Monday, January 16, 2017

Worrying is not a charism

Like many of my fellow Catholics, I can't help but wonder what the heck is going on in Malta. I've seen bits and pieces of headlines (Freemasons? Conspiracies? Adulterers, line up for communion?) and have scratched my head at them. I admit to being confused by just what the goals are here, and whether the goalie is, perhaps, taking a bit of a nap or something.

There was a time in my life when I would probably have gone on some sort of verbal rampage about things like this (and I can't guarantee that those times will never return). But I've come to believe something, something that started vaguely occurring to me way back in Pope St. John Paul II's pontificate and, perhaps, reaching its clearest expression during the papacy of Pope Francis. It is, quite simply, this:

Worrying is not, and never has been, the charism of any parish, religious order, lay Catholic group, individual Catholic, etc.

There is no holy duty to worry. There is no pious practice of fretting. There is no blessing in the Book of Blessings given to Catholics engaging in verbal combat with other Catholics on the Internet. There is no Rite of Calling Out Your Religious and/or Political Enemies for Doing or Supporting Things That Annoy You For What Are Probably Highly Personal Reasons But Can Under The Right Circumstances Sound Quite Noble And Whatnot (tm.) There just isn't anything like that in the Church.

In fact, we're supposed to do the opposite of worrying. We're supposed to trust God, and cultivate a spirit of obedience to Him. We're also, most of the time, supposed to obey those in lawful authority over us unless they ask us to do something we are absolutely certain is wrong in a way that conflicts with our obedience to God. St. Thomas More is an excellent example of the right way to do this sort of thing; the wrong way is to have a knee-jerk, default attitude of contempt toward our religious or political leaders and plan to thwart them unless almost by accident they do something we agree with once in a while.

I have sometimes heard people speak admiringly of St. Catherine of Siena, that holy woman whose calling included some involvement in political action and in persuading the Pope to return to Rome from Avignon, as a particular model for our times. She is certainly a wonderful saint, and for those whom God is calling to act in the public square or within the Church's internal structures she may indeed be a powerful patron. But I think perhaps St. Therese of Lisieux, with her "Little Way," may be a more pertinent model for those of us who aren't being directly called by God to meddle in Vatican affairs or national politics. Posting "anti-Francis" memes or holding an Internet inquisition to determine who is really pro-life may be attractive hobbies to some of us, but they do not get the dishes done, let alone feed the poor or clothe the naked.

It's one thing to read the news, both secular and Catholic, to stay informed and take various matters (and various people) to prayer. It's another thing to feed on the media's endless diet of death-by-clickbait so we can shake our heads over What The Church And the World Are Coming To instead of folding the laundry or paying the bills.

No, worrying is not a charism, and God has everything that we fear firmly in His hands. We should try to trust Him, and to please Him by living our own vocations instead of fretting about everyone else's.