The evil one throws both distractions and fears like grenades in our path. Distractions are virtually limitless with the internet and a cash-flush economy, but consider how fear is used to block our progress toward heaven. Almost every “news” story, both from the left and the right, is “a crisis” calculated to generate fear. If you are going to watch the news, friends, try to see how fear mongering is simply a means of control. Governments have always used fear to control power, and media companies have always used fear to control sales. The great day of decision will come—a true cosmic “crisis”—when the Messiah returns. Those who believe will go with him into heaven, and those who do not believe will be left behind on earth, which will become hell. It is for that day that we are preparing. Life offers many “trial runs” leading up to that day, and certainly the recent pandemic and government lockdowns forced us to make a decision. Whom do we trust more: the government and the tech corporations, or the providence of God? When the government forced excessive measures on us that have since proven largely ineffective, including closing churches, what was our response? During the pandemic, while on a hike, I saw a T-Shirt that said “Faith over Fear.” No three words better express what happened during the pandemic. So many of us traded rational faith for unreasonable fear, but I hope many of us also learned something during that time.
Last week California voted overwhelmingly for Proposition One, which legalized abortion up to the moment of birth. The abortion industry put a lot of money into promoting fear among Californians: “If Prop One doesn’t pass, women will die and our rights will be forfeit. We cannot let the fascists take over!” Again we voted for irrational fear over rational faith. Most people don’t know that we essentially legalized infanticide, certainly not the man I was talked with yesterday after Mass (“you mean a doctor can now abort a child even while the mother is having contractions?!?!”). Yup.
Church leaders led a pitiful political attempt to block Prop One. It was, in my opinion, an egregious waste of time and money. Do the bishops of California really think they can do better than the billionaires who have built and control our media culture? Church leaders should put our time and money, rather, into what we were ordained to do: education and worship, Word and Sacrament. In those two things, Church leadership has miserably failed over the last fifty years. Gavin Newsom leads perhaps the most successful and aggressive political war against the Gospel in this country. He was baptized Catholic, attended Notre Dame des Victoires Catholic school here in San Francisco, and went to Santa Clara Jesuit University. He identifies himself as a “practicing Catholic” along with our President and Speaker of the House. It's imperative that Church leaders ask themselves why our parishes and schools are failing to make disciples of Christ so badly.
Most Catholics have been worshipping backwards for fifty years in their parishes and have received a very poor education in their Catholic schools. What I mean by “backwards worship” is that most parishes celebrate the community more than they worship God, most obviously when the priest faces the people when he prays the Eucharistic prayer. What I mean by “very poor education” is that most Catholic schools and universities have adopted curricula almost indistinguishable from secular schools. Rather than ineffective rearguard political activity, our bishops and priests should be reforming their parishes and schools. Until priests and bishops deliver God's Word and Sacrament faithfully, we will continue to lose the culture war. We ordinary citizens cannot fix the archdiocese of San Francisco. We cannot restore the city of San Francisco, nor the state of California, nor the United States of America. But we can teach our own children the truth; we can stop consuming anti-Catholic and fear-mongering propaganda; we can worship God rather than ourselves at Mass; we can pray the family rosary, read good books, and watch good movies. We can build truly Catholic families, and truly Catholic parishes, and truly Catholic schools. It's not that complicated, and not even that hard. But it is crunch time, friends. Catholic parishes and schools are failing. Every Catholic bishop, priest, and layperson has to decide what god he will serve. As for me and my parish (and school), we will serve the Lord.
Goodness and truth and beauty will always come out on top in the end, and this period of social decline will reach bottom at some point and begin its way back up. After showing the three children at Fatima the horrors of what was to come in world history, Our Lady reassured them: “In in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” We live and work in our moment of history with faith in that assurance.