Action Alert!

Assessing Our Own Guilt

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 13, 2013

I would like to call attention to the sermon preached by Pope Francis after the Rosary in St. Peter’s Square closing the Marian month of May. The Holy Father upheld Mary as a model of Christian life, in particular because her attitude may be summarized by three words: Listening, decision, action.

The title of the published homily is “We Hear God’s Words But We Don’t Really Listen to Them”. This neatly captures the chief impediment of believers to spiritual growth, believers who include the vast majority of visitors to, believers who include you and me. For we all hear God frequently in Scripture, in the liturgy, in the teachings of the Church, and from the witness of others, and yet we all—to one degree or another—fail to listen.

One difficulty of those who already self-identify as committed Christians is that we very frequently confuse our own biased selections or interpretations of God’s words with the actual demands of what God is trying to say to us. We find ways to ignore or explain away those “words”—be they formal teachings or exhortations—with which we somehow disagree, making exceptions of ourselves even as we criticize others for failing to heed the Church. Or, more frequently, the evangelical counsels simply wash over us; we fail to recognize the ways we are not living them.

These are our hidden faults, hidden I mean from ourselves. We all have them, and typically they lie beneath the attitudes we most take for granted. In the West, at least, most Catholics live in extraordinarily affluent societies, and certainly one huge area of hidden fault must be in our blindness to how much more we could sacrifice for those in need, and how much more we could sacrifice to advance the Gospel. I dare say most of us are fairly complacent in this one area alone. Are we not often generally satisfied with our Catholicism when we haven’t yet done even our duty?

That’s one area for reflection, and I think Pope Francis will be especially good for us in this one area alone. But there are others, two of which the Pope mentioned in yesterday’s daily Mass homily. Still, I don’t have any one point to make here. I would just like to call attention to the Rosary sermon. And I would like to ask that we all read it as if we are guilty—prayerfully searching for the complacency behind that guilt, not in others, but in ourselves.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Philopus - Jan. 31, 2018 5:25 PM ET USA

    "...has perpetuated the confusion." Unfortunately this is a very familiar assessment.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jan. 30, 2018 8:23 PM ET USA

    Sadly, Card. Zen predicted these problems years ago. In 2014, "Card. Zen said that Pope Francis should not visit China because he would be manipulated by the Beijing regime. He said that Chinese government officials would prevent the Pontiff from meeting with members of the underground Catholic Church, and would look for opportunities to use the papal visit as a means of gaining credibility for government - approved bishops."

  • Posted by: koinonia - Jun. 14, 2013 4:54 PM ET USA

    This should become habitual. We should improve at it as we grow older. Thanks for the recommendation.