Surveying the Catholic blogosphere, one cannot help but notice that one of the more common attributes of many Catholic bloggers is that they are angry. Whether it is directed at bishops, President Obama, the mainstream media, Hollywood, liturgical innovators or heterodox-leaning parish priests, anger is all too prevalent. I think one of the main reasons Catholics so easily fall into anger is that they are not, to use Newman’s phrase, “deep in history.”
But wait a minute, you might say, what about the hard-core traditionalists? They practically live in history, yet they are the angriest of all Catholics. I would argue that they are not truly deep in history; instead, they only see a caricature of a specific time and place in history, such as a Roman Catholic parish in 1954 Kansas. This is not being historical in the true sense, but instead nostalgic for an era that never really existed and had its own flaws which they now gloss over.
Personally, I have always enjoyed reading history, and after my conversion to Catholicism over 17 years ago, my historical reading shifted into a deeper reading of Church history, both East and West, as well as Catholic and Protestant. One of my main conclusions of all this reading is: boy, the doctrine of Original Sin really does get proven in every generation. There has never been a time in which members of the Church have not been full of avarice, lust, pride and gluttony. There has also never been a time in which at least some members of the Church have not been persecuted for their faith. Yet the Faith has endured, saints have been produced, and God’s grace continues to be poured onto the world. Even man’s best efforts to destroy the Church have done little to slow down its march to eternity.
Being deep in history thus changes one’s perspective: you see the problems of today in light of past problems. When the local parish priest does something a bit loopy, you remember that in Middle Ages Russia, most parish priests were illiterate alcoholics who stumbled through the liturgy and didn’t know even the basics of Christian theology. When Hollywood produces (yet another) anti-Catholic film, you remember the terrible persecutions that Christians of past ages (and even today) have endured to pass on the faith. When President Obama proposes legislation that goes against the Catholic Faith, you recall the times in history in which temporal power was abused even by Churchmen.
Ultimately, the Catholic who is very angry is a Catholic who is full of fear. He sees what is going on around him and he fears that God cannot overcome it. He fears that perhaps it is possible that our sins really will rule the day and that the gates of hell will in fact overcome the Church. Yet the more one surveys history, the more one sees that no matter how terrible man can be (and terrible indeed he can be), God is still at work in the world and He cannot be overcome. The Church endures, saints still live in the world, and the Gospel is still preached to the ends of the earth. There is absolutely no reason to fear, as we have already read the end of the book and we know that God wins.
All this is not to say that we should not resist evil; on the contrary, we are called as disciples of Jesus to proclaim the Gospel even when the world attacks it. Yet we can do so with a joyful spirit, because we know who the Victor is. Let us therefore follow the advice of St. Paul:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)