual and remarkable.

        1. Sasha, don’t be discouraged! That is the devil whispering in your ear to give up hope.

          One man CAN make a difference. One man died on the cross and sparked a revolution. Gentiles were converted, Saul was converted. Pope Gregory (I forget which one) literally made time disappear. All due to one man.

          Keep being bold in your faith. You made a difference to those people. Just because you can’t see the long term effects, that they spoke to you means they are paying attention. How many more who said nothing (out of timidity) also took heed? That is hope. You made a difference. You beat the devil.

      3. It could be as simple as telling a friend “I will meet you for (whatever) after Church on Sunday. Having the courage to admit your faith (without being super preachy) is more powerful than randomly spewing bible words at people. People often need to see before they can hear, so begin by openly evangelizing yourself and then let the Lord take you to the next step.

      4. Dearest Father Bill,
        It has been a while since we have seen each other. I admire and revel in your faith. I too find myself doing “little things” like prayer,(although not calling it Grace) as my and probably your mother commanded! But people do seem completly amazed if I stop in a restaurant and pray before eating. I can only hope AND PRAY my girls will follow on. I will taking Christian, my moderately to severely AUTISTIC son to church tonight. We have NO IDEA what is getting through…but not trying might be sinful.

        1. Wayne,

          I have a son with multiple disabilities, including being on the autism spectrum. It will surprise you what gets through, especially in our Church which uses all the senses to teach and worship, and not just words. But most importantly, you and your son are probably a witness of Christ to others, and a means of conversion. You can “get people off the couch” in your own parish.

  3. We need sound legal council, a qualified community organization with an effective stategy to gain broad public support for Christian values to counter antagonist groups assaulting our sacred institutions. Whether you want to go there or not, you have to be political because that is how your adversaries are are melting the polar ice caps Uranus.

  4. Silence in the presence of GOD. By the HOLY SPIRIT’s Help and Grace, cunning and courage in the face of the worldly. Yes, Monsignor, by the guidance in your articles and by the learnings from The Catholic Answers in Immaculate Heart Radio, in conjunction with the shows of EWTN we are being readied by GOD to do battle. May we stand erect during these assaults of the culture of death and same sex marriage (frustratingly, yes, it is happening during our watch) and let GOD use our voices to defend GOD’s Honor, in JESUS’ Name we pray.

  5. Msgr.,
    Archbishop Wuerl in his recent pastoral letter “Being Catholic Today” ( has made a good start. He stated, among other things, that Catholics are to believe the teaching of the Church, that the Church has the right to ask it’s teachers to believe and live those teachings, and our doctrine is not intolerance and discrimination, but disagreements with others beliefs. In other words, we should be proud of our Catholic identity.

    Msgr., most of us are followers, we need that superhero. I’m very lucky to have a priest that preaches about sin, teaches us what it is to be worthy to receive the Eucharist, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and teaches RCIA. Like you, he also goes door-to-door trying to increase attendance. He even reads and teaches from the Catechism of the Catholic Church! Amazing! What a relief from the much more liberal preaching I received for some years.

    Thank you and may God continue to bless you.

  6. I think it was Cardinal Newman that said the two killers of faith were sentimentality (as exhibited by most liturgies, CCM/P&W music, cheesy Christian films, etc.) and excessive comfort (exhibited by virtually everything in first world countries). The latter I recall my Marxist econ professor gloating while extolling the virtues of Sweden where few go to church because the society and state provides all needs and wants easily and church doesn’t really offer anything other than feel-good platitudes which can be had anywhere without having to wake up early on Sunday. As a Christian, this offended me, but I had no argument beyond threats of future collapse that ring hollow to listeners awash in swag. Technology gives the peasant more power at his finger than any king of old possessed. Online pornography brings any slob a fantasy harem beyond the wildest dreams of any sultan.

    How does the Gospel compete with this? Really, it can’t. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Rich being not merely a matter the size of one’s bank account. One can’t hear the Gospel when one’s life is as cozy as being in the womb. It’s no mystery why Catholicism is flourishing in Africa and Asia and collapsing in the West. What’s a Western Catholic to do then? Tolkien was perhaps bleak, but might be correct in that evil has become so hydra-headed that the best we can do is refuse to worship any of the heads.

  7. I have a theory about all this. What holds us together as a Catholic family is a “Moses” in the family. If we think back to our childhood, we can probably name who the Moses was in the family. The person that spoke of God, went to mass on a regular basis, and in general gave us a good Christian example. When God takes that person, someone else in the family has to take on the task of leading the family to the promised land. As we marry, we or our espouse become the Moses in our family unit. Without a Moses in the family, people drift away from the Faith and become prey to the world. Pretty soon, being a Catholic becomes a historical state for many individuals. In a way, the family loses its Catholic roots and has to star all over. So the question we should always ask is “Who is the Moses in our families”?. A Catholic community is made up of Catholic families!

    1. I like this idea. As I read your comment I thought about it, and yep, in our family in each family that held the Faith there was a Moses. If there wasn’t, that branch of the family basically fell away from Catholicism.

  8. Perhaps the Catholic Church should evangelize it’s own before doing so with the world. After all, weekly church attendance at 25% is nothing to brag about especially when I think back on when I grew up in the 50’s with the so called unpopular Latin mass, it was in the 80 percentile range. Of course, it could be argued that there was a viable Catholic culture in the U.S. then, which I don’t see now in Los Angeles. Adding to that I am summarizing what Jesse Romero of Immaculate Heart Radio has to say: many Catholics are not popularly catechized and also are near clueless when it comes to understanding the various aspects of the Mass.

    Evangelizing the world sounds nice but may be not practical when one’s house is not in order. Reaching out to our own and getting them back into the fold, properly catechized, should come first.

    1. Thank you that was my point above which seemed to have gotten lost in the saying.

    2. Honestly, when I look at the falling away from Faith, it seems to correspond to the rise of T.V. I ask myself, was the Church so influential in people’s lives before the advent of T.V. because She was one of a few voices of authority and sources of guidance for living a good life, and you had to go to the church on Sunday to access that? And when T.V. became ubiquitous, other voices got access to people, voices that say many things different from if not opposite of what the Church teaches, those messages are more pleasing and took over? And as T.V. becomes more and more a centrality to our daily lives, the Church correspondingly diminishes in importance to us?

      How can the Church compete with the ability to reach into people’s homes seven days a week at any hour of the day or night with messages of materialism and ease and entertainment and pleasure, not to mention “information” of how to solve problems via simplified psychology or raucous litigation, all wrapped in a pleasant entertaining format? How then will people be drawn to leave their homes for even one hour a week for prayer and to listen to the message of Jesus Christ which calls for discipline and denial of many of their passions? How can what’s coming over the T.V. not win?

      Even the commercial Msgr. used to illustrate his point shows the fact that slunking in front of the T.V. eating (notice the fast food containers and the superhero crudely wiping his mouth) is much more compelling than even our most important duties and responsibilities.

    3. John, well said. We have to be comfortable with our Catholic identity before we can offer it to others.

  9. I think I already am sufficiently, openly Catholic. I think the most important thing any Catholic can do to save the world is to be in the state of Grace or to get back into the state of Grace if he has fallen out of it.

  10. The Church is hopelessly divided, full of non-believers and heretics. Two diametrically opposed world-views are contending for prominence within the Church. Right now it appears that well over 50% of self-identified Catholics have completely rejected what the Church teaches on sexual morality and want the Church to change those teachings to conform to their views. And, they have a large, powerful cadre of bishops and priests who apparently agree with them and feel emboldened under Francis to push the issue in a way they would never have dared under Benedict. Francis says the “right” things but then appoints or raises to prominence those among the cabal of modernizers. We won’t be able to accomplish anything as a Church until these people are shut down, discredited, and asked to leave if they are unwilling to get with the program. That’s just not going to happen under Francis.

  11. Hello Msgr. You ask a very trenchant question: “And where have we been as a Church—as Christians—in a world gone mad?” Actually, in the 1960s there were a few Christians who were “preaching from the roof-tops” about the dangers of fornication, divorce, abortion, the pill etc., etc.. And they were summarily dismissed as cranks and wackos by priests and bishops alike. I saw this first hand. I can name names, but that is not the point here. Some of the Jeremiahs did become cranks and whackos, but not because they started out that way, they were pushed into madness. I know something professionally about how this happens—i see it sometimes in distressed marriages where it is termed “crazymaking”, and it was widely practiced by bishops, academics, and priests against the traditionalists who resisted the changes within the Church and society. This is still happening in the Church today, but it was an epidemic in the 1960s and 1970s; the focal points then were about the pill, divorce, and the liturgy. The crazy-making emerged from the collapse of spiritual authority that began shortly after V2 and had become nearly complete by the late 1970s. In my view, if it were not for JP2, the institutional Church would have collapsed by now, but he seemed to put the Church back on a spiritual track, in part because he forced the maggots, cockroaches and the wolves back into their holes for a while. Looks like the vermon are re-emerging with major reinforcements. The crazy making will pick up again, but it may not be as effective because of the internet, and the Msgr Pope’s of the world. Thank you for all you do.

  12. Great article, except please don’t follow the secular culture’s idea that “teenage pregnancy” is per se an evil thing. I suggest you replace the word “teenage” in your article with “extramarital”.

    There’s nothing wrong with a teenage pregnancy if the couple is married.

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