From The Blog

Mission Monthly – July 2006

“It is no longer the moral, religious, spiritual condition of the people that is our concern, but their physical, practical economic conditions, as regulated by public laws. Thus is the Body-political more than ever worshipped and tendered; but the Soul-political less than ever.”

Thomas Carlyle, Signs of the Times, 1829

Look carefully at the date of this quote! It is almost two hundred years old and I am perplexed by what societal decline may have occurred in the early 19th century to call for such a report. I am also wondering what Thomas Carlyle would say about the world today!? What began with the Renaissance of the 13th century and intensified with the Enlightenment of the 18th century led to this early 19th century social commentary—of people becoming less concerned about their spiritual lives and more anxious about their physical lives. Sound familiar?

I was recently shown a new [to us] picture of my great-grandfather, the priest Anthony. It amazes me to look at this 100 year old picture. I am his descendent. His blood is in me. I am an inheritor of his life, yet I never knew this man. As a society we too can look at excerpts and pictures of history to catch a glimpse of our forefathers, their examples and what they stood for. We do this all time in the life of the Church as we are given the opportunity to remember each day a multitude of great and holy Saints! It would also be very good for us to study the history of social architects and the development of our Western society. We are inheritors of many things, not the least of which being how we have been formed as a society and how as individuals we think and act concerning “political” interests (meaning the policies of how things are done).

What is being discussed here are the policies of the soul and the policies of the body. Since our Lord Jesus Christ’s final words from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), life on earth has never been the same. Since the witness of the twelve Apostles has been preached, right believing followers of Jesus throughout the course of time have had a universal understanding of what “life in Christ” means. Simply put, Jesus came and established His Church which spread in a beautiful and influential fashion throughout the known world. This “Way” of life was intended to be the pathway leading all men to the Kingdom of God. The apostles and their successors were ordained for this purpose, and for the establishment of a conciliar voice witnessing to God’s continuing revelation and care for the souls of men. Prior to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, for over a thousand years, society was built upon this foundation of God’s love for His creation and through His Church “policies” were made to lead man in a heavenly direction.

These Christian policies included standards of belief and moral conduct which, by the 13th century and ever increasingly by the 18th century, were seen more and more as artificial restraints that only interfered with man’s pursuit of his own rational interests (and glory!). The first time I read the above quote a chill went through my body. It was a reminder of the [old] fire that rages in our society, raising what seems to be insurmountable forces and ideas that care virtually nothing for the soul and everything for the impulses of the body: what we eat, what we wear, what we feel, what tomorrow may bring. I am reminded of a telling bumper sticker I saw on our recent trip, “Religion ruled the world—it was called the dark ages.” Beloved, we have decisions to make—today. We all have been drawn into the policies of the body and are guilty of a great neglect of the policies of the soul. Today, with eyes wide open, it is easy to see how little societal care there is for the soul. The irony is that this lie has not brought us the physical, emotional, economic or legal freedom or security it has promised. It has only resulted in great confusion and, with a most profound sadness, a real loss of faith. What is needed is a renewed and urgent concern for the policies of the soul; and patience, with ourselves and each other, as we fight the good and necessary fight to restore our “soul” concern to its proper place.