The church must either surrender in the face of the secularist order which makes a mockery of its ideals or set about changing the order.

F. Ernest Johnson, in Church and Society

+ + +

Yesterday I went to a very lovely Church, with beautiful stain glass windows and an inspiring altar.  The Mass was reverent, done with solemnity – a quiet majesty befitting Christ.

The priest, a very good man, a good speaker and one totally committed to being a shepherd of his flock began his homily pointing out that we seem to be more exercised when a man on a safari kills a venerable lion than when Planned Parenthood harvests and sells the organs of an aborted child.

Yes, a powerful beginning – a great starting point to explore why that is, how we have come to occupy that mindset and space where the innocent and defenseless human person is eliminated and we say nothing, yet an animal is killed and we are ready for retribution.

One would think, as I did, “Oh, this is going to be a good homily.”

Not so.  For this very good priest spent the next 20 to 25 minutes talking about the Eucharist, the value of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

Yes, that is a wonderful topic but it does not connect with the question raised. And that is a large problem with our clergy. They are well-trained in theology, and are heartfelt shepherds but they know very little about secularism and cannot easily help us bridge to the Eucharist, the Church, our faith and Christ in a hostile secular culture that surrounds us.

I thought as I listened that the Church often is like a man out for a walk on a mountain path who comes to an overlook and pauses to see the beauty of God’s creation before him.  And while pausing, he notices right below him a man about twenty feet from him clinging to a protruding stump on the side of the cliff, dangling several thousand feet from the canyon floor and then says to the man, “You not ought to be there.  God loves you and wants you alive.” That’s it.  That’s all the man says, and then he walks away.

Well, yes – nice thing to say, but how does it connect the man in danger to the reality he faces?  How does it save the man?  Of what practical value are these words when the man has no way of connecting with that reality in the face of his likely plunge to his death?

That is the current Church which seems simply untutored in the ways of secularism, its scope, its history, how it manifests itself so completely in secular culture and its systems of mass communication, present education and indoctrination, and how it creates illness among its people, and divides us one from another, justifies the national pursuit of hideous views and policies – blinds and dehumanizes us.

What is missing is insightful instruction that situates each of us in the culture with a critical consciousness that allows us to link the disorder we experience with a path to Christ, to God and raises up the absolute primacy of faith.

You see we are blanketed by the quilt of secularism.  Its patches are many – individualism, hedonism, selfishness, Marxism, race, the glorification of gender, sex and sexual practices, class, status, consumption, privilege, money, addictions, suicides, abortion, emotional illness, loneliness, anxiety, objectification and self-objectification, distrust, lying, dishonesty, homicide, fatherless children, broken homes, the destruction of marriage and family and all that mediates the presence of God in life.

These are the planks that comprise the bridge to faith in a time of exclusionary secularism, yet our clergy are unskilled carpenters.

Holy Father Joseph, where are you?  We need you so.

Secularism is the practice of the absence of God.