Thursday, May 31, 2007


A few weeks ago we interviewed a girl who appeared extraordinary. Perhaps she is. Her paintings seemed like direct inspiration. More than that, she exuded vitality, goodness, a tremendously positive way of speaking, and humility.

This is a very unusual and gifted girl and yet there was an unsettled feeling.

For that reason, we pulled back -- with regrets, because it was a good story, and she is a good person (fantastically precocious). But a feeling of unsettlement must always be addressed -- especially at a time when there is such a mix of goodness and darkness. The devil is an expert at tossing in the right amount of poison, in twisting what is good just enough to send it on a way that is dangerous.

This happens with those gurus you see on TV -- those smiling faces on Oprah, those radiant speakers who tell everyone how much money they can make and how much they can squeeze out of life, those fellows on Fox or Larry King who (using a Rosary) speak with the dead, those who possess "The Secret."

They seem to have found the key to true spirituality and yet there is usually a twist -- an unsettlement because we recall that the devil can come as an angel of light.

Such occurs through the world of mysticism. There often are similar doubts with near-death episodes, miraculous statues, and apparitions. It is a niggling restraint -- not about the unusual nature of an event, the supernaturality, but about its source -- and this is is why we must constantly appreciate the Church.

It may be full of problems; it may be in an arid period; it may be tainted by scandal.

But it remains the narrow gate.

During Communion we are restructured, imbued, reoriented, and brought back to the Point.

For all its shortcomings, no system of religion or spirituality on earth offers the safe passage to Heaven that Catholicism, when practiced correctly, when taken for its sacraments, in a live manner, does.

Hidden in its sacraments (from Confession to Communion) are the tools of discernment.

It is well to remember such and it is well to thus obey ecclesiastic authorities, however much, on occasion, we may disagree with them.

Those who want to dispel Catholicism must place it in perspective. It is the oldest institution on earth. No government, no court, and no kingdom has outlived it. This is also something, during memorial times, that we should remember. It is eight times as old as the United States.

While we appreciate our non-Catholic brethren (who often have things to teach us, especially about spiritual warfare), let us note that Catholicism is 2,000 years old while Lutherans date only back to 1517, Presbyterians to 1560, Baptists to 1605,Episcopalians to the 17th century, Methodists to 1744, Mormons to 1829, and such sects as Pentecostals and Jehovah's Witnesses to the past one hundred years -- not to mention the recent rise of the New Age.

This is not to demean other Christian faiths: they too have their version of the "gate." They too acknowledge one God. They too follow Jesus.

Many are the systems of belief that have a valuable method of discipline.

Moreover, Catholicism has its shortcomings. In recent centuries, it has veered way too far toward legalistic intellectualism. Do we really need all the polysyllabic phrases, the "motu proprios" and other arcane terminology when direct language serves better (such as that used by Jesus)?

We are in danger of becoming Pharisees.

While theology has its place, according to Father Marcello Stanzione, the president of the Center of Studies of Angelology at the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria La Nova in Campagna, Italy, "we must be careful to not fall into the trap of theological rationalism."

The absence of mystics leads to spiritual aridity, he warned, and "the climate of spiritual dryness leads to many baptized persons who are educated in the Catholic faith to search for spirituality in Buddhist, New Age, or other meditation groups and alternative religious movements to the Church of Rome."

Indeed, it has also caused millions of Catholics -- especially in the Americas -- to flee Catholicism for non-denominational churches that emphasize just this: gifts of the Spirit.

But none are the narrow gate in the way that the Catholic Church is -- a gate defined by those twenty centuries of experience, of tribulation, and rumination -- and thus should inspire all our efforts to fully preserve and enliven it. A return to use of Latin may engender more of a mystical flavor.

The Church has the structure, when used properly, to discern spirits.

It may be wrong at times. It may be too closed -- especially at a time of such intellectualism. But it provides us with a compass.

When a bishop declaims a seer, we must obey. We must listen.

Those who don't invite dark spirits.

[resources: Where is that in the Bible? and This is the Faith!]