Church Militant or Church Mollified?

From “Standing On My Head”:

In conversation with a young seminarian last week we were discussing the problems within the Catholic Church. My own opinion is that the problems have little to do with all the external things we focus on: choice of hymns, type of liturgy, church architecture, preaching styles, etc. etc. etc.

All these things are important, but more often than not they are symptoms, not causes. The real underlying problem in the Catholic Church (and Western Christianity) is that it has lost the reason for it’s whole existence. It can be summed up like this: too much of the Christian Church in the West has followed the secular American creed that life is about the pursuit of happiness. We want happiness in this life. We think happiness in this life is possible. We expect happiness in this life. We want to make everyone happy in this life. If this is the basic underlying belief, then it follows that we spend our lives trying to be happy and make everyone else happy.

Far be it from me to rain on anyone’s parade. I like being happy as much as the next person, and despite my curmudgeonly moments, I think I am a pretty happy and contented person. However, to put human happiness in this world as our main raison d’etre is a flawed and fatal basic assumption.

When it translates to religion we have a religion that has, as its main purpose, solving people’s problems and making people happy. So religion becomes a kind of therapy. Religion becomes a form of social work. Religion becomes a political or social campaign. Liturgy becomes a time for hugs and feel good sentiment. Church buildings become meeting halls where the hugs and feel good sentiment can be dispensed. Prayer becomes a therapeutic tool and worship becomes a time to prod and poke ourselves to see if we are happy enough, and if not, to apply yet another soothing song or listen to another humorous, warm hearted sermon.

What happens if we change the basic assumption? First of all, what if we were to accept as the most foundational premise that the supernatural exists, and that the faith is the way we engage with the supernatural world in battle? What if we were to assume that the main reason for this life is not necessarily to be happy in this world, but to prepare for the next? What if we perceive this world, not as a playground, but a battleground? What if we perceived this life as a battle between good and evil in which every decision of every day mattered? What if we were to perceive ourselves not as puppies to be pampered, but troops to be disciplined and trained for warfare? What if we were to regard this world as a place of conflict and ourselves as front line troops? What if we regarded the confessional as the field hospital where we get healed after being wounded in battle, and the liturgy as the light of a letter or a food parcel from home?

Everything would change. Seminaries would become boot camps. Sermons would focus on the strategies for battle, the seriousness of the enemy and the need for constant vigilance.

Confessionals would be full with the wounded needing healing. Liturgy would be a poignant and beautiful glimpse of our heavenly home–enough to refresh us and remind us why we are fighting.

When we talk of the Church Militant this is what it means–not necessarily that we’re arming ourselves for battle against the heretics or the infidels–but that we are putting on the whole armor of God, to fight against the powers of darkness in this world.

Posted by Fr. Dwight Longenecker at Saturday, January 05, 2008


6 Responses to Church Militant or Church Mollified?

  1. Steve Davies says:

    Earthly battles lead to Heavenly Joy. Unhappiness in this life is an opportunity for growth. Happiness in things of this world make us lukewarm for our Lord and Savior.

    The events in my life of the last 18 to 24 months, if not the last 10 years, have drawn me to firmly believe that this life is a spiritual battlefield of good versus evil. We are constantly pulled in a direction which we really don’t want to go, but are more than often tempted. We stumble, we fall, but the Lord in His eternal Mercy calls us back and gives us opportunities time and time again to reconcile with Him. Praised be the Lord for His Mercy!

    From 1998 until 2002, I watched my first wife battle and die from cancer. God was always there for our family and allowed his Grace to be evident hundreds, if not thousands of times over that four years. In a pursuit for earthly happiness, I married again, only to have my second wife walk out without an explanation after two years. I believe that part of it was my growing closer to the Lord and part was her desire to remain tempted by earthly happiness. I am certain that the Enemy turned up the heat to break us apart because of the potential good that we could have done as a united family. Having fun and being “happy” was more important to my second wife than her vows. Love was a feeling rather than a commitment. Without all of that, I would have not been awakened to what I needed to do and to the Divine Truths that God wants to reveal to all of us. Without those tragedies. I would have stayed lukewarm. To me, that answers the question that I always hear, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The answer: They are opportunities to bring us, and those around us, closer to our Creator who loves us more than we can conceive of.

    It is ONLY by the Divine Grace of God that we can overcome the forces that would drag us and those we love, away from our Savior. Alone, we don’t stand a chance; we desperately need God.

    I am eternally grateful and can never express how much the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary have helped me. Archangel Michael, my Guardian Angel, and my first wife Angie have all been tremendous warriors for me. The Lord’s Joy is only possible if we submit to His Will and not our own desires. Prayer (especially the Rosary and daily evening personal prayers), Scripture (using Lectio Divina and aids such The Word Among Us), and the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist are SO important and have gotten me back in a direction toward our Lord. However, I still have a l-o-n-g way to go as I seek Him.

    I pray that His Grace and Mercy are bestowed on all who read this and all that you pray for. May God Bless you.

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