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Evangelization, Free-Time, and Cultural and Spiritual Sloth

August 24, 2016

I’m reading Evangelii Gaudium as a home work assignment. Today’s reading included a lot of pope@2xhead nodding in agreement with the Pope. In Chapter II, Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment, Pope Francis writes about “Temptations faced by pastoral workers”; lay, consecrated, and ordained.  He tells us to say “Yes to the challenge of a missionary spirituality” and “No to selfishness and spiritual sloth.”

As children of this age, though, all of us are in some way affected by the present globalized culture which, while offering us values and new possibilities, can also limit, condition and ultimately harm us….

Today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity. …

At times our media culture and some intellectual circles convey a marked scepticism with regard to the Church’s message, along with a certain cynicism. As a consequence, many pastoral workers, although they pray, develop a sort of inferiority complex which leads them to relativize or conceal their Christian identity and convictions. This produces a vicious circle. They end up being unhappy with who they are and what they do; they do not identify with their mission of evangelization and this weakens their commitment. …

This practical relativism consists in acting as if God did not exist, making decisions as if the poor did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist. It is striking that even some who clearly have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission. …

For example, it has become very difficult today to find trained parish catechists willing to persevere in this work for some years. Something similar is also happening with priests who are obsessed with protecting their free time. This is frequently due to the fact that people feel an overbearing need to guard their personal freedom, as though the task of evangelization was a dangerous poison rather than a joyful response to God’s love which summons us to mission and makes us fulfilled and productive. Some resist giving themselves over completely to mission and thus end up in a state of paralysis and acedia.

Reading assignment over, I got on with the rest of my day. This and that, and the perpetual checking of my email on my phone. (Yes, I know…) But then, one email had a sound of deja vu….

If you want to know the destiny of a business, or an institution, or a society, you only need to look at one thing… The values held by the leaders of those organizations.

Freedom, liberty, honor, and the rule of law… These were the kinds of values that America was founded upon 300 hundred years ago.

And yet in the past 20 years, I’ve watched those values disappear with my very own eyes. When I think of America today, and look at the leadership found in Washington, words like deception, corruption, greed, treason, and secrecy come to mind.

Today our leaders do not do the right things for the right reasons, they do what’s right for them, and when those are the types of values demonstrated by a societies leaders, that society is doomed.

And so we have a choice… We can sellout and follow their lead and drive America into a leaderless, valueless, nation of corruption where it’s every man and woman for themselves, or we can turn back toward the principles that directed this country to greatness.

This email was from Mike Dillard, a self-made entrepreneur, who was advertising his new podcast with Mike Rowe. Neither Mike is Catholic to my knowledge. But the flavor of Mike D’s message is all about the selfishness of our modern culture, beginning with the leadership. The Pope clearly states that this same selfishness is even in our pastoral efforts within the Catholic Church.

So selfishness. The “ME” generation. It’s more than a generational problem these days. It infiltrates every aspect and generation of our culture and our world. How did it get this way?

Certainly there are the Mike Rowe’s of this world who are doing their best to highlight the hard workers in the trenches. But just as the Pope said, even our beloved priests are obsessed with guarding their free time. Some to the point of rarely being present at their parishes!

Then to make my day a little more connected to this line of thought, a friend is trying to convince me to fill a 7th grade catechist opening… Ugh. What about my free time?!

So what are we doing in our free time? What are we selfishly guarding? Do we just need to veg, or are we really being productive with some selfish-culture-breaking break-through?

The ancient Greeks, the “citizens” not the working-class, used a lot of their free time to create their philosophies of life. Plato anyone? The Greeks citizens relished their leisure time, and the philosophers deemed it was the time to be philosophical. Great thought came out of that time. What kind of great thought is coming out of our modern free time?

What is the answer? How do we turn this boat around? I’m sure G.K. Chesterton has an essay on just this topic, but I don’t know which one it is…

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