DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     September 20, 1999     vol. 10, no. 178


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE
          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 drinks from the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church to convey to all that it is impossible to understand the meat of Church Doctrine if we have not been weaned on the milk of the Word and brought along slowly and surely to the truth of Christ's teachings. Too often, many assume they know the Church and refuse to listen to those who have the God-given authority to impart the truths in doses that all can digest and be nurtured with. As Pat points out, even the Apostles were brought about slowly Jesus gave them small doses of nourishment in the truth so that they could mature in their faith and confidence to teach others. Like little children, they fussed and questioned much, but through the milk-fed process Jesus employed, they became strong in their faith and had the teeth to digest much more. Today, if we have not been weaned on the spiritual milk, we will reject solid doctrine and go for the contaminated mush of heresy. When we do that, we end up souring our entire life and others'. That is the gist of Pat's column today, Milk does a body and soul good.

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

For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives

Milk does the body and soul good!

        Archbishop Sheen helped many people come to the faith, giving personal instruction to quite a few notable people.

        On one occasion, he was going to give instruction to a theatrical artist. Earlier, Humphrey Bogart had come to visit. He was told that Bishop Sheen was coming and that he would be welcome to sit in on the instruction, or could wait in another room if he wished. Bogart responded; "Why should I listen to any priest; I know more about the Catholic Church than any priest." When Sheen arrived, the discussion turned to novels. Bishop Sheen admitted that he hadn't read any of the novels that they were discussing and that this trait may have come from his father, who could never read novels. Intrigued, Bogart asked; "Was your father a priest too?"

        Well obviously Mr. Bogart knew nothing about the Catholic Church. In fact, it shows Bishop Sheens statement to be true. That there is not one in a thousand who hate the Catholic Church, but thousands who hate what they 'think' is the Catholic Church. This applies, today, just as much to Catholics as it does non-Catholics.

        I would guess that many of us are familiar with the old charges and distortions against the Church made by non (or ex) Catholics. Who hasn't come across the little comic books sent out by Jack Chick? Or heard the arguments that we created the Eucharist, worship Mary as a goddess, etc.

        But what is sadder is how few Catholics really know their faith. The Catechism teaches us; "From this knowledge of Christ springs the desire to proclaim Him, to 'evangelize', and lead others to the 'yes' of faith in Jesus Christ. But tat the same time the need to know this faith better makes itself felt." (CCC #429)

        First, we cannot teach what we don't know. Well, we can, but it wouldn't be true. How can one teach what they don't know? "…there is no branch of teaching, however humble and easy to learn, which does not require a master." (St. Augustine)

        We also find that learning our faith is an on-going process. It never ends. In fact, if we wished to find and learn every jewel, every bit of our rich Catholic heritage and teaching, it would need more than one lifetime. But it seems that learning that faith is now passe' in many places.

        With the Baltimore Catechism, we used a tried and true learning method. When one is beginning to learn math, one begins with rote memorization of math tables. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. One cannot do even the simplest algebra or geometry problem without knowing these. Likewise, the third grader began their religious education with simple, rote memorization. "Who is God?", etc. But today, if that answer is relative to whoever asks it, then we can't give an answer. From this simple beginning, we move to greater truths. "I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready," (1 Corinthians 3:2).

        "About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God's word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:11-14).

        "Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" (1 Peter 2:2-3).

        The analogy is clear. One doesn't give a newborn a steak dinner, nor does one give someone recovering from an illness solid food right away. One cannot accept, swallow if you will, authentic Church teachings if you haven't been 'weaned' on them, if you are not able to accept them.

        Christ didn't choose His Apostles and immediately send them off to preach. He taught them, brought them along until they knew the truth and were ready.

        If a person doesn't know why Catholics hold to the authority of the Church, then obviously, they have no reason to submit to her authority. If God is just some fuzzy, unknown entity, then one god is as good as another. To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, if one believes that one horse is as good as another, then we may see them put a plow horse in the Kentucky Derby, and have a race horse pulling a plow. There are even differences in race horses since not even all race horses are 'created equal' (every year there is a winner and loser's in the Derby) No building stands without a 'skeletal' structure beneath it's outward appearance. The World Trade Center, Empire State Building, even our own homes wouldn't stand unless they were built supported by girders and beams to hold the walls, set in a solid foundation. Even we would be nothing but a formless sack of flesh without a skeleton to hold it in place.

        Yes, milk does a body good. Without it, we may grow with weak and brittle bones, liable to break with the smallest pressure. So we must first be fed this milk, so we can accept the solid food when ready.

        Education, learning, is supposed to be the search for truth, not just knowledge. One can find learned people to justify anything. Recently, Princeton hired a Professor for their Bio-ethics department who feels that human life is not guaranteed dignity. That there are justifiable homocides, abortions, euthanasia, etc. If life means nothing, then of course any action against it is allowable. Even the Nazi's had learned men justify the eradication of the Jews, just as America, in the 1800's, had learned men give logical reasons as to why American Indians and Blacks were not fully human.

        I must admit that if a fundamentalist street preacher hadn't challenged me (and my mother raised me to seek the truth) I would never have learned my faith. (Though I am by no means done, nor even remotely an expert) and if I had not been put in a position to actually read Vatican II documents, I would probably think that the arguments of Call to Action, et alii, were valid according to the 'spirit' of Vatican II. It wouldn't be what the Church taught, but what I 'thought' the Church taught. It wouldn't be the Catholic Church, but what I thought the Catholic Church was.

        No doubt, I could find theologians, philosophers, and teachers to 'justify' my thinking. But I would not be able to find one authentic Catholic teaching to do so. I could not say I was following Vatican II when faced with the fact that Vatican II never taught what I thought it did, nor could I say I was a Catholic when faced with the fact I believed something the Church didn't teach.

        The consequences of this type of thinking, knowledge over truth, is readily apparent. If we are free to create our own theologies, our own spirituality there is no need to attend Mass, no need for priests, or nuns. There is no need for religious educators, and no need for any faith but the one I created. And if I create my own faith, how can I be expected to 'teach', to 'evangelize' others?

        What St. Jerome wrote can be applied today to what some Catholics 'think' is Catholic teaching. "You cannot make your way into holy Scripture (or Church teaching) without someone to go before you and show you the road….The science of the Scriptures is the only one which all persons indiscriminately claim as their own! This science the babbling old woman, the doting old man, the wordy sophist, take upon themselves; they tear it to tatters and teach before they themselves have learned….Coming by chance to the study of the Scriptures….they fancy what they utter is the law of God, not deigning to learn what the prophets and the Apostles taught. Rather, they accommodate to their interpretation the most incongruous passages, as if were something great instead of a most faulty method of teaching, distorting sentences and forcing the reluctant Scripture (and Church teaching) to their own whims."

        The attitude of the Catholic cannot be what "I" think, but what Christ, through His Church thinks. As Christ said: "I have not spoken on My Own authority; the Father Who sent Me has himself given Me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden Me" (John 12:49-50).

        Christ taught what His Father commanded Him to teach, not what 'He' thought. Peter, Paul and the other Apostles taught what Christ had commanded them, not what they 'thought' He wanted taught. All the way to the Church today.

        Yet we hear those who speak of their own personal authority. Not what the Church teaches but rather what they 'think' the Church should teach. More often than not this is not due to an authentic spirituality, but rather as a justfication.

        But again, how can one teach what they don't know, or reject? And how can we know if we aren't taught it? We may think we know the Church, but unless we know where to look, we may find ourselves listening to those telling us what we 'want' to hear rather than what we 'need' to hear. Without a grounding in the basics, we cannot accept or understand the greater things of the faith. We then don't have faith, but rather a self-made appearance of faith. Not faith in God, or His Church, but in ourselves. A self-made faith with a self- made god, for a self-made church.

    Pax Christi, Pat

September 20, 1999       volume 10, no. 178


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