DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     July 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 131

Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
    INTRODUCTION
          Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

          Today Pat addresses the age-old confusion that arises when people seek the "brass ring" in achieving total inner peace and being at one with God. Whether they be "message chasers," voracious readers, searchers seeking the truth, all can fall into that trap of "looking in all the wrong places!" Pat illustrates how God made each of us as individuals, all different and because of that what might work for one, won't necessarily work for another. This is evident even in the lives of the saints and their path to holiness. But he has the solution to all this searching for while we look toward the horizon for God, we fall into the proverbial trap of not seeing the trees through the forest for He is right here before us, present in the Holy Eucharist, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. We don't need a Phd or organize an expedition to find Him, just simple, trusting faith.

Looking for God in all the wrong places!

          I think it was Bill Cosby who said that when he and his wife were first married, they devoured every book they could find on child psychology and how to be better parents. After their first child, he found the books usefulů.to spank them with. It's the adage that self help books on how to be better parents are written by folks without kids.

          Why did I bring this up? Because many of us either want a closer relationship with God, or want to find our way toward Him. So we run off after this book, and that, we attend seminars, retreats, etc. And when it's said and done, we come away discouraged because we're no closer to God. Everyone else seems to be, the author or speaker surely is, but we aren't. It may be that we're either being led down the garden path or looking in all the wrong places.

          Someone, I forget who, said we all have a God-shaped hole in us that we long to fill. So, it's natural to want to get closer to him. I remember hearing a southern comedian talk about how he 'found' God. Going here, going there, to this church and that, when one day, Christ caught up to him, tackled him and put His foot on his neck. Whereupon he said, "O Lord, I've found you." Sometimes we try too hard and get discouraged when it doesn't 'take'.

          Reading inspirational books, especially the Bible, is a great way to come closer to God. We can read St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. John of the Cross, etc. But if we follow them step for step, we may well not find God as they did. Why? Because each and everyone of them was a different person, with a different personality. St. Peter's calling was different from St. Paul's, which was different from St. Thomas.

          St. Peter was called and his faith 'grew' over time. Though he made the profession of faith as to who Christ is, his faith still grew. Slowly, quietly. St. Paul was literally knocked off his high horse. St. Thomas had to be shown Christ's wounds to finally believe.

          So, we read the lives of the saints and their writings and come closer to the understanding of God through them. But essentially, it's God Who has to touch us and draw us closer to Him.

          So, we can use books to help us come closer to God. But we mustn't get discouraged if what 'worked' for them doesn't work for us. Faith doesn't come like instructions for building a bicycle or magic. There are steps which lead us toward a greater faith. " But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Matthew 6:33).

          But books alone may leave us open to many serious errors, and then a loss of faith rather than an increase in it. One may find a book which says that the Holocaust never occurred, that doesn't mean it's proof that it's true. Or just because you find a book on Nazism in the Library of Congress, it doesn't mean the U.S. supported Nazism. Yet, we run into volumes of books in the 'Catholic' press which does precisely that.

          Many 'New Age' Catholics, for example, see St. Francis of Assisi as some New Age guru finding God in all creation. (Rather than giving glory to God 'through nature)

          Maybe you've heard of a prayer where you quietly enter into yourself, quieting your soul and centering yourself. Centering Prayer. But if you look at what this prayer calls for, you see that it encourages you to block out 'disruptive' thoughts that come into the mind while you center on the 'god' within, yourself. This is nothing more than Hindu mysticism with a Christian veneer, transcendental meditation. Both openly and covertly, many Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi and other 'mystic' ways, have been introduced as Catholic/Christian ways.

          Contemplation is replaced with meditation. St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, etc. were 'contemplatives'. They were constantly in thought about God, contemplating Him in every aspect of life. But now, many are encouraged not to contemplate, but meditate. To empty oneself of every thought.

          If one reads books such as "She Who Is" or "Women at the Altar", one may think one is getting true Catholic theology and history, after all they quote prominent Catholic theologians and historians. But in reality, you're reading Catholic dissension theology and historical revisionism. It's the 'foot in the door' to lead the faithful away from the Church, away from God. After all, if God is genderless, what's the problem of calling Him Goddess Mother? If women were priests in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, why not now? (The sect which had women priests were the Christian Gnostics, not the Christians.) So, while we look for books and seminars, classes, etc. we must be wary of their sources.

          But in all this, there is one place where we can experience God up close and personal. One place where Christ is very real, very present, very much involved with us.

          St. Elizabeth Seton, before she became a Catholic, was envious of Catholics because they could literally receive Christ into their hearts, souls and bodies, every day. Not metaphorically but physically. We can begin our journey, as St. Peter did, with His call to us to follow Him. And with His grace, we can grow in faith. Even if we don't receive any 'wiz bang' sign that He is there, we come to 'know' that He is. We become closer to Him, more intimate with Him. Christ gave us the sign posts to follow. Seek first His kingdom, daily pick up your cross, be humble of heart, etc.

          But in the Eucharist we see the greatest, most real sign of God's love for us. Maybe this is why many want to lessen or tinker with the Eucharist. Make it more symbolic. St. John Bosco's vision of the great ship showed precisely what would happen when we 'anchor' ourselves in the Eucharist. We are safe, secure, cared for, and loved.

          If you wish to know God, know Him in the Eucharist!

          Many times, we simply try too hard. It's good to try to get to know God better, but few have known God as a burning bush, or fire from the sky. For most of us, He is simply the soft, subtle breeze, easily overlooked and unrecognized. While we focus on one door for Christ to enter, we miss Him knocking softly at the other door. Or we're so intent on finding Him, we're led off by those who claim to be Him, all the while He was standing right beside us. All we had to do was sit still and see Him.

      Pax Christi, Pat

July 8, 1999       volume 10, no. 131
VIEW FROM THE PEW

DAILY CATHOLIC

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