Despair and Presumption |
Some Musings on the Sins Against Hope
Despair is the abandonment of all hope of attaining Eternal Life, while Presumption is the false belief that one can be saved by his or her own efforts and not God's. What many fail to realize is that there are degrees of these sins and we offend against God when we presume all is lost with the conciliar mess we are in, forgetting that God can indeed bring order out of the chaos created over the last 40 years. To abandon a sincere hope for a total restoration of Holy Mother Church is to resign oneself to holding that all is lost in the Church. We all have to be on the guard that we are not led into such presumptive, despairing thoughts for it contradicts what Christ has promised in Matthew 16:18 and 28:20, which leads to Canonical Pessimism.
"Today, I believe we also need to be on the watch for certain more limited forms of despair regarding the present situation regarding the Church. How often the Catholic-at-heart conservative Novus Ordo believer reaches that final point of despondency from continually having to invent for himself some mental gymnastics rationalization for some new Novus Ordo aberration to somehow still be, however just barely, 'within the pale' for Catholicism! This is a time for their crossroads, as they either despair of finding any real and lasting truth and Divine stability, from now one just going through the motions but with religion ceasing to be anything important in their lives, or else they find Tradition where it is stable and alive and well, and at last they come to understand where God has wanted them to be all along."
Griff L. Ruby
I don't doubt that the miserable spiritual condition known as despair is probably one of the things people most don't like to think about. Oftentimes, one thinks of despair as being a kind of total despondence, a loss of all hope. Nothing so resembles Hell in this life more than such an emotional state, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here," it reads over that big creaky gate of Hell.
But is despair, in the sinful sense of that words, or even in some lesser and non-sinful circumstances, truly to be equated with that terrible feeling of total despondency? In Hell, yes, despondency and a whole host of other horrors unimagined. But here in this life? Let us look at a much lesser forum in which despair serves a necessary and constructive purpose in our psychological lives.
Every one of us, as we entered our teenage years, and for quite some time afterwards, has experienced what we call a "crush." Many of our earliest crushes we may have experienced may well be so blatantly irrational that we "blush" at the thought of them today. The 12-year-old girl who fantasized about being with that 44-year-old English teacher with the movie-star good looks. The boy who is obsessed with a lady-rock-singer. The clumsy nerd who dreams of a certain cheerleader.
Such hopeless and impossible crushes can be very painful as our crush "love" goes altogether unrequited. At best they might have been kind and had pity on us, but obviously they most certainly didn't feel for us what we felt for them. Eventually we got over it as we moved on with our lives. Think of what would happen if we didn't. Percy is the class nerd, a clown, and only laughed at when paid any attention at all by his classmates. But he has the total hots for Shannah, the blond wavy-haired football cheerleader next to the end in the cheerleader lineup with the absolutely flawlessly perfect face, the perfect voice, the perfect moves, and who sits only two desks away in Percy's History Class. She already has her own boyfriend Carl who is the Linebacker on the football team, and he is her reason for rooting so enthusiastically for the team. When, at a High School dance, Percy finally danders up the guts to ask Shannah for a dance, "just one song," he pleads, her answer is not only "no" but "Hell no!"
Hopefully and properly, this should be the cue for Percy to despair of ever winning his heartthrob Shannah, and for him to move on with his life. But what if he didn't. Picture poor Percy, following her, shadowing her, always setting himself up for more and more rejections, stalking her, and eventually having to be dealt with by her in some harsh manner, such as bringing in her attack dogs or the law. And picture poor Shannah, hounded by this creepy guy she just can't get rid of no matter how completely she discourages him, and who for her can merely graduate from the status of "nobody" to "pest" to "nemesis." Many stories and movies have been made based on this premise.
No, more realistically Percy must realize the utter hopelessness of ever winning Shannah and the sooner he moves on with his life and lets her do the same, the happier everyone will be. Properly speaking, he "despairs" of ever winning Shannah, gives up on her, and moves on to befriending people more to his level. Going through this of course involves a period of despondency, as Percy sits alone thinking to himself "She's beautiful; she's popular; she's poised and perfect, and she has a boyfriend and everything. What am I but this nobody, a complete nerd, or the class clown at best? Of course she's not going to ever bother with me. I might as well just forget her, even though I can't." Despite the pain of such a time, it is really only after that time of despondence that true despair sets in.
For real despair is not that the person is just beginning to see that what they hope for is impossible, nor the misery and pain of that realization, but rather the kind of dead feeling inside that sets in after one has fully accepted their fate, to the point that they really can cease even wanting what they know they will not get.
Even in that most despondent time, what is hoped for is still wanted, and its lack is felt as pain: "Well, she SHOULD be mine!" despite the obvious reasons why she shouldn't. Let her show up even then and he will still be glad to see her. He may doubt that she has come to do anything but let him off easy, but his ears are open and maybe she can convince him. Even in that despondent state the following is but a dream-come-true: "Yeah, well I just broke up with Carl. He was cheating on me, and then I went to visit my sister who also married a popular football player straight out of High School and now all he does is get fat and watch football games on TV and make her bring him a beer all the time, and he cheats on her too. So I realized I didn't want that kind of life, and here you were, always good to me, always there for me, and then I learned about how you won the regional chess championship, got accepted at Harvard, and lead the youth program at your church and I realized that being with you wouldn't be like thatů" - and so on she says as she convinces him that her feelings for him are genuine and won't collapse in the face of her fellow cheerleaders laughing at her and asking what in the world does she see in HIM?
No, even in such despondency, true despair has not quite as yet set in. But afterwards, once he is really over her, that is when true despair has set in. For now, even if she came to him with exactly the same things to say, he won't even care. All he can now say to her is "You didn't care about me when you didn't know all this about me, why should you care about me now (like I even care anymore)? Get lost!" Her absence is no longer felt as pain, her presence is no longer wanted. His despair of winning her is now complete.
There is a spiritual lesson from all of this. A person, discovering the woeful condition of their sinful state, perhaps in the wake of committing some heinous sin, or just encountering someone else who isn't mired and entangled in nets of crime and deceit as they are, could feel truly despondent over their spiritual state and feel almost hopeless about ever seeing Heaven. As long as they can still feel despondent about it the desire is still there, and as illustrated above, true despair has not as yet set in. But then they bury this despondency and content themselves with merely surviving and taking what limited pleasures they can within their nets of crime and deceit, and in that practice the sin of despair.
I have to wonder just how many times the seeming indifference of so many people today to spiritual things may actually be from despair rather than some sort of mere apathy. True, we have distractions many in this modern world that no previous generation ever faced, so many things to captivate our interest and provide us with so many compensations in life without having even once to turn to that supreme compensation, spiritual fellowship and union with our Maker. But can that really be all? Such things must all seem empty, no matter what transient joy or excitement or pleasure or even happiness they may bring. Yet so many seem to be totally happy and satisfied with that. Might there not be a spiritual despair lurking behind that total focus on mere worldly contentedness? I think there is.
They have given up on Heaven, since Heaven can be a rather difficult thing to believe in, especially when we are so comfortable here and know that many of the comforts we know of here won't exist in Heaven, but only new comforts of which we know nothing now. Our lack of real good hard and substantial knowledge about anything pertaining to God and the Afterlife (both good and bad) gives all of it something of an unreal quality to us that pales in the face of some present worldly pleasure. So one doesn't feel it worth fighting for and with that comes the unconscious knowledge that what we don't fight for we won't get, so there is a common example of despair today.
Today, I believe we also need to be on the watch for certain more limited forms of despair regarding the present situation regarding the Church. How often the Catholic-at-heart conservative Novus Ordo believer reaches that final point of despondency from continually having to invent for himself some mental gymnastics rationalization for some new Novus Ordo aberration to somehow still be, however just barely, "within the pale" for Catholicism! This is a time for their crossroads, as they either despair of finding any real and lasting truth and Divine stability, from now one just going through the motions but with religion ceasing to be anything important in their lives, or else they find Tradition where it is stable and alive and well, and at last they come to understand where God has wanted them to be all along.
I think such despair also occurs within the Church as well, as for example when we despair of ever seeing a solution to the present mess, or in the more extreme case some despair of the Church ever continuing to exist as a visible hierarchical institution again. So they become Canonical Pessimists, and get to the point of actually saying, "Let it disappear; see if I care. I can be a good enough Lone Star Catholic without anybody else."
Hope therefore is not merely about Hope for our own personal salvation but now in these times it is Hope for the Church as well. God is at work. If we do our part there will be results, and we will be fruitful, and we have been fruitful.
But the equal but opposite error from despair is presumption. So often we think of presumption in terms of our own life or salvation, "Oh, I'm all right. I need not worry. God will be nice and have mercy. I've got it made." What is not so commonly thought about (at least not in these terms) is the fact that we can as much practice the sin of presumption on behalf of others as we could for ourselves. How many times and ways are we told by the new Vatican modernists that "Oh, they're OK. We need not convert them to our Faith. They obviously seem sincere and nice so of course God will be merciful and admit them all to Heaven. So we will dialog with Jew and Muslim and Mormon and Lutheran and Buddhist and Hindu and Animist and what not, convince each other of our sincerity and good intentions and go home reinforced in our respective differing faiths and all is well with that. Besides, isn't Hell empty?"
In other words, the new Modernist religion is an institutionalizing of the sin of presumption, at least on behalf of others and perhaps ourselves as well. Just because God can be merciful is no proof that He always will be. We can hope that He will be merciful in this or that case, but we dare not presume so. And of course the supreme mercy would be that they find out what God wants of them and they join the Faith themselves as well. Hope for all things, but presume nothing. And do not presume that the Church will bounce back without our own participation. We can either be a part of that restoration of our beloved Church or we will be outside the Will of God and what hope can one find there?
Griff's book is available from iUniverse.com Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at www.the-pope.com We at The Daily Catholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.