This is the first in a series of articles by Bishop Weisenburger on the “Five Wounds of Secularization” to be published during this “Year of Faith.”
With Advent starting this weekend, I would like to address the first of the wounds of secularization — busyness. Indeed, busyness may well be the scourge of our modern time and culture.
It is somewhat regrettable that Advent has become one of the busiest times of the year for many people. We find ourselves shopping, attending parties, meals, programs and tournaments, and sometimes preparing for travel. The pace can be chaotic and the demands on our time and energy intense.
Certainly much of this is good-intentioned. We want to be present to others, to gift others, to prepare to celebrate with them, and we feel many obligations sitting squarely on our shoulders. But somewhere along the way the goal of receiving Christ into the World and celebrating that joyfully with others gets lost in the furious pace.
It seems the Church is entirely out of kilter with the world when it calls us to mark these four weeks leading up to Christmas with quiet, patience, trust, hope and a prayerful waiting on the Lord’s arrival.
The truth is that God’s voice is real and alive within us, but we too easily silence it when we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with obligations and tasks — the busyness of life.
Advent is a profound time of the year to confront the busyness of life, which is actually the temptation for us to be the Messiah — by trying to “save the world” through our activities and tasks. We turn away from this wound of our secular world when we instead rediscover the joy of simplicity, of doing less and discovering more, of quieting our lives and hearing God’s voice.
This was a lesson I learned well from a former secretary and friend in Oklahoma, Mona Cross. Mona had worked in the Tribunal for about 30 years when she died. At one point, she and I had a somewhat unexpected conversation about the things of life that really matter. I was a young priest and first-time pastor of a busy parish. I was running around frantically during Advent, trying to make everything perfect for my parish, my parishioners and my family for Christmas. While my intentions, no doubt, were good, I was spiritually spinning my tires and not really entering into the season.
It was then that Mona mentioned the death, many years before, of one of her children. The child was only about 10 when he died of leukemia. He was sick for more than a year leading up to his death.
In her own wonderfully ordinary and plain-spoken way, Mona pointed out that she was an immaculate housekeeper until her child’s illness and death. Following his death, her house had known dust, dishes sometimes were stacked up in the kitchen, and there were other decreased housekeeping standards. But, she added, “My other children have known a mother who sat on the edge of their beds at night and asked them about their day.”
I suspect that for Mona, those tender times with her other children were healing for her: a gift she gave, but a gift she also received. For me, her few words to me in our office were humbling, as it made me refocus on what I should have known all along. I also couldn’t deny that it was God who was speaking through Mona Cross. Her experience, offered in love, was a confrontation to the way I was living my life.
I went home, shoved a stack of unwritten Christmas cards off my desk and spent some time in the parish church. I did not accomplish all I had hoped to that year, but it was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever known.
I always will be grateful for the voice of God speaking through Mona. It was a little like turning your tires in the direction of the slide on an icy road: Doing less and passively waiting on God did not come naturally to me. But what a wonderful and life-giving lesson to learn!
The secular wound is busyness. The spiritual cure is challenging the busyness in your life. Don’t beat yourself up. Your activities are probably good-intentioned and look a lot like the busyness of those around you. But do all that you can to quiet your life, listen for the voice of God, simplify, celebrate and don’t be surprised to discover that you believe more deeply, love more fully and live more freely.
The ‘Five Wounds of Secularization’
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has called us to a “Year of Faith” and a renewed evangelization. For we who have already been introduced to faith in Jesus Christ, this is a call to renew and further deepen our faith. Surely one of the ways we grow stronger in the faith is by struggling with adversity. In that spirit we can ask the question, “What is it that most challenges our faith?” “What is it that we need to struggle against in order to make ourselves strong?”
I believe the answer is found in the “Five Wounds of Secularization.” These are the ways that the unbelieving world around us can challenge our faith or try to draw us away from a relationship with Jesus.
The five wounds of secularization are:
• Busyness – allowing the many demands and requirements of our complicated lives to keep us from deepening our relationship with Jesus.
• Consumerism and Materialism – accepting the untruth that happiness and meaning are found in wealth and excessive material goods.
• Violence and Revenge – the false belief that our lives do not have to be marked by mercy and forgiveness; the false notion that we can embrace the Gospel and at the same time demand punishment for those who have harmed us.
• Individualism and Relativism – the un-Christian belief that I alone determine what is true for me: God does not determine right and wrong, good and evil, true and false; rather, I determine all these things for myself.
• Entitlement – the greatest lie of all, which is simply that my life is not a gift, there is no God to whom I need to be grateful, I deserve all the good things I have, and I am due anything I want.
Throughout this “Year of Faith,” let us reflect on these wounds caused by our secular culture, on the grace and efforts required to overcome them and to the new life in Christ that is offered those who struggle to rise above the world’s message and listen instead to the voice of God.