Sunday, May 4, 2014

Boundaries and the Christian Life

It was a beautiful day and my wife Karen and I were sitting outside at a pub in Soulard, after having taken pictures of 27 Cakeway to the West cakes downtown.  I knew she might tell me I was analyzing too much, but I decided to bring up the thing that had been bothering me for a day or two.

KEVIN: I want to say something, and I know you might yell at me and tell me not to worry about this stuff, but here goes.

KAREN:  OK.

KEVIN:  The other day Sara Palin blasphemed against Baptism by saying she would gladly baptize terrorists by waterboarding them.  Then Mark Shea pointed out what a horrible thing this is to say, and now an angry mob of conservative Catholics are calling for Shea's crucifixion.  We're all beginning to learn that this is typical for the internet, and typical behavior even for fellow Catholics.

Karen, torture is simply the worst thing one human being can do to another.  No person who's a person (much less a Christian) should advocate for the torture of anyone - and certainly no Catholic should condone such a thing.  The Church is clear on that, even if our consciences are not.

But Crisis Magazine ran a hit-piece against Shea, and Catholic Answers apparently got it wrong again by leaving wiggle room for Torture as they once did for Lying.

Meanwhile, there's this whole Christopher West thing.  I know you think it's ridiculous that I even get involved in controversies like this, but for years now bishops across North America have not only done nothing while the Westians have hijacked John Paul's Theology of the Body, they have even approved of West and his followers selling a message on "chastity" that is actually New Age subterfuge, telling audiences that by an esoteric awakening they can lust-without-calling-it-lust.  It's all tepid Jungianism, and the bishops don't seem to care.

But then again, I say to myself, "They don't care about liturgical abuse or sexual abuse or the widespread promulgation of heresies or the death of Catholic education, why would they care about Christopher West, especially when he claims to be orthodox and manages to make a lot of money in the process?"

And so, Karen ... WHAT THE HELL?

KAREN:  What the hell?

KEVIN:  What the hell?  What's going on here?  Is the problem with the Church or is the problem with people?  Has it always been this bad or is it getting worse?

KAREN:  It's probably always been this bad, it's just much more obvious now.

KEVIN:  Then what's the solution?  Is it simply to work on the log in our own eyes, and not the speck in theirs?  Is the solution to seek the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, allowing all the rest to work itself out?  Is the solution to be true to our vocations, our families and our call as Christians, to live the sacramental life and become holy ourselves?  Is that the solution?

KAREN:  Yes.  That's the solution.

***

It all comes down to boundaries.

Over the years I have struggled with forgiving people who were close to me who hurt me very badly.  I finally realized that I can't take any responsibility for the things other people did to me - except in so far as I allowed it or egged them on.  My job is to take responsibility for what I did - which includes more than enough wrong to keep me busy with penance and reparations for quite some time.

In a similar way, our first priority is our own sanctity and our own back yards.  If married, we must make the Domestic Church what the Ecclesial Church is supposed to be but isn't.  Every man is a bishop of his own household, every woman his coadjutor.  "If I could only be bishop, I'd get things right!" I've said to myself more than once.

But I am bishop.  I'm bishop of the O'Brien Family Singers.  My see is our house in unincorporated St. Louis County.  My chair is the comfy one in the family room.  My flock are the wife and kids, and my neighbor (whom I'm supposed to love) is among the least lovable people I've ever met.  And, frankly, I've sometimes run my own domestic-diocese as poorly as most bishops run their ecclesial ones.

But that is the point.  That's what God wants from me.  "Feed my sheep" (John 21:17) begins, for those of us with a vocation to marriage, with the little lambs at home: feeding them in both body and soul.

We live in an age where we flatter ourselves that there are no boundaries - no moral boundaries, no boundaries when it comes to making money or having sex or living the way we want to live.  We don't provide boundaries for our children and we are shocked when they grow up to be manic-depressive juvenile delinquents.  Our bishops don't provide boundaries for their flock, and they are shocked when the Catholic Church simply vanishes from their diocesan borders.

But boundaries do indeed exist, deny them though we may - and we are bound to honor them.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you nailed it Kevin. I am pretty frustrated by ugly liturgy, unformed priests, crappy "Catholic" schools, etc, etc, etc,. But I haven't got a leg to stand on. Due to my own personal sinfulness and shortcomings I can barely love my wife and be a good father to my children as I ought. Without the sacramental graces of marriage I'd be doomed in my own vocation. So, I'm just focusing on my own duties right now. I sought out a wonderful orthodox priest who I see every month to keep me on task. I go to confession every week, and try to get to mass more than just on the weekends. I try to pray every day, dry as it is. That's it. Personal holiness by loving and serving my wife and kids (I am bad enough attempting to do just this). I try to let Christ worry about the rest.
But, I love your blog. I appreciate all your struggles and thank you for sharing them. Keep it up.