Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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Tuesday is Mardi Gras. It is a day of parades, masquerading, reveling and feasting. Mardi Gras is another reminder that Western civilization has deep roots in Catholicism. Mardi Gras, literally Fat Tuesday or Carnival (carne vale in Latin) goodbye to meat, is the day before Ash Wednesday which begins the penitential season of Lent. So Mardi Gras used to have great Christian liturgical significance. To those old enough to remember, the fasting of Lent was not for the faint hearted. In those days you really yearned for, and looked forward to Easter.

Lent is so easy today that we hardly realize that it is Lent. There is just fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence on all Fridays of Lent, and if you can’t even do this much just do some other form of penance. So Mardi Gras has lost most of its Catholic significance. People simply make an ash of themselves on Tuesday and then receive ashes on their forehead on Wednesday

The secularization of Mardi Gras is just another example of the gradual secularization of the world. Europe which once was so thoroughly Catholic today is almost completely secular. The EU, European Union, refuses even to admit its Catholic roots. And the U.S. today is well on its way to becoming secularized. The ACLU and other highly motivated organizations are trying their best to get God completely out of the government, and out of our culture. We are headed for secular humanism, man without God. There is nothing more inhuman than secular humanism.

If there were no God who would be the Supreme Being? In the visible universe, in which we live, it would be man. But which man? There are over six billion of them in the world today. And each one thinks that he is absolutely autonomous; that he is the “supreme being.” This creates pride, rugged individualism, competition, jealousy, anger, hatred, violence and war.

As Chesterton said, “When we stop believing in God, we don’t believe in nothing – we believe in anything.” In other words, in the last analysis atheism is idolatry. Everyone has a god. That person or thing which we put in the first place and for which we are willing to sacrifice everything else is our god. If we do not acknowledge the true God we will make a god of some creature. And that is idolatry. Many today worship the trinitarian god of “hedonism, materialism, and consumerism,” which drives them to “conspicuous consumption” where they buy what they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like.

Because of this secularization of our culture, Karl Rahner said that the future Christian will have to be a mystic. A mystic, not meaning one who has visions, levitations and bi-locations, but a mystic meaning one who has a deep experience of God. An experience which is ultimately rooted in their spiritual existence, in their contingency, their transcendentality, their innate orientation and thrust for God.

It is not enough for people to learn about God from outside themselves as we did before in a thoroughly Christian culture. Whoever wants to live a convinced and genuine Christian life in the secularized culture where the God question is taboo, therefore, must want to be involved with God in his deepest experience, in his innermost self.

In other words, the Christian must find in Christianity the answer to the deepest needs and desires of his heart; not something indoctrinated from outside himself. He must see in Catholicism the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual health and happiness here, as well as hereafter; and not a burden that we more or less willing suffer to avoid a far heavier burden in the next life.


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