Catholic Culture Podcasts
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The Book of Normal

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | May 12, 2021

Regardless of age, most of us have emotional maturity issues. How can we harness the insecurities of adolescence and the immaturities of young adulthood? How can we tame the neuroses of middle age and the eccentricities of old age? How can we become normal?

Vision Book Cover Prints

Of course we all want to be normal—but usually on our terms. We cannot agree on the standards of expected behavior or dress. At times we deliberately deviate from conventional behavior. The hippies of the 1960s were famously non-conformist (even though they all dressed and talked alike). Their counterculture of rebellion, in time, replaced the previously dominant culture. Today, young people who do not sport tattoos are the mavericks. The so-called “woke” movement now represents the triumph and tyranny of the abnormal.

Even our institutions have embraced abnormality as the norm. According to a CIA recruitment video, if you are an intersectional-cisgender-millennial-who-refuses-to-internalize-misguided-patriarchal-ideas-of-what-a-woman-can-or-should-be, the CIA may have a job for you. The leader of the free world suggests that there are at least three genders. A Vatican official said, “Sometimes in theology, two plus two equals five.” (No wonder Vatican finances are a mess.) A former Israeli space security chief (sic) recently reported that earthlings have been in contact with extraterrestrials from a “galactic federation.” (I find myself wondering how many genders the extraterrestrials have, and will they help us pay off the national debt?)

The conventions of a normal life are looking better by the day.

For those with the eyes to see, the Bible—packaged and presented by traditional Church teaching—is the Book of Normal. The God of faith and reason is our Guide. His revelation is a record of how He confers His dignity upon us. God created us in freedom. He even permits us to reject Him, and we do. God is not the author of suffering and death; we brought that on ourselves. But He is the author of redemption and salvation, and He rescues us from our sins. He continues to confer dignity on us despite our rebellious hearts.

We see in the book of Genesis how God designed a home for us. He created the world, the land, the sea, the sun, and the sky, the pinholes in the firmament revealing the stars, the moon lighting up the night. Breathing the fresh air of the great outdoors and enjoying His handiwork is indeed pleasant and gives rise to a spontaneous and profound sense of gratitude.

Expressing our gratitude to God is also an essential part of our dignity as human beings. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful…” (Ps. 139:13-14) After a life of zigs and zags that ranged from heroism and betrayal, adultery and murder, repentance and restoration, King David prays with wonder and gratitude: “Who am I, Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”

Widespread cultural ingratitude is among the reasons there is so much unhappiness, bitterness, and anger in our country. We seem unable to recognize the gifts God confers upon us. We have become a demanding and ungrateful nation.

Need evidence? Think of the federal budget as a national credit card. Because of an insatiable entitlement mentality and spending spree, we’ve run up a $28 trillion debt with interest. Do the math. Every man, woman, and child in the country owes $85,000 (and growing by the minute) to pay off that credit card. It is astonishing that our religious leaders—quick to comment on immigration, climate change, and the world economy—are chronically silent on the ramifications of long-term deficit spending. (Perhaps there is national self-interest in open borders: “Welcome to the inclusive USA! Congratulations! You now owe $85,000 to help us pay off the national debt. We designed that border wall to keep you from leaving. Now get to work.”)

A spirit of thanksgiving extinguishes the entitlement mentality and is an essential component of personal responsibility. If we want to become normal, we need to restore a healthy sense of gratitude to God, family, and country—and the law of Christ.

The physical universe—the earth and the seas and the sky and the fruit of the plains that feed us—are the superabundant visible gifts that God confers upon us. After bestowing all the dignity on us throughout the entire Bible, why would the Father send Jesus into the world to ruin it all by commanding us to do things that violate our happiness? But such is the view of woke culture which condemns Christianity as a hate group. Why? Because we refuse to call evil good.

Murder, violence, infidelity, theft, injustice, lies, and every violation of the Commandments destroys our humanity. So God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world to teach us how to love. He reveals our dignity and confirms our worth. Jesus promises: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (Jn. 15:10-11)

In obedience to Him, we grow in our humanity. We love and become more lovable. He is the road map to happiness, “the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn. 14:16) In Jesus, we become normal human beings. When we discover His commandments and strive to live by them, the response of gratitude finds expression in worship, above all in the Eucharist.

So if you still feel a non-conformist tug, try something new and exciting. Chip away at those insecurities, immaturities, neuroses, and eccentricities. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Be faithful to your spouse in marriage, have kids, work hard, be cheerful, wear neat and clean clothes, and don’t be ashamed of the Ten Commandments.

Be different. Be normal. “Go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” (Jn. 15:16)

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: grateful1 - May. 14, 2021 7:33 PM ET USA

    I heartily second miketimmer's post!

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - May. 13, 2021 9:53 AM ET USA

    Wish that the priests at my parish were as plainly spoken as you. Even in visiting other parishes as I have traveled extensively in the last ten years, I've found a rare few who have had the temerity to confront the blatant issues of "normality." I'm very new to this site and cannot over-stress my appreciation to you and your lay fellows. Why, oh why, are priests in general today unwilling to preach in your way to their congregations?