When Truth Hurts, or Give it to Me Straight Doc

For my birthday a couple weeks ago, my wife and kids got me a most remarkable book, entitled¬†End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life. It is a series of “sermons” written by Father Charles Arminjon, a French Priest, assembled around 1880.

I cannot recommend this book more highly. There are numerous reasons for my recommendation, not least of which is the Truth contained within it.

I once volunteered as a Catechism Instructor – or, if you prefer a “Sunday School Teacher”.¬† The first year went very well. They were desperate for someone to take over the 7th and 8th Grade combined class. I found out almost immediately why the previous teacher had opted out of instructing this class. Let’s just say there were several kids who really, really didn’t want to be there.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of attempting to reach some of these kids and bring them a little further in the Faith, I threw myself in the ring. And what I found was that a good stern, albeit loving and caring, instructor was what they needed. It is often the case that kids misbehave for being bored. And I can tell you that not unlike most pre-fabbed teaching materials, guides, and so on, the “script” I was given was a watered down, boring, and extremely cautious path. In this day and age, it seems the Truth needs to be couched in feel-good new agism. Because, you know, it can be hurtful and scary.

Of course, throwing caution to the wind, I was prideful enough to think I might dare to make the obligation of God-bothering an interesting one. I will not lie. The coursework was pitiful. If I was going to volunteer, dammit, the kids were going to find it interesting. Fascinating. Important.

The first year went great. Even the “difficult” kids came to find there might be something to learn from this guy who liked to “give it to them straight”. I would guess this was the case because I didn’t pull any punches. And I didn’t have them using crayons. I was treating them as young Christians. Christians only a couple years from Confirmation. That is, Christians¬† who would be asked to commit themselves to the Faith entirely. Christians who would be offered full communion with the Bride of Christ.

How often I hear the complaint from “fallen away” Catholics (don’t get me started on why I put it in quotes) that they didn’t know precisely what they were confirming when they “signed up” for full membership in the Church. I would like to turn it on its head and suggest we, the Church Militant, were duped into bringing them into the fold… duped by their empty words of assurance that they understood what they were “signing up” for. But we cannot see into the hearts of men. We take them at their word, freely given, that they will defend the Faith and hope for Martyrdom. All of their protestations after-the-fact make me sad… but also make me angry. I pray that these so-called “recovering Catholics” (exactly how offensive is that pop term?) somehow, someway, find their way back to the arms of their Mother.

I digress. Sort of.

“What is Truth?”, Pilate is said to have asked his wife.

Before I go on, let me defuse the inevitable complaint that I am professing something I subjectively believe. Yes. I do believe. And as a Believer, it would be silly of me not to profess that which I believe. I am a Christian. As I have written before, I am well-aware of many of my many shortcomings. I am unaware of others. But I am aware that I am a hypocrite. I am aware that the bar is so necessarily high that I continually… daily… fall short of it. I am a sinner. I know it.

Typical Catholics are reticent to proclaim the Good News in the fashion that some of our other brothers and sisters in Christ might. We won’t be knocking on your doors any time soon, in the literal sense. We are always cautious about throwing pearls before swine. We evangelize in much more subtle ways. In ways that the very same brothers and sisters in Christ may mistakenly take for far too passive. But we are reminded that St. Paul had more than his share of confidence. Thankfully so. Nevertheless, do not mistaken his words for that of a man who was not humble of heart.

The first year went well, as I mentioned some paragraphs above. So I was asked to sign up for another year of instructing. Again, no one wanted the 7th and 8th grade class. So, I thought about it. I agreed to teach the class once more. Sadly, my no-holds-barred approach to passing on the faith rubbed some parent(s) the wrong way. I am given to understand that my comment to the class that it would be very unlikely for everyone in the class to ultimately find ourselves among the Elect stunned and, yes, frightened a student. Further, I am given to understand that my suggestion that not every one of our beloved relations was likely to be among the Elect also was cause for concern. The fallout was immediate. And it did bring on a small crisis of faith for me. I was not very interested in defending my approach to teaching what we believe. I was not interested in heaping scandal on top of the deep hurt I felt. I was not interested in chastising the Powers That Be about the very real dangers of withholding the Truth from these kids… some of which were quite worldly to begin with. I was not interested in defending the Faith to ministers of the Faith… or taking them to task… or forcing them into a debate about whether or not I was teaching other-than-Dogma (which I was decidedly not doing). In short, I resigned to save all parties from what would have been a bloody affair… and potentially embarrassing I might add.

I was deeply offended. As I have said. And only now, several years later, am I able to clear my head enough to receive the Eucharist with a mended-heart. I will not lie: the sting of that wound remains. But my animus toward the players involved does not. God works in mysterious ways. And it was a truly humbling experience. Truth be told, I had been praying for God to help me become smaller. And He answered my prayers.

But I will not say that I am small enough yet not to have felt a wee bit of vindication (I am still a prideful human you see), when I began reading the very first introductory pages to this book.

Father Arminjon begins with the following…

Dear Reader,

It has seemed to us that one of the saddest fruits of rationalism, the fatal error and great plague…, the pestilential source from which… disasters arise, is the absence of the sense of the supernatural and the profound neglect of the great truths of the future life. The earth is afflicted with a dreadful desolation, because the majority of men, fascinated by the fleeting pleasures, and absorbed in their worldly interests and the care of their material affairs, no longer fix their thoughts on the principal considerations of the Faith, and stubbornly refuse to recollect within themselves…

The two causes of this terrifying indifference and profound universal lethargy are, obviously, ignorance and the unrestrained love of sensual pleasures that, by darkening the interior eye of the human soul, bring all its aspirations down to the narrow level of the present life, and cut it off from the vision of the beauties and rewards to come. Now, since wise men have found at all times that contradiction are overcome with their opposites, it seemed to us that the most efficacious remedy with which to fight confidently against the inveterate evil of naturalism was a lucid, clear, and exact exposition, without diminution, of the essential truths dealing with the future life and the inevitable termination of human destinies.

Perhaps we shall be accused of expressing this or that assertion of ours too crudely and starkly, and of broaching the most serious and formidable points of Christian doctrine, without, at the same time, modifying and softening them so as to adapt them to the prejudices or apathy of certain souls, unacquainted with such grave considerations – like a physician who carefully allows only a limited amount of light to a sick friend, in order not to hurt his painful eyes by excessive glare. However, in the religious and supernatural order, the phenomena and effects wrought upon the soul are often the reverse of those that occur in the physical and material order…

On hell…

There is one terrible truth in Christianity that in our times, even more than in previous centuries, arouses implacable horror in the heart of man. That truth is of the eternal pains of hell. At the mere allusion to this dogma, minds become troubled, hearts tighten up and tremble, passions become rigid and inflamed against this doctrine and the unwelcome voices that proclaim it.

Ought we, then, to be silent, leaving shrouded in oblivion an essential truth about man’s most important concern: his supreme destiny beyond the short years of his exile on earth? Yet, if hell is a reality, whatever silence we might maintain over this fundamental question would not shake its certainty. All the softening and sweetening of human language will not shorten its duration. It would be the height of folly to convince ourselves that if we turn our minds away from this fatal possibility and try hard not to believe in it, we shall manage someday to avoid its rigor.

I feel like quoting the whole book, truth be told. It is an incredible glimpse into the future base on Holy Scripture and Tradition (2000 years of the world’s leading and enlightened minds grappling with the topic – oh yeah, an some other dude named Plato). But I will spare you!

Suffice to say that if you are interested in a very authentically-Catholic take on The End Times here on earth, the Anti-Christ, the General Judgment, the Particular Judgment, Purgatory, Hell, Heaven, I have in my travels never found a treasure like this one.

One last thing! Pray for me. Pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. Pray for the conversion of sinners. Fish for souls!

About Enoch_Root

Person with kids,a beautiful wife, a job. Catholic of the Latin Rite.
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10 Responses to When Truth Hurts, or Give it to Me Straight Doc

  1. Bob Reed says:

    And imagine, among Protestant evangelicals there is a doctrine professed by a Pastor that there is no hell.

    http://www.amazon.com/Love-Wins-About-Heaven-Person/dp/006204964X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300218131&sr=8-1

    I thought those folks were literalists when it came to the bible, and I’m pretty sure hell is mentioned there :)

    I wonder though, how long it will be before this notion is embraced by some of the more “progressive” Catholics, since it would represent the ultimate form of outcome equality and “social justice”; even if it were at the expense of, oh, say, the teachings of Our Lord and the insprired words of God.

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  2. Enoch_Root says:

    This is precisely why we must fight the religion of single-preacher. the religion of me. imagine the number of souls who hear the sweet siren song, go off course, and smash into the rocks. I get it: it is more fun to abandon the dogma altogether… than to acknowledge what it really means.

    As long as I feel good about my “personal relationship with Christ” – who are you to correct my heresies?

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  3. jefferson101 says:

    Speaking as a fairly conservative Fundamentalist myself, I’ve got to tell you that Mr. Bell is well outside of the teachings of any Church with which I could ever consider associating myself.

    Feel-Good Christianity and strange permutations of Religious doctrine aren’t confined to people like Mr. Bell, though. Don’t try to hang him around my neck, and I won’t bring up Liberation Theology. Distortion of Scriptural Truth can pop up in most any Denomination, now and again.

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    • enoch_root says:

      agreed. for the first millennium and some change, all the Christian heresies came from… well… nevermind. Point is, without Hell there is no Heaven. Without damnation, no Salvation. No need for Christ. We could just have do-overs…

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      • jefferson101 says:

        That’s pretty much how I see it.

        Salvation isn’t particularly difficult, and Our Lord would have everyone be Saved. But there is one thing that we have to do, and a lot of people neglect that one thing.

        See II Corinthians 15, Verses 1-4. That is all there is to it, according to Paul, and since he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, and I’m a Gentile, I’ll take his word for it.

        But you still have to do that one thing, and far too few people manage to get that far. There are a whole lot of Catholics like that, I suspect, but I know way too many Baptists who are doing the motions, instead of Belief. And so it goes with all Denominations, I suspect.

        But it’s our fault, which is to say those of us in the next pew over from them. The Great Commission wasn’t given to the Clergy, but to all of us.

        Once we’ve gotten the “Belief” part across, they can pick whatever Denomination they care to, for all of me, as long as it’s not teaching some kind of false doctrines. Sadly, the theory that there is no Hell falls below that bar.

        Beyond that, I’m not going to start making lists of what is “Below the Bar”, because I can offend half the members of my Church that way, let alone everyone else. And that’s neither productive or within my pay grade, actually. I know what I think, and He will straighten us out when we get there as to who was right.

        The Bar for entry is fairly low. Beyond that? I’ve often noted that I’m probably going to wind up like the guy at the end of the Bullwinkle cartoons. When they have the daily parade in Heaven in honor of Our Lord, I’ll be the guy with the broom and the pushcart following behind. I have His promise that I’ll be there, but beyond that? I’ll just be happy that I am there, as will we all, and I’ll be working toward His Glory.

        John Paul II or Billy Graham may hope for more, but that’s enough for someone as unworthy as I am of His Grace.

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        • Bob Reed says:

          True.

          Just one question; do you mean I Corintians in your citation? Because I couldn’t find a fifteenth chapter in II Corinthians.

          I’m just trying to dig what you’re saying completely. :)

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    • Bob Reed says:

      I wasn’t indicting evangelical Christians or Protestants in general friend. Just using the Pastor as an example of what Enoch was discussing, mostly because of the glaring incongruency of a fundamentalist and his professed point of view.

      You’re right about liberation theology and the Catholic church. Heck, I still have some of the nuns that I’m involved with ministries with laud Ceasar Chaves, Che, Bishop Romero, social justice and liberation theology. In fact, one of them got rather rammy about the subject when I mentioned that JPII, via Ratzinger, declared it a heresy before Romero’s death.

      Here in NYC I deal with that heresy all the time. It’s so prevalent among some of the Dominicans here that there’s actually a formal inquisition currently underway!

      It’s always a problem when people try to use Christianity to reinforce any political POV. They lose sight of the fact that Christ called us all to serve others individually, and never told the Romans they had to do it for them…

      Apologies if you were insulted.
      My Regards.

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      • jefferson101 says:

        Insulted? Nowhere near.

        I’m just in the same mode that I’ve been in for a good portion of my life, to one degree or another. I’m a fairly hardcore Fundamentalist who seems to have spent most of my life among Catholics. And I tend to spend most of my time with either one defending the opposite side.

        My Brothers and Sisters in Christ at my Church are often known to express the opinion that a Catholic cannot be truly “Saved”. I get to land in the middle of them with both feet over that one, because I know better. (Or think I do. I have no business making those decisions for Him, but I will maintain that I can sometimes tell that someone surely is.)

        The back side of that one is that I’ve also been informed by a number of good Catholics that I am bound for Hell myself, because only Catholics are admitted there. I can defend my beliefs fairly well in those situations, but it’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction that way. It’s not something that I get offended over. I’ll discuss it with anyone, anytime that seems appropriate.

        We’ll all stand and be Judged by Our Lord one day, and he’s not going to judge anyone else in the process. It’s all on me for my Salvation, and on you for yours. And getting angry won’t improve my standing with him, so I try not to do that thing.

        IMO, and I’m sad to say it, but your reasonably well educated Catholic tends to be a bit deeper thinker than your average Baptist on some things. I enjoy the insights, which is perhaps why I find myself among Catholics so often.

        They’ve at least thought about it. I’m not sure about the parishioners in general, but as noted, some of my Brothers and Sisters are not given to too much contemplation of the infinite either. And I can’t spent my whole life talking to three people, two or three Pastors, and studying. I like human interaction.

        But no. Apologies are unnecessary. I’m having fun here, and being a bit challenged to think. It’s all good.

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  4. jefferson101 says:

    Mr. Reed:

    Yes. I meant I Corinthians. Typical of my efforts, that I stutter-step on the keyboard when I’m making a point like that. Which is why I’m going to be sweeping up behind the parades. I don’t proofread nearly enough. But that’s also why I don’t blog.

    On a good day, I can write. But I should go back and edit it twice, to eliminate my usual redundant adjectives, and my repetitions.

    I’m as abrupt in person as I am in print, but I seldom get angry, and I hardly ever take things that do make me angry personally. (Note that I said “hardly ever”. If poked in the right spot, I can be as vindictive as a nest of hornets.)

    Most people can’t find the right spots, though. I was raised by and around WWII veteran Military lifers. I haven’t learned a new profanity since I was about 12 years old, but I can choose not to use them. I can also choose not to be thin skinned. Neither one would have served me well in life.

    And my old Daddy will still yank me up short if he thinks I need it. (I call him “Joe” when I’m yanking his chain, because like Senator McCarthy, he was a B-24 Tailgunner.) I have only gotten that treatment once in about the last 30 years, but I had that one coming, and he’d do it again if warranted.

    I was raised in a rough school. And I still haven’t learned to proofread, which would get me yelled at, if they knew I’d done it. Outch!

    Don’t tell my old Daddy on me, please!!!

    :-)

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  5. Meep says:

    When I talk to kids about tolerance and forgiveness, I point out that Jesus said:

    “Go and sin no more”

    to the adultress.

    Not

    “Whatever floats your boat”

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