|St. Paul at the Aeropagus|
In the beginning of writing here on Gaudium Dei, I declared that:
I will seek to focus on the issues of the present-day facing the Church, with the conclusion that Her teaching and wisdom doesn't just save the world, but saves it with the joy of God.At that moment, as is the situation with many conservative Catholic writers, I believed that joy and strict orthodoxy had a symbiotic relationship. The Church's teaching invigorates our lives with joy, and that joy leads us to desire, in a deeper way, the teachings of the Church and Christ. And, as a Catholic who ascribes to the teachings of the Magesterium, I believe that is absolutely true.
Yet I hadn't named my blog "Orthodox Catholic Joy." See, the culture of "orthodox" Catholics has characteristics analogous to other cultures. A culture, through introspective celebration, invigorates itself. We must do this in a healthy way to remind ourselves who we are. Yet I had decided to seek and discover the joy of God, that infinite Being whom I believe to transcend every culture, every disagreement, and to work within the lives of every single person on this earth. Little did I know how high of a call I had established with those two mysterious Latin words.
What once began as a flippant, personal exercise in propagation from a safe distance suddenly became a unique process concerned with the way we express our faith in love of others. I sought to understand people with different beliefs. Then, I wanted to establish dialogue with them. I felt a deeper call to unify myself with everyone, even those whom I disagreed with. Then my ideas came full circle: I wanted to love them and bring them the joy I have found, without first discovering the joy of their own experiences. Cultural wars morphed into cultural peace and the exchange of ideas. Love through orthodoxy transformed into love despite unorthodoxy.
The events in my life then added fuel to the fire. A kindhearted friend, an atheist who disagreed with me on everything, passed away tragically. We had shared true joy, God's joy, over a select few double dates with our respective girlfriends, where conversations rested on general goods, jokes and genuine love. He was patient with my belligerence over Facebook, and I felt committed to carry on the legacy of our unique friendship.
Then Bad Catholic wrote a blogpost entitled, "Why I Don't Care," a post I will never forget. It caused me to enter a deeper apropos concerning the culture wars. The road led me further to Gaudium et Spes, where I read the true spirit of Vatican II, and the future spirit of the New Evangelization: the Church's ability to unite the varied cultures of a drastically splintered, globalized world.
|Venerable Fulton J Sheen,|
The response to globalization, for the Church, is not mere orthodoxy: it is a mode of being of loving others, first and foremost. We love ourselves by understanding our ideas, sticking to our guns and convictions, yet being open to learning something new. Yet this love cannot be the same for the other, over whom we have little to no control or influence. We must accept him or her while simultaneously sticking to our guns. We must be open to learning more and making his logic intimate to ourselves while holding it at a safe distance, concluding what our good-pursuing consciences must permit or block.
There's a secret, though, which will pave the future of this blog. We do all these things with one main tool: words. We govern our living, dying, meaning, socializing through these very simple yet fickle characters. A picture itself may even be worth a thousand words, but it is still consisting of words in the end. The media is words. Barack Obama's last speech is words. "Pro-abortion" and "pro-choice" are words. This blog is words. The Bible is words. Christ is the Word.
Love requires action, and this is true. Yet to only love through physical acts is to deny our social nature as humanity, or that most of today's interactions happen over the internet and Facebook. We must also love in our words and love through their style. The very constructions of our sentences can determine our eternal reward or damnation. Their inflection and arrangement say something that cannot necessarily be explained by words themselves. That is because they tap into an abstract and what we signify with the word "eternal." They represent the worst maliciousness as well as the highest beauty. They represent truth or lies, sometimes without changing a letter between different sentences. Ultimately, they are good and evil, love and hate, themselves.
Examining the way we use words isn't about just increasing persuasion: it will change our own hearts and minds. It will require us to understand the thought processes of the other, in a way that will effect our own. It will ask us to conclude both their rationality as well as (with great care) their sin. It will require us to understand each individual, group, stereotype, and belief we meet. It will teach us the greatest lesson of human nature: that, most of the time, we're all just trying our best to be good. It will require us to be prepared to face the splintered, globalized world, where six billion individuals all think differently.
This is best represented by a recent message I received from a feminist, pro-choice friend. She wrote to me, almost randomly,
Sometimes your posts piss me off, but you're still a great person with a big heart, and I enjoy being your friend.Obviously, if she is pro-choice, my writing must piss her off in some way, because I am anti-abortion in my beliefs and commonly express that. Then how can the paradox exist? How can she give me a (way too) magnanimous compliment of who I am, when what I express stands against her own beliefs? Could it be that, while I do disagree with her on beliefs, I can still show her compassion and the love of Christ? Can we love those who disagree with us? Can we love our so-called "enemies?"
Love doesn't merely mean some sort of internal sentiment one has to his enemies, otherwise this would allow for us to still treat and speak to others as we please, leading the above to be impossible. This was the mistake of the old world, where "loving" Catholic crusaders killed their Muslim and Jewish brethren to speed them to heaven. The action was justified because it was considered "loving," yet the action itself must also achieve love.
Most earthly actions have aligned to this call of love (lynchings of people based on race or sexual orientation
are roundly criticized, praise God). Shouldn't the same happen to our words? If our words represent something we believe to be a loving fact, such as "Abortion is wrong," how should it be said? Can something be said that not only says the same thing, but acknowledges the other? Can it be said to acknowledge the good that the other does? Can it acknowledge his or her genuine concerns? And so, you get pro-lifers talking about the dignity of women in a way that answers many pro-choice arguments, and saying it with care and compassion. Though it may seem like an abstract approach, its results are concrete: I can speak to many disagreeing people about the Church's dogma, with all of its potential for beauty and joy.
Love, however, is freely given. Thus additional words honestly accompany any fact or assertion I make, and those additional words are the words of freedom and free will. The Church exists as open arms, and does not oppress her belief upon people. That means I must express the same in my words: I must make people comfortable with their disagreeing position, lest their feel those open arms closing in around them. I must remind that I pray and care about them regardless of their beliefs, for I am called to love all people on this earth.
|Pope Francis with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner|
These observations, however, leave more questions than answers, since every person and every word-filled interaction is unique. And so, while one door closes at this moment for the blog, another shall open. We will be ceasing updates here on the website for Gaudium Dei until further notice. At the same time, I will be beginning a project of getting together minds and hearts of many different and unique Catholics to contribute to a new analysis of rhetoric here on Gaudium Dei in the future. The website (very similar to the style of Brandon Vogt's project, Strange Notions) will become a center of discussion not on the actions but the words that define good and evil. It will discuss how we talk about the faith, far deeper than just what we say. After at least two years (when I graduate college and hopefully have the time to devote to the renewed blog), the New Evangelization will have had a little more time to mature, and the tiring waste of internet arguments and vicious rhetoric will take their toll a bit further. The time will be ripe for such a discussion.
Until then, I'm looking for help. There needs to be a greater study of the way we speak, and that involves all different types of voices, even dissenting ones. In addition, the divisive, uncaring and vicious voices in the Church seem to speak louder and usually garner the most attention, so to raise a counterpoint of caritas and cooperation in a unitive rhetoric requires a determined and widespread community. Anyone looking to help is free to contact me at email@example.com.
It has been a pleasure to write and edit this blog. My collaborators and I will continue writing and discussing the faith. Tabitha will be writing occasionally with her father on Deus Solus. David has started his own blog on Glory Rediscovered. I will continue, in a more limited capacity, to do my radio show next semester, and have been blogging on my new personal blog, Spark of Joy, where I will examine many of the questions mentioned above. All the posts by our friends, as well as ones relevant to our mission, will be shared on our Facebook Page, where you can like us!
A simple journey with a little Latin has grown to something I couldn't imagine it to be: a vocation and a passion to show people the very demeanor and style of Christ himself. I hope, one day and with God's help, to speak extensively on how Catholics can speak to anyone that disagrees or lacks understanding of Christ's teaching. I hope to break down the barriers of abstraction - that allow us to take pro-choicers and others, and forget that they are people whom Christ has called us to love with compassion and joy. I hope that, through such expression, we can all tap into God's joy which, more than anything else, is finding that lost sheep. If all of heaven rejoices in the finding of a lost soul, then we should all rejoice in a single interaction, a kind word of love and hope that shows someone disagreeing with us a taste of heaven. Far more than strict orthodoxy, or moral relativism, or abstraction, does this show us the face of God.
And that, my friends, is all that matters. Words aside, it is what they signify and mean that is important. Words and blogs won't be present in heaven in their imperfect fashion, but peace and unity will be. Let us make a new search for Christ. Let us learn to speak as if we were child. Let's find God's joy.
Copyright (c) 2013 Joseph Jablonski