Catholicism and Nostalgia.
Matthew James Bellisario 2011
There is a tendency today among traditional Catholics to look back upon the past as if the Church has been lost in time, and I have been guilty of this as well. Sure it is sometimes easy to get discouraged by the mess we see today in the Church. But, it is as if many today are lulled into a fanciful trip down memory lane when it comes to the Church. They long for the golden days of the Church where Popes excommunicated heretics and burned apostates at the stake. They speak only of what their minds perceive the middle ages to have been, and how bad the Church is today compared to the good old days. Yet, the Church is a living entity, and she knows her own history better than any one individual. Sure times are bad today, but haven’t they always been? Knowing what little I know about the good old days, I know few, if any Catholics, including myself, who would have hacked it back in the middle ages. One day away from the internet, the iPod, the air conditioning, the nice comfy clothes, the hot meals, the hot water, the easy 5 Hail Mary penances and the 30 minute liturgies, and most of us wouldn’t have lasted very long back in the “good old days”. Many wouldn’t have made it through Mass because there wasn’t a cry room for the kids. How many times have I seen people get upset, looking back scathingly upon a poor mother who’s child made a peep during Mass? They wouldn’t have made it 10 minutes in the middle ages back in one of the crowded Cathedrals in Italy. Many of us who rightfully treasure the past, need to take care not to get caught up in the wiles of nostalgia.
What is the point of my brief article? Obviously it is not to criticize those who came before us, for they set before us a high standard, one in which we are to strive to obtain today. We have their great wisdom and accomplishments printed on the pages of the many books we own. We rightfully seek to understand the great theologians like Saint Thomas Aquinas, yet I am sure Aquinas would be disappointed if we just reveled in his glory and accomplishments, and neglected our own time. It does no good to know Aquinas and not put his wisdom to use in our lives within the Church today. To be relevant, we too like Saint Thomas must reside in the living wisdom of the Church. Sure, we can criticize problems today, and there are times to do so. But if we become obsessed with this it does little good. A pinch of salt is plenty for the pot of soup, no? The efforts we put forth to make the Catholic Church relevant today is worth more than a trip down memory lane where we compare the Pope of today to one of yesteryear. There is only going to be one Pius IX and one Gregory the Great. There is no way to roll the clock back. We have what we have now concerning the Church because it is in God’s divine providence. The Catholic Church does not consist of a nostalgic trip back to the halcyon days of old. It is not a religion of yesteryear. No, the Church today is the same Church as it was back in the “good old days.” We can either get on the ship and paddle like those who came before us, or we can sit back on the shore and reminisce about the bygone days where everything was “perfect.”
The Church still stands strong preaching the Gospel to the world, despite the heretics within and without who try to subvert it. She is the only one who condemns the foolish immorality of contraception, divorce and the like. Where the impostors have miserably failed, the true Church has stood erect and strong, yes even today. She understands humanity and its relationship with God because she was sent to foster that relationship through the Sacraments, the liturgy and in her preaching, all in the Divine Person of Jesus Christ. When the Pope speaks, guess what? Everyone listens. Why do the pathetic Protestants take the time to attack the Pope when he speaks, if he means nothing? According to them he is nothing, yet many of them go out of their way to talk about and criticize this great “nobody.” Do we really care what Billy Graham says? How about the “great” Reformed” apologists R.C. Sproul, the pathetic “apologist” James White, or the anonymous pitiful Turretin Fan? No one cares what they say because they matter little to the world, and their opinions also mean little. They have no bearing on the souls of men. Their high opinion of themselves that accompanies their ramshackle theology poses little threat to Satan and his meddling minions. These men are on his side. They are his puppets and they serve their master well. When they speak no one listens because they simply do not matter. The world sees them as no threat. Of course I will not paint the Orthodox in the same light as the Protestants, but does the world scoff at the Patriarch of Constantinople? With all due respect to the Orthodox, few in the world even know who he is. Yet, when the Pope speaks, everyone listens because he is the Pope.
Let us not forget the great Catholics who came before us, but let us not dishonor them either by acting as if our time is so much worse than theirs. They had their bad Popes, evil heretics and scandals that stunk to high heaven. We all say our age is the worst. I think many of them would beg to differ. Let us not insult them by acting as if the Church is dead and gone today, and only alive in the nostalgic memories of men. The Church will survive the turmoil it finds itself in every age, including this one of grave scandal and apostasy. The only question we have to answer is if we are going to be on board the ship or not, because it is’t going to stop for us, and it isn’t going back in time for us. What matters is what we all do now, and how we are going to live our Catholic faith today. Are we going to live our faith and convert the world one person at a time, with the same grace that was offered to the Saints who came before us? Or are we going to live our lives looking over our shoulders wishing that we were more like them? The choice is before all of us.