Friday, January 15, 2016

You Can't be a Real Catholic Without...

Friends just came back from a week-long retreat and have mentioned the post-retreat weirdness. I understand what they mean. It's the change of spiritual perspective, the fact of having spent so much time analyzing all the presuppositions of your life...

That and lots of other things has contributed to this. As some of you know, I just finished writing a book on the Catholic Spiritual Tradition. (Currently shopping publishers.) In it I talk about the general components of the view of the spiritual life according to the Catholic tradition. The book was all about perhaps correcting people's general ideas of what our tradition is. I never said this in the book, but let me say this here:

You are not a real Catholic unless:

1. You have worked really close with the destitute (poor, mentally, psychologically ill, etc.)

2. You have not journeyed with the dying.

3. You have not gone on a long, perhaps silent, retreat.

It is the absence of these three things that has led to the crazy mixed-up picture of Christianity that we have today as a social justice thing, as a community outreach centre, as a political party, as a fact of ethnicity, etc.

* It is also fascinating to consider how 1-3 are a basic part of the lives of the clergy, and so when crazy people like Pope Francis talk about mercy, they are operating not from the false ideas of Catholicism listed above, but from their experience of 1-3. If there is one thing I learned about priests (and bishops) living with them and being friends with them, it is that their lives are full of 1-3, and if your's is not, then you cannot assume that their words are not reflective of a deeper Christian reality than might be apparent.

* It is also worth remarking that I did not list things like having children, being celibate, working in the pro-life cause above. These are all good and, indeed, hugely valuable things. But not, obviously, for everyone: you can't both raise children and be celibate (despite what all wives would like! lol) Further, I think people take those things for granted as a part of Christian life. I think we miss how essential a part of discipleship 1-3 are.

Israel has one or two years of military service for all of its citizens. I think that would help us here in Canada. As Catholics, I think half a year serving the destitute and half a year the dying should be required for something... confirmation? (then we'd have to make confirmation at 18 years of age.)

Or, just no one think they are real Catholics who have not gone through this kind of training.

Yes, I just saw The Force Awakens.


  1. I'm a little bit confused by your post. So are you saying if you're someone who's never worked with the poor, never accompanied the dying or been on a silent retreat, you're not a real Catholic? That's a heckuva lot of people and I'm sure even some saints might be excluded from that list.

  2. The point really is that these are very important aspects of spiritual development. I always make my points 10 billion hundred million times too strong.

  3. I stumbled across your blog this morning. It is now afternoon. I don't know how to blog, and I hope this first entry does not disappear into cyber heaven. I do not know my google number, or belong to face book or anything else, but I would like to continue to read your messages and agree with your good essay on education and thinking. I am an archaic dinosaur and am considered eccentric and out of touch. I do not argue these points, but continue to stand firm in the clay. Please indicate whether or not I have reached you. Anony.