Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop

Lectionary: 489

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.




When I was ordained, shortly after the Second Vatican Council, the world and the Church enjoyed a new optimism. The victors of two world wars had sponsored the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other institutions hoping to build a new community of civility, cooperation and progress. The Roman Catholic Church shared that optimism with its Second Vatican Council, an epic event. Pope Paul VI wrote a hopeful encyclical entitled Populorum Progressiohe reminded the world that progress must include the least among us or it means nothing.

That was more than forty years ago and we've had a hard time maintaining that optimism. Democratic nations that appeared willing to share the wealth with developing nations discovered that might mean living with a little less; it might require actual sacrifice. Their progress might be a little slower as everyone walks together. Democracies, it appears, can be very generous with their surplus but not to the point of sacrifice.

With the cynicism that followed development into the "new age" of the computer, Internet, smart phones and so forth, materialism and consumerism took deep root. Worse, with the corruption of advertising and the media, many people doubt there is any such thing as Truth. The "mosaic generation" is left to construct its own image of truth from bits and pieces they glean from the media without the tutelage of Church or school. Like the philosopher Nietzsche, they see only power.

In the end many Christians -- even the elect -- conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.

As I understand, a younger generation of priests is trained with skepticism about the good intentions of the secular world. The Utopian secular city is now a dystopianthreat.

Perhaps my generation and theirs agree that Christians must fall back and regroup; we must reclaim our traditions, values and beliefs; we must recreate an alternate culture with its own symbols, rituals and institutions. We can no longer afford the luxury of petty doctrinal quarrels.

In the face of violent nihilism we should practice reconciliation and forgiveness with the aim of justice. The cross of Christ promises peace but not in the immediate future; our baptized, eucharisted and confirmed children should not expect to prosper in material comfort.

With Saint Paul we should say to our children, "Do as I do and as I say!"
Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.