Bland Christianity is a new reality, a problem alongside the increasing reality of those without any religious affiliation or who are outright hostile to it. In an article in The Post last month about the newly opened Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., Christine Emba wrote that the museum “reflects the discouraging state of Christianity in the United States today.” She is not alone in her observation that “Christianity in America has been reduced to more of a cultural identity than a way of life.” Pope Francis, on more than one occasion has focused on blandness, and from the beginning of his pontificate, has called Christians everywhere to not be bland in their relationship with Jesus but to have fervor in living a life centered in the Gospel, to not let our faith become private and occasional.
This blandness, this quiet acquiescing that has become commonplace as our culture steers us away from Gospel values, separating our faith from our public life, is an “in-house” problem if you will. By that I mean it is something that is happening within our Christian communities; too many of us have slowly chosen not to be on fire with joy for our Lord, forgetting that Christianity is a way of living different than what the world proffers; we are called to be followers of Jesus and live by his teachings. And reversing the tide of being just admirers of Jesus comes also from the inside. We can affect an immediate change, in that each of us, individually, can make a choice today, now, to follow Jesus more perfectly and, with joy, to share this with others. In many of the serious issues of our day (moving our cultural of death to one of life, having compassion towards others [in particular immigrants/homeless/those dealing with mental illness/addictions], hatred/malice towards those who are different than us) we can present our arguments and hope others will see the merit and truth of them, we can work toward better legislation to effect this, but in the end we can’t force another to change.
In transforming blandness into a passionate desire to live the Beatitudes we need to see that we are the Lord’s. We belong to God, our lives are for him, and when we see it from that perspective we will be anything but bland. How, though, do you come to see you belong to God? There are many ways to this but for today I will only submit that being joyful as an excellent way and will turn our attention to one way to foster joy.
For me a way that has helped awakened joy and helps keep it active/alive has been to follow two people on Twitter who at first glance there would seen to be no practical reason for me to pay them any attention. But they struck a chord with me nonetheless. On a practical level I am not currently in need of the social media tips Sherry Peirce (@ChurchSocialTip) offers, and being 2000 miles away from Saint Francis Xavier, Fr. Vincent De Rosa’s parish (@eyesoffaithdc) in our capital, I’m not in a position to offer assistance to the many needs in his parish other than prayer.
Initially I didn’t follow either of these folks, or have any intention to do so, but as others kept retweeting some of their tweets, over time, I was struck by their enthusiasm and joy for their respective vocations. Plain out simple, they were inspiring to me and I began to follow them. Joy is contagious and invigorating, striking us at the heart even when we aren’t actively seeking it. We just need to acknowledge this and let joy do its work.
So in the end something I nearly overlooked is something that has been of benefit. I have already incorporated some of Peirce’s Advent tips that she has been tweeting the past couple weeks into my parent letter. And likewise, in the end, reading Fr. Vincent’s struggles in his parish via his tweets and his Eyes of Faith articles has become a daily shot of gratitude. As he reminds us that Jesus is ever present in the world when we respond with love and compassion to all our circumstances whether bleak (he deals with much poverty, drug addiction, poor education [and the boiler broke recently]) or uplifting (the parishioners who packed Thanksgiving meal bags and helped with other needs) I’m spiritually feed from afar by someone I don’t know, and that brings me joy.
So my suggestion to you is to find someone, or something, who fosters joy in you. An encounter with the beautiful will move your heart and you will find yourself committing yourself more boldly to Jesus and his Church, to the values and traditions we hold dear as Catholics. You will find yourself being anything but bland.
As a side note there are two recent pastoral letters that I have been using last year and this year in my weekly parent letter reflection. Both Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori’s A Light Brightly Visible, and Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s Unleash the Gospel pastoral letters are aimed at taking their archdioceses from maintenance to mission. Missionary disciples are not bland but rather on fire for their faith. Though the letters are more a walk through the process of attaining their goals of spiritual renewal, the letters are still inspiring, filled with practical ideas, and are worth a read. They can be found at the websites for their respective archdioceses.
1 Dec 2017