Ah, the old days when we knew what it was to be Catholic
Today is the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, founder of the Daughters of Charity (the nuns who used to wear those incredible white winged bonnets before Vatican II came along and stole all the fun out of religion) and the Vincentians—known more formally as the Congregation of the Mission and—outside the United States—called the “Lazarists.”(I always wondered how they got the name “Lazarists” and then I found out that they are called Lazarists because when they were founded in the seventeenth century they had taken over the old Augustinian Priory of Saint Lazarus in Paris.)In any event, I went to Mass this morning with the Daughters of Charity (minus the winged bonnets and, for the most part, not wearing the Christian Dior designed habit that replaced the old coif and blue-gray gown) and heard the gospel of the Beatitudes which is proper to the feast.The homilist, referring to the first reading “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those heralding the gospel of peace” (Isaiah 52:7, what a great scripture), reminded us of the saying of Paul VI: If you want peace, work for justice.He then went on to say, quoting Mother Theresa, that if you want justice, seek charity since justice—God’s Justice (not ours which is retributive justice)—is the product of charity.He defined justice not as “fairness” (“life is not fair nor is it meant to be” he declared) but as the virtue of seeing that God’s Will is carried out in as that each is given possession of that which God has willed for him or her.That is an interesting concept, certainly not one that we usually hear in our contemporary world.Conservatives, or self-proclaimed conservatives at least, speak of justice as pay-back.The pseudo-“evangelicals” also fall into this retributive theory.Liberals, on the other hand, keep confusing justice with some sort of egalitarian fairness—the naïve assumption that everybody should enjoy the same mindless middle-class comfort-bubble in which they have been raised.The first idea (that God’s Justice is retributive Justice) is repugnant to the foundations of Christian orthodoxy while the second is just plain stupid.If wealth was doled out equally to all within ten years or so we would be right back where we are today.The trouble with liberalism is that liberals don’t believe in original sin.Neo-Cons not only believe in original sin, they make it work for them—voila, Reaganomics and its fruit—Enron and associates, the Savings and Loans Debacle, Halliburton-Iraq, and the world economic implosion of 2008.But I stray.Back to the homily.To summarize to this point: Peace is founded on Justice, Justice is built on Charity.He then went on to say that charity is not handing out goodies to those in need or even appreciating my neighbor for his good qualities or in spite of his bad.Charity is the love that fills the heart of God and we are called to the love of God which makes God’s love our own so that we can love others with the love that fills the heart of God.He quoted John of the Cross about transformative union or something—the idea being that prayer brings us to love God in such a way that our union with God empowers us to love others with the same love that God has for them.Boy, talk about not believing in original sin; can you even conceive of loving with the love that fills the heart of God? It sort of blows one away.Why don’t we get this stuff in Sunday Sermons instead of the thoughtless crap about “try to be a better person” or why “only men can be priests” or “Catholicism is the only true religion”? I tell you, it would be a lot easier to believe that the Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ if we got a little more John of the Cross and a little less “Foxe News Catholicism” on Sunday morning.In fact, I would be happy with alittle more Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.It all boils down to the old chestnut: “By this will all know that you are my disciple: that you have love, one for another.”Hmmm.Ya think that might be the key?