Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Something I've noticed

I have noticed that bad Catholics -- those pew-sitters who dissent from certain moral teachings -- keep calling themselves good Catholics, or at least "good people." It's almost a psychological law that a bad conscience has to keep putting salve on itself to keep a sense of inner equilibrium.

Whereas, practicing Catholics -- those who accept the teachings even if they fall short of perfect daily implementation -- tend to call themselves bad Catholics. I don't mean they see themselves as literally evil, but the great majority of the orthodox Catholics I know, or have read, are very much concerned with how poorly they live their faith, not with how well.

It reminds me of Bishop Sheen's dictum that saints are like pianists who aspire to play like Rachmaninoff, not like their neighbour. The closer you approach inmitating Christ, the more your own imperfections stand out.

Stained glass windows show their flaws more at noon than at midnight.


Blogger Ryan & Amy said...

As Peter Kreeft has said, there are only two kinds of people in the world: Sinners who think that they're saints, and Saints who know that they're sinners.

God Bless

6:32 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

Dr. Kreeft's the Man.

2:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's almost a psychological law that a bad conscience has to keep putting salve on itself to keep a sense of inner equilibrium.

Is that anything like sociopaths who wag their fingers and lecture you about their Great Concern and Compassion (TM) while they rip you off and knife you in the back?

9:48 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

Ya got me there, whoever you are.

12:27 PM

Anonymous Shawne said...


We are our worst critic.

You are a "good Catholic", without a doubt I can say that. I hope you can believe it.

People are what they are, despite what they say in the contrary.

4:19 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

It depends, I suppose, what one means by good. I am 100% orthodox (I accept all the doctrine as true) yet my daily *living out* that doctrine is far, far from good.

I guess my point was, the higher you set your sights in imitating Christ the more humbled you are about what you're really like and how far you have to go.

"Catholic guilt" is an invention of lapsed Catholics.

9:23 PM

Anonymous Shawne said...

Humility is key. Which is a kind of double edged sword... should you even concern yourself with your own humility 'issues'? Wouldn't that be self serving?

If you dive into the deep waters of self evaluation the best life perserver there is, is God.

3:39 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

What's wrong with self-serving? We do it every day when we eat and sleep and try to maintain healthy lifestyle.

In the case of humility, since it's a virtue worth pursuing, I don't see the problem with "working on" having more of it. Do you?

11:22 AM

Anonymous shawne said...

You are a master of spiritual analysis. Which I adore, and it compels me to respond:

I don't know if you posted this as a challange to me or as a true question, but I suspect the former. Eating, sleeping, breathing - these are not "self serving" in the eyes of God. It is not selfish (thus self serving) to have and even enjoy life, to make the most of it you are able. It is a true service to God to have a good/happy life, to serve and provide to be happy and enjoy the life he gave you. Which I suspect you know already.

Humility has nothing to do with this.

Working on humility is an interesting question. My gut tells me you have it or you don't, and if you don't it can be developed. But, it isn't something you can work on like "I was 58% humble last week and worked out some issues and now I'm 72% humble." It is more inate then that.

5:07 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

You could be right about the innate part. Makes sense. But we're still called "to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect" says Jesus. Which means, among other things, fighting against vice with us, and bolstering virtues -- especially in the areas where we're weak already.

People who are more naturally patient don't really need to "work on that" whereas someone who is full of pride and prone to self-aggrandizing might need to consciously try to avoid saying or doing tsomething that increases this -- ie , trying to be more humble.

None of this is easy -- Christianity ain't for wimps. But God gives more than enough grace if we open our hearts to Him.

"Master of spiritual analysis." I like it. Could you always -- please -- address me thus?

5:27 PM

Anonymous shawne said...

Dear "master of spiritual analysis":

Yeah right!!

8:31 PM


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