Write In Between

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Writer's Wednesday -- Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap.

[Another] sign of our times is that the society we live in breeds a practical, workaday atheism. People go about their days as if God doesn't exist. Because they live in a society that denies any presence or need for God, people learn to live without him. The deeper questions of human existence — where do I come from, what am I here for, what should be the purpose and direction of my life — these questions no longer seem relevant.

Theo, the P. D. James' hero [in the book The Children of Men], expresses the sum total of his metaphysical beliefs in these few words: "That once I was not, and that now I am. That one day I shall no longer be." I'm afraid that's the unspoken creed of many of the people we serve, even many who sit in our pews every Sunday.

But the human heart is made for worship, to serve something or Somebody beyond itself. There's a hole now in the modern heart. It's a void left by the absence of God. People fill that hole with all the sights and sounds and trinkets of our consumer culture. James' character calls these things "my consolations."

But there's something vampiric about the way consumerism works to "console" us for the loss of God. It keeps us absorbed in the unimportant while it drains out the life of the soul.
The rise of consumerist culture was one of the great worries of John Paul II in the later years of his pontificate.

In his 1999 World Day of Peace message. John Paul writes: "The history of our time has shown in a tragic way the danger which results from forgetting the truth about the human person. Before our eyes, we have seen the results of ideologies such as Marxism, Nazism, and Fascism . . . No less pernicious, though not always obvious, are the effects of materialistic consumerism . . ."

Those are strong words. John Paul argued that the habit of consumerist greed is "no less pernicious" in its effects than Nazism, Marxism, and Fascism. The effects are as deadly and as destructive as the murderous systems of the 20th century-ideologies that gave us the Holocaust, the gulag and the killing fields of Cambodia.

John Paul finishes this quotation with a comment on what materialist greed entails. With this ideology, he says, there is an "exaltation of the individual and the selfish satisfaction of personal aspirations become the ultimate goal of life."

This habit of consumerism forms the mind of the people we're called to serve. It's so damaging because it makes people prisoners of their selfishness. It invites them to create their own chains, to be willing addicts to their appetites and passions. It keeps them away from the only questions that matter: why we're here, and where we're heading.

-----From a longer talk given to priests by Archbishop Chaput, "The Signs of our Times, and What they require of Priests"

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home