I Am Torn Between Contradictory Emotions:
What Can I Do? (Part I of II)
Dear Father John, In my daily prayer, I cannot help but feel myself torn between two emotions. One is the heartfelt desire to trust Jesus totally as I know he is present with me. The other is a human fear about the rise of demonic extremist Islam and the decline of our Judeo-Christian culture. I want to experience peace but so many current cultural trends are counter-Christian and our civilization has become so Godless. I feel the desire to simply run away from the mess we are morally in but something also tells me that in moments like these, those of faith are called to be spiritual warriors, despite the uphill battle. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thank you and God bless you.
I am absolutely sure you are not alone in feeling these strong and seemingly contradictory emotions. And I do have some thoughts – well, at least two.
The Battle Has Been Raging for a Long Time
First, it is very, very, very important for all of us to remember that the anti-God and anti-Truth currents working so actively in our culture are not new; they are just putting on some new disguises. This earth is a spiritual battleground, and it has been since the dawn of human history. I am not making this up. Here is how the Catechism puts it:
This dramatic situation of “the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one” makes man’s life a battle: The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity. (CCC, paragraph 409).
We really have to let that truth sink in. Today, because of the powerful reach and immediacy of mass media, we are much more aware than past generations of the violent struggles, tragedies, and sickening injustices that are going on across the globe. But they are not new. They have always been going on. Since the beginning of the Church, the struggles have been happening. There is an unbroken line of Christian martyrs stretching from today back to the beginning. There is an unbroken line of cultural, philosophical, and theological trends that directly contradict and try to undermine Christ’s truth, tracing itself back from today’s secular humanism to the first century’s heresies.
Sin, evil, and the horrors that flow from them are not just now rising up in the world. Perhaps in your own life you are only becoming fully aware of this “dour combat” right now. But the fact is that today’s cultural battles are in continuity with yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s will be in continuity with today’s. There has been no golden age in which all was harmony and peace – not since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.
What Should We Do?
Second, what should you do about it? This question has become pressing for you. Maybe ten years ago you weren’t so spiritually sensitive, and the sins of the world didn’t weigh on your heart as heavily as they do now. This development, spiritually speaking, is positive. Your heart is now more attuned to God’s own heart, to Christ’s heart – that Sacred Heart that is surrounded by a crown of thorns, thorns which stand for all the sins of the world, which pierce his heart. Take comfort in knowing that your spiritual sensitivity is deepening; this is a grace from God: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Keep Seeking Holiness
Practically speaking, every one of us needs to do two things. In the first place, we need to take seriously God’s call to holiness. We need to continue developing our life of prayer; we need to continue studying the faith and learning the teaching of the Church; we need to continue an intentional pursuit of growth in virtue in our daily lives; and we need to keep our hearts open to our neighbors in need, loving our neighbors as ourselves – the close neighbors first of all: our family members, friends, colleagues, and members of our local community and parish. This is the bread and butter of every mature Christian’s life. This is how each one of us becomes a healthy organ in the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church), an organ that is producing spiritual nourishment for the rest of the Body, pumping grace into the world simply by the way we lead a Christ-centered day-to-day life.
Editor’s Note: In Part II, we will examine the second thing we should do about these circumstances.
Art: Fresken der Kapelle der Eleonora da Toledo im Palazzo Vecchio in Florenz, Deckenfresko, Detail: Erzengel Michael [Frescoes of the chapel of Eleonora da Toledo in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, ceiling fresco, detail: Archangel Michael], Angelo Bronzino, 1540-1541, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Sacred Heart of Jesus, José María Ibarrarán y Ponce, 1896, Restored Traditions, used with permission.