Catholic Exceptionalism Has Developed an Inferiority Complex





I recently saw some videos wherein young Catholics at the recent March for Life were asked if the Catholic Church is superior to all other religions.  The vast majority of these young people, who should be commended for supporting life under brutal conditions, seemed to shy away from the word “superior”.  Many of them answered “no” and some of those, when later asked to provide more detail in their answer, seemed to not want to offend or insult anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings.  Since when has the word “superior” become a curse word?  Since our society began to worship what I will call militant, rampant, and non-conditional equality. This so-called equality demands that people spread the wealth, spread the love, spread the pain, spread the gain and, ultimately, only succeeds in spreading something for more organic and fertilizing.

We believe that we are all created in the Image of God, and that we are all God’s children. As Catholics we not only believe that Jesus Christ came down to us to provide us with the opportunity for eternal salvation, but that we receive His Body and Blood at Mass, which is not a glorified meal but, rather, a re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. We also believe that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, and that She, like Her Son, was born and lived without sin.  We love and honor Mary as our ally in the struggle for salvation. That effort is a struggle, not because Christ made it so but, rather, because we make it so with our human weakness, inconsistency, disloyalty, selfishness, and disobedience as personified in sin.  We believe that we need to unburden our sin through the Sacrament of Confession before a priest, and to feed our souls, minds, and hearts with the Body and Blood of Christ as often as possible to help us in our struggle for salvation.  We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that the Pope is God’s representative on earth.  

We also believe that the great privilege and blessing of being a Catholic carries with it a similarly great responsibility and duty, which is to live according to a higher standard than that practiced by this world, and by other faiths. In addition to following God’s Word, as well as seeking and accepting God’s Will as best we can define that Will, we are expected to combine God’s Word in the Bible with Christ’s example in both the Bible and the Gospels to serve as messengers and models of salvation for this world. We are not called to bash, humiliate, or mock other faiths, for Christ did not do that but, rather, to lovingly and consistently exhibit words, actions, and examples which will encourage others to seek salvation through our faith.  Being Catholic is a gift we should want to share with others out of love, not a burden or a toy which we should endure or play with.

If you found a great electronic device, or a fantastic recipe, or an awesome website,  which you thought would transform the lives of those you love, wouldn’t you tell them about it, and even try to convince them to give it a try?  If you were selfish, you might keep this information to yourself, but then you would not be following Christ’s example and, ironically, endangering your own salvation while neglecting that of others.  By telling them about this item, process, or place that you saw as so special, would you be necessarily be telling them that all other electronic devices, recipes, or websites were total garbage, useless trash with no redeeming value whatsoever?  Of course not, yet this redistribution society wants to pretend that, unless we say everything is equal, we are saying that everything, and everybody, outside of our agenda is worthless garbage.

Another insidious influence of this society is that we are told to question and suspect everything said and  done by those who have, blindly favor  and defend everthing said and done by those who have not, and assume and even demand that everyone, regardless of merit or qualification, should be equal.  Thus, everyone is going to Heaven no matter what, and nobody will go to a Hell because that would just be wrong and mean or, because, God would never have a Hell in the first place.

This society and world loves to call itself “progressive”, “modern”, “sensitive”,  and “tolerant”  yet it is least forward thinking, advanced, caring, or tolerant with regard to those who disagree with the accepted or popular thinking or opinion regarding the deepest and most intimate of matters.  At the end of the day, this world and society are about subjective morality built on rampant, militant, and blind equality with no foundation in truth or merit.  If all go to Heaven no matter what, what is the value of holiness and the consequence of sin?  If everyone and everything everyone believes is equal, there will never be a need to seek the light since that light will be everywhere.  The truth told, there is darkness, and light, in varying degrees, as one moves farther, or closer, to God in varying degrees.  The truth told, only God can judge who is, and who is not, worthy of salvation.  

At the end of the day, we should proudly believe that, if we are faithful and practicing Catholics,  we will be further down that path toward God, and that we will be judged by how well we loved others enough to help them along that same path.  That certainly seems unique, special, and exceptional to me, and is clearly something we should be willing to proudly and assertively proclaim to others. So, please, for the sake of your own salvation and that of those you can touch, rip off your Catholic inferiority complex and proudly wear your hat of Catholic Exceptionalism. This is not about putting other down but, rather, about lifting them up.  What do you think?

Copyright, 2014,  Gabriel Garnica,  All rights reserved.


God is All About Re-Gifting

As secular society brushes off Christmas for another year, Catholics know very well that Christmas never truly ends because, at the end of the day, giving never ends.  You see, secular society has Christmas all wrong and, in fact, has it upside down, as it has so many things that truly matter.  For secular society, Christmas is all about getting gifts or finding the gift that will make us look good.  Sure, people often get excited about finding the right gift, and that is certainly better than being simply obsessed with getting gifts, as some are. However, this focus is still far more superficial and fleeting than it should be.  We have all heard that “it is better to give than to receive” and with good reason. The road to sanctity and holiness is paved with unselfish humility lined with unconditional love and service.   The saints certainly provide us with scores of examples of unselfish giving with love, and that is certainly a part of the Christmas we should embrace.

As noted above, most of secular society’s concern with Christmas is figuring out ways to make a buck off people’s desire to give or get the perfect gift.  Even more sadly, the remaining focus is on figuring out ways to make a buck off people’s dissatisfaction with the gifts they did get.  The mantra seems to be “pay us to be the perfect giver” and “pay us to turn  bad gifts into good ones”.   There is nothing inherently wrong with returning gifts we cannot use or prefer to exchange for something else. The problem lies when we focus too much on gifting as some sort of equal exchange or, perhaps worse, some sort of investment on achieving more of what we want.

In our society and media, re-gifting, or having someone give a gift they have received as a gift to someone else,  is often mocked as a cheap way of turning those gifts into bargains.  We often see how TV characters are deeply offended upon discovering that some gift they gave has been re-gifted. The greatest joke, of course, is when we receive our original gift back from an oblivious or forgetful recipient.  This is supposed to be  deep gash or insult demonstrating ingratitude, rejection, and who knows what other evils.

This is not, however, God’s take on gifting.  He wants us to re-git as much as possible, spreading what He has blessed us with to as many other folks as we can.  Recall how the servants who re-invested and spread the talents received were praised while the servant who merely hid his talent was criticized and lost what he was given.  God does not want us to hide our gifts for ourselves, for that defeats the original purpose and potential of the gift in the first place.  No, on the contrary, God calls us to use our gifts to serve others and bring glory to Him.  In a sense, he who re-gifts God’s gifts is doing God’s work and following Christ’s example to a tee.  Think about the gifts God has given you, and about the ways you can use those gifts to change lives for the better.  If you do, you will surely be celebrating Christmas, and giving, all year round.

Gabriel Garnica   Copyright 2014,  all rights reserved.

David vs. Goliath Revisted

Like most people, I assumed that I had looked at the story of David and Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17) completely, discerning that it reminded us of the power of faith and, above all, the power of God. Recent readings and study, however, have given me a new perspective. The popular author and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell argues that David was not the quintessential underdog that we make him out to be. As a skilled user of the sling possessing great accuracy and technique, David could launch a stone faster than the best major league fastball with pinpoint accuracy.  That skill, of course, came to David through God’s Grace and Will as applied to David’s background and experiences.  David was no experienced warrior in the traditional sense when he brought Goliath down with a well-placed stone to the forehead. He merely used a God-given gift in the service of God to bring God greater glory. That, in a nutshell, is our mission in this life.  Now it happens that, since Christ taught us that our purpose in this life is to love God above all else and serve others in love as Christ did, more often than not, the most effective use of our God-given gifts in the service of bringing greater glory to God is in the service of god through serving others.  Therefore, our primary mission in life should be to discover and apply our God-given talents in the service of God through the example of Jesus Christ.

Many folks point out that David refused to confront Goliath on his own terms, in full armor in suicidal one-on-one combat. Such an approach would have been foolish because it would have played to Goliath’s apparent strengths of size, strength, and experience in hand to  hand combat. Others argue, with valid points, that David so refused, not out of fear but, rather, out of respect for and comfort with his own skills, experience, and gifts.  The lesson here is that we do not have to apply our skills as others would prefer we do but, rather, as is most fitting and effective to our unique style, temperament, and individuality.  God provides the gifts, but He leaves the way we will apply those gifts to serve others up to us.  Interestingly, there is no indication that Goliath knew a thing about slings, nor that he could hit the broad side of a mountain with one.  David, then, attacked his obstacle on his own terms, using what God-given skills he had in the manner most effective and fitting for him. That is the crux of free will in the service of God.  God gives us the ingredients of eternal greatness. It is up to us to prepare the soup using our own recipe which, however, must  include Christ’s example and teaching as the key ingredient.  As Catholics, of course, we can also include what we have learned from the examples of Our Blessed Mother and the Saints as well.

The story goes that David volunteered to confront Goliath upon seeing his disrespect and blasphemy against the people of God and, as well, the reluctance and fear to confront Goliath by the Israelite soldiers given his apparent strength and great size.  God does not force us to apply our skills to serve God. He merely provides us with the tools which, in the course of time, will find opportunities for use. It is up to each of us to seize upon those opportunities to make a difference in others’ lives while serving and bringing glory to God. Obviously, if we use our gifts and those opportunities for self-gain, we will be corrupting the purpose of those gifts and will have to answer to God when the time comes to render accounts for what we have done with our talents.

Gladwell also argues that Goliath likely suffered from acromegaly and the poor vision often seen in people so afflicted.  He bases his views on his own research and study plus Scriptural passages indicating that Goliath did not initially nor effectively assess David’s approach and may have even believed David to be carrying more than one stick, or staff, as he did.  The lesson here, in my opinion, is that those apart from God will always have poor vision for what truly matters, and that will be one of their great vulnerabilities.  By contrast, those who follow and serve God will have a greater vision of what matters to eternal salvation, and will be expected to use that greater vision to help others improve their “in” sight.  Again, we see God reminding us to use any advantages He has given us to serve others rather than to crush them.

Many may argue that David was not exactly serving Goliath when he smashed him with a stone and cut off his head but, actually, he was serving God’s Will and God’s chosen people, the Israelites. This reminds us that we must serve God and God’s Will above all else, and that in the course of serving others we may, in fact, dis-serve others who oppose those we serve.  Simply put, it may be practically impossible to serve everyone as everyone may wish, and that should not be our proper objective.  Every teacher and leader knows that he or she who tries to please everyone is looking for disaster, and mayhem.

Finally, we should note that David did not compromise, dilute, twist, betray, or alter  his purpose, mission, agenda, or actions in order to “reach out” or meet Goliath halfway.  There was no settlement or tie here. God does not deal in ties or across-the-board equality as many clueless people argue a loving God should.  God does not have weekend followers, sort-of followers, or appeasing followers.  Ties and compromises are the work of the feeble who, lacking in the faith of their convictions and brimming with twisted notions of peace, play not to lose rather than to win for God at all  costs and at all times.  True service to God, and the eternal salvation which is promised through that service, is not for the faint of heart, the wishy-washy, or the ambivalent.  John the Baptist, Joan of Arc, Thomas More, and Christ Himself did not play it safe.  The true follower of Christ does not play prevent defense, kick field goals or burn the clock.  He or she goes all out in the faith that God will always be there when needed.  He or she knows that, as Gladwell puts it, sometimes our instinct or perception of where power comes from is wrong…if we do not refine and sharpen our instincts toward God rather than this world.  Gladwell also reminds us that much beauty and power comes from adversity and struggle, and that those who appear to have no advantage by this world’s standards may actually be much more powerful than they appear to be. The implication, of course, is that God is the Ultimate Game-Changer, turning apparent earthly defeat into transcendent eternal triumph.

Now, I no longer see David as the patron figure of underdogs who overachieve or surprise against greater foes.  Rather, I see a David in all of us, just waiting for the chance to overcome obstacles, achieve great things, transform lives, serve and love others, follow Christ and, above all else,  place the gifts and talents God has given us at His Feet, knowing that we have used those gifts as tools, even weapons, of mass salvation!

Copyright, 2014.  Gabriel Garnica.  All rights reserved.