DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     October 14, 1999     vol. 10, no. 196


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO

      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 plays the fool - the fool for Christ in advancing the cause of the fool, the one who would be ridiculed by the world for the prize of Heaven. If we have rabbit ears to the criticism of man, then how much do we weigh the judgment of God? Pat points out the various saints who were sinners and that there is no shame in falling, in being laughed at by the world and ostracized. Who wouldn't want to be ostracized from the devil? The real shame is in not responding to God's graces and getting back up on that bike and riding His graces on that narrow path to salvation. It isn't easy, no one said it would be; but it is the only way to go! That is the gist of Pat's column today, Hope or Despair.

    If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at KnightsCross@aol.com

Hope or Despair

        Remember when you were a child, and you fell off your bike? It hurt, and you may have ruined your clothes in the dirt. Going home in both fear and sorrow (it hurt and you looked like a mess), your mother comforted you. Checking to see that you were alright and cleaning up your wounds. She probably gave you an earful about being careful, reminding you that it could be much worse. And reminding you to avoid making the same mistake again. She didn't say you couldn't ride your bike again, but to do so responsibly, being careful to follow all the rules of the road and riding a bike. Imagine your 'friends' who told you to forget it. That you should ignore anything told you, just have fun. And if you did do as your mother told you, you were a Momma's boy, a little goody goody. The labels thrown at you by your peers could sting into your soul.

        The Church is our Mother, with God as our Father. She's there to clean us up, and comfort us when we 'fall off our bikes'. But there's a number of people who would call that being a 'goody, goody'. She doesn't say we can't, but rather to do so responsibly, recalling and following the rules set down by God, our Father.

        G. K. Chesterton wrote: "The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden." (Illustrated London News; 1-3-20)

        Money, sexuality, food, etc. are all good, when used properly as God intended. But this freedom is called slavery by some, claiming that their's is the better way, exchanging hope for despair, the truth for a lie, and calling THAT freedom.

        On one of the cable channels (C-Span I think), there was a press conference concerning some people who claimed to have left the homosexual lifestyle. They didn't attack homosexuals, didn't condemn them to eternal damnation, nor advocate their deaths, just reported that they, and others, have been able to change. Immediately following that press conference, another was held, in the same room. The rebuttal by various gay and lesbian groups. Their conference seemed intent on attacking those who had just finished holding their press conference. The labels flew fast and furious. Homophobic, ignorant, etc. Now I'm not going to get into which group was right but what I noticed was difference in attitude. One offered hope, the other, despair.

        Sin can affect various people in various ways. Mother Angelica wrote about the difference between the saint, the sinner, and the average person. The sinner, falling into a mud puddle (sin) relishes in it. He can't think of anything better, wallowing around and thoroughly enjoying themselves. The average person sits in the mud puddle, bemoaning his fate. They're upset with falling into it, wondering what they could have done to avoid it. They sit there, brooding over it. The saint, seeing himself in the mud puddle, picks himself up (or asks for help getting up), gets themselves cleaned up, and resolves to try and avoid that puddle in the future.

        Let's expound on this a bit. The sinner, seeing the average person visibly upset, goes over and tried to convince him that there's nothing wrong. That they shouldn't upset themselves, but should enjoy themselves. The saint, seeing the same thing, goes over and tries to help the person get up from the mud. Whereupon he is set on for making the person feel bad, for not letting him remain in the mud.

        Now, let's go back to that press conference. A number of people, many associated with Courage (the Catholic homosexual support organization) have stated that they have given up the homosexual lifestyle. Or at least have controlled it, to live according to the Church's teachings. But immediately, groups such as Dignity, go on the offensive. They claim there's nothing wrong with engaging in homosexuality, those who feel guilt for doing so should throw off their guilt, their conscience, and embrace it.

        Courage offered hope that it may be possible for at least some to put off their sexual compulsion, or at least live with their sexuality in accordance to God's law. The other offered despair, that there was nothing they could do about it.

        Those who have 'conquered' their sins (through God's help) have been some of the greatest saints in our history. St. Augustine was very happy within the Gnostics. His mother, St. Monica, prayed for his conversion. And he even noted, in a prayer (of sorts), that he wanted to know and love God, just not right away. The sexual excesses of the Gnostics were well known and St. Augustine was enjoying them. However, upon coming to faith, he knew the lie behind their 'knowledge', having been a party to it. He was the perfect instrument to expose them to the faithful.

        St. Paul himself was such an instrument. Seeing Christianity as a threat, he set out to end it by force. We can presume from the Scriptures that he had, at least, a hand in the martyrdom of Stephen. And since he was noted as a strong enemy of the Church, we can also presume that he was at least partially responsible for the deaths of many other martyrs.

        But; "For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, 'He is the Son of God.' And all who heard him were amazed, and said, 'Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called on this name? And he has come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests.' But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 9:19-22).

        Now that had to be some witness. The person who actively attacked the Church was now one of it's staunchest supporters.

        St. Francis of Assisi was renown for his being a party animal. He was often declared the 'king of the revels' by his friends. No one could throw a party, or have a great time as much as Francis Bernadone. Yet, he knew he was missing the truth. Many think that St. Francis' conversion came when our Lord spoke to him through the cross at San Damiano. But from his biographies, we see that Christ brought him about slowly. Over time, everything that he once held dear and enjoyable became unbearable to him.

        The person who, only a short time before, sought glory in battle and commerce, who lived a life of eat, drink, and be merry, was now extolling the virtues of penance and conversion; calling for all people to turn back to God.

        None of the three who I've touched on, as well as countless others, were instantly accepted. St. Paul, St. Augustine, and St. Francis were all called traitors, mad, etc. They were reviled and hated. In some cases, they sought to even kill them. "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on My account, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (John 15:18-21).

        Now many may tell you that this is not true, not wise. That the wise way is the popular way. To say homosexuality, gluttony, lust, and greed are sins is hateful, ignorance. We're just not with it they say. Self control and sacrifice are outmoded and ignorant ways of thinking. To that we say: "Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness,' and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.' So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3: 18-23)

        Holding to the truth has never been popular, nor easy. It isn't hate to call a sin a sin. We all sin, we've all fallen short of the glory of God. We can either bemoan our fate, and wallow in guilt, or we can turn to a merciful God, knowing His love and trusting in His mercy to forgive us our inadequacies. We can relish in our sin and refuse to answer God's call to repentance (guilt), or we can joyfully go to our Heavenly Father, to be cleaned of our failings and rejoice in His love.

        The Church offers us Christ's hope and love, the world offers us doom and despair. Which would you choose?

    Pax Christi, Pat

October 14, 1999       volume 10, no. 196


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