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On the Loss of Faith as a Cause of Our Current Crisis

November 29, 2018 11 Comments

In the Liturgy of the Hours this week, we read a remarkable attributed to St. Macarius, a bishop of the early Church. I marvel at its vivid imagery, and yet at the same time, questions arise in my mind as to the general application of the text. In effect, the text states that if the soul does not have Christ living within, it falls into utter disrepair and a contemptible state.

Allow me to have Bishop Macarius speak for himself, after which I would like to pose a few questions.

When a house has no master living in it, it becomes dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse. So too is a soul which has lost its master, who once rejoiced there with his angels. This soul is darkened with sin, its desires are degraded, and it knows nothing but shame.

 Woe to the path that is not walked on, or along which the voices of men are not heard, for then it becomes the haunt of wild animals. Woe to the soul if the Lord does not walk within it to banish with his voice the spiritual beasts of sin. Woe to the house where no master dwells, to the field where no farmer works, to the pilotless ship, storm-tossed and sinking. Woe to the soul without Christ as its true pilot; drifting in the darkness, buffeted by the waves of passion, storm-tossed at the mercy of evil spirits, its end is destruction. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ to cultivate it with care to produce the good fruit of the Holy Spirit. Left to itself, it is choked with thorns and thistles; instead of fruit it produces only what is fit for burning. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ dwelling in it; deserted and foul with the filth of the passions, it becomes a haven for all the vices (St. Macarius, bishop, Hom. 28: pp. 34, 710-711).

This is a remarkably vivid, creative description of the soul without Christ, of one who has turned aside from the faith. To be sure, St. Macarius speaks in a general way. Each person’s personal journey will be affected by many factors: how absolute his rejection of the faith is, how influenced he is for better or worse by the people and culture around him, how operative he has allowed their natural virtues to be, and so forth. Hence, we ought not to simplify the lives of unbelievers. They come in many forms and degrees.

If we apply St. Macarius’ teaching to the sexual scandal currently rocking the Church worldwide, we can note that one of the causes rightly assigned to it is a loss of faith. How is it possible for a man who once consecrated himself to God and who daily celebrates the sacred mysteries of the sacraments to so violate the Sixth Commandment and his promise of celibacy? In many cases this is not a one-time fall in weakness but a repeated action. How can a cleric live such a double life? Somewhere this man has lost the faith, either substantially or totally. As his sinful notions harden and his rationalizations grow, surely his soul darkens. As Macarius notes, the Holy Spirit cannot bring forth fruits in a soul in which mortal sin goes on unconfessed, and woe to the soul no longer indwelled by Christ. The filth of sin and the darkness of denial grow ever worse. This is why we must pray for the conversion of sinners: O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, especially those in most need of thy mercy.

We see this also in the wider culture, where many live openly in sin and irregularity. Abortion, fornication, cohabitation, homosexual acts, rampant divorce, and (assisted) suicide once shocked us and brought shame and sorrow. Today they are called rights and are often celebrated; it is those who remained shocked and saddened who are excoriated.

This sea change also illustrates St. Macarius’ words, for we see how our culture suffers gravely from a lack of faith as it has “kicked God to the curb.” It is not an exaggeration to describe the Western world as a house that has no master living in it … increasingly dark, vile, and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse … darkened with sin, its desires are degraded, and it knows nothing but shame. Increasingly, this is our lot in the West.

The #MeToo movement and the current anger about sexual abuse by clergy demonstrate that we as a culture do occasionally awaken to the increasing toll of the sexual and cultural revolution; we do occasionally engage in some degree of self-correction. Too often, however, our outrage is both selective and short-lived. Sexual abusers of every sort are rightly denounced, but there is little evidence that we are willing to consider the overall “pornification” of our culture as another contributing factor. It seems unlikely that the current celebration of sexual misconduct, confusion, and immodesty in movies, music, and popular culture is going to be included in our national examination of conscience.

Thus, our overall culture remains in great disrepair. As St. Macarius describes, we are adrift like a pilotless ship, foul with the filth of the passions, and a haven for all the vices. It is clear that our jettisoning of the faith and of biblical norms is having increasingly devastating effects on every level. We have become more coarse, base, and disrespectful of one another; we are exploitative, wasteful, and often ungrateful for what we have; we are increasingly impatient, resentful, and sullen at even the slightest inconvenience or problem.

By abandoning the first three commandments that refer to our relationship with God, we undermine the seven commandments that regulate our relationship with one another as well. This is central to St. Macarius’ point. When a house [or culture] has no master living in it [because we have collectively shown God the door], it becomes dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse.

Help us, Lord, to rediscover the beauty of your truth. We have suffered by pushing you to the margins. Though even in more religious times we were not free of sin, we have only made things worse by departing from you. Bring us back as a nation, O Lord! Help us to be more faithful and to enjoy more than ever before the beauty of your truth and order. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Comments (11)

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  1. Deb B says:

    I was thinking a lot about this reading in the LOTH when I read it. Written so very long ago and yet so relevant to what is going on around us.

    I have to wonder about people who still claim to follow Christ, yet in their actions, they are obviously not following Christ. A person who is cohabitating after divorcing their spouse who attends a bible study and professes to follow the Lord? Politicians who spout words on how devout of Catholics they are, and yet they fight tooth and nail for the right to murder the unborn? A priest who travels the country spouting the goodness of homosexual unions and the Bishops who allow this man to speak in their diocese?

    We see so much false piety and sometimes I can only wonder how much worse it shall be for these people than for those who never knew Christ.

  2. Todd says:

    God’s servant Moses revealed there are only 2 ways. May God save us all from ourselves.

  3. John says:

    When the U.S. society changed with respect to faith and morals in the 1960’s so did the parishioners and clergy in the Catholic Church. However, when it comes to criminality the clergy, religious, and employees of the Church caused an unconscionable amount of harm that that will take a very long time to repair.

    By the way, who is this priest that people write about who travels the country endorsing homosexuality? I am thinking James Martin, S.J., but do not know if he travels much or not. Or is he suppose to remain anonymous?

  4. Julianne Wiley says:

    Fr. James Martin, SJ, travels tirelessly and is given honors and platforms widely by Catholic Universities, dioceses, parishes, apostolates. A young parishioner heard him at the World Meeting of Families last August in Dublin, where he got high accolades from a glittering assembly of Catholic clergy and youth leaders. This young man said that Martin is a clever corrupter of youth, and WMOF (what he saw of it) was a near occasion of sin.

  5. albion says:

    An assertive Islamic presence in Europe might be the wake-up call to Europeans who abandoned their Christian roots.

  6. This is certainly a timely reminder for the sorry state of things. We clearly do need to rediscover the beauty of truth and move our Risen Savior from the margins of our lives and society to the center. As I heard Msgr. Pope state in a recent interview the faithful have become or are rapidly becoming a remnant. We can all pray for the moral and spiritual courage to remain faithful whatever the circumstance.

  7. Alfred says:

    In 1983, Alexander Solzhenitsyn said something similar – Men have forgotten God. Shockingly true. Here is the link –

    http://orthodoxnet.com/blog/2011/07/men-have-forgotten-god-alexander-solzhenitsyn/

  8. And what about parents. . . Catholic parents. . . these parents who are numbered as the parishioners. These parents who use their power and force instilling faith into their children while they themselves are violating every commandment through abuse and control. Yes, even using their children for their sexual pleasures. How can these children break free when it is in the very house they live in? God bless the children of these families if the children would find their way to God. I thank God that I chose to look at faith. That I believed in God so much and believed in His help that He would allow me to survive through the abuse. This is a very hard road for a child to travel when day after day all they have to see is the abuse given them by those who are suppose to love them. Those parents who profess their state as an example for their children to follow. How is a child supposed to understand the difference between good and bad when they see their parents taking Communion and on the same day returning home to abuse more? I can’t answer this, but I do forgive them. Forgiving does not take the pain away but I pray my parents are forgiven and go to heaven. I pray also for the clergy who have fallen, for the clergy who could not read the signs of those calling for help, and for the clergy devoted in serving the Lord with true honesty and commitment.

  9. Israel B says:

    The Catholic Church stagger through the past 4 decades, making only isolated efforts to chastise the leaders of secular humanism in western Europe and north America.

    The bishops, cardinals had opportunities to rally the Church Militant, but that might have cost them public acclaim and the upper seats at public feasts celebrating ‘unity’ and ‘diversity’.

    It is THEIR HOUSE standing in disrepair and spoil for the world to see.

  10. C Beltz says:

    I think it is very easy to cast aspersions at “western society” or certain clergy, especially some Jesuit priests, lamenting their fall and praying for their repentance and rise.

    But therein lies the problem. Even we, who ostensibly see the truth, find it all to easy to externalize the issue.

    I cannot change any of you. I cannot change the world. I can only change myself.

    To sit here and pontificate on problems that are too numerous to quantify, to “solve” the problems with my super wit and knowledge (lol), does nothing except feed my pride, and it is that monster sin that limit’s God’s ability to work through me to shed light in the world.

    Yes, these problems exist and yes, we must be aware of them. But this Advent, perhaps we can use the time of preparation to examine who WE are; how are WE prepared for His coming? The Lord has this all in hand I assure you, but it would be unwise to show up to the wedding with no oil.

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