Monday, October 22, 2012

Escaping the Culture: You Can't

That's funny; it's spelled just like "escape."
One talk at the CMA conference touched on something really important that I don't hear often enough in talk about the New Evangelization.

Mother Ann Marie Karlovic, O.P., of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN, stood up to speak about "The New Commandment and the New Evangelization: Culture of Love - Culture of Life."

But she came to the podium and explained very simply that she felt prompted to scrap her prepared talk because it wasn't what was necessary. She said she hoped this was the Holy Spirit's idea.

At first excited by this development, I began to question her decision when she faltered a little in beginning anew. Was this the right choice? I stupidly thought to myself, forgetting all the advice to mind my business, trust in God, look for good in others, overlook apparent mistakes, and humbly look for benefit in all circumstances. I doodled in my notes, doubting the next hour would contain substance enough to fill all the lines.

My doubts came to a screeching halt shortly into the talk, because Mother Karlovic said something very important to the New Evangelization. "We need to ask," she said, "how has this culture affected me?"

Pause, and read that again.

We may think we are far away from this culture's influence; we may think we have a strong guard against its suggestions; we may think we have rooted it out of us with our dismissing bad habits and acquiring good ones. We are wrong. The culture is a complex animal and is not limited to new sins, new apathy, and old philosophical errors, from which we can be reasonably free.

We can't easily shed the way we think; however, this is part of our culture. I remember reading the early moderns at TAC and being embarrassed. Their works were easier to read than Arisotle's, even after correcting for language and temporal circumstances, simply because they and I tend to think alike about nature, man, and God, in an erroneous fashion hard to shed. Example: Descartes thought all science should be used for good. I immediately said, "yes!" before remembering that everyone from Aristotle to Pope Benedict XVI says "no" (knowledge is a good in its own right; this is a key truth important in  I hadn't realized how deeply I carried elements of our culture.

We can't easily shed the way we hope; however, this is also part of our culture. I tend to measure success in quantified productivity and progress, and my hopes are for success (e.g. more Planned Parenthood closures, fewer states capitulating on the definition of marriage, more young people becoming faithful, increased acceptance of NFP). Living a Catholic life and disassociating holiness from success has been a huge struggle. I hadn't realized how deeply I carried elements of our culture.

Have you realized how deeply you carry elements of our culture?


  1. Sublime insights.... thank you for posting them. I daresay that which runs deepest in me is my [imperfect] reaction to our culture: fear. Our Church has time to fight these battles. Culture will march on. But those I love have one lifetime only to gain Heaven.

  2. So very, very true. We are affected by our culture, and that's a struggle all of us are going to have to deal with throughout life. But awareness of that fact is a point one in this "game."

    We also have to remember we are pilgrims on this earth, but citizens of Heaven...and live accordingly. That's not so easy...but it's how we become holy.