Years ago in New York City, there was an Episcopalian minister named Delaney who used to regularly visit a hospital in cassock and biretta. An Irishman named Murphy worked at that hospital and greeted Delaney every day with a tip of his hat and a greeting: “Good morning, Father.” Reverend Delaney would respond, “Good morning.”
One day Murphy said, “Excuse me, Father, which church would you be serving?”
“I’m the rector at the Church of St. Mary up there on the hill.”
Murphy replied, “God forgive me for taking off my hat for a minister.”
“You should see my church,” the minister tried to explain. “We’ve got holy water at the door, and statues of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary. You’ll find very little difference between your church and mine.”
“You’ll forgive me, Your Reverence, but to me there seem to be a world of difference between Jesus Christ and Henry VIII.”
Later Delaney said, “That exchange bothered me a lot. As a good American, I had no time for Henry VIII or the kings of England. In the end I decided to go back to my books, and I discovered that Henry VIII had a whole lot to do with it.”
Delaney became a Catholic and was ordained a priest in Rome.
Christ gave the power to to teach, to sanctify, and to rule members of His Church to the apostles, and they passed that power down to other bishops from the first century to now. This is the only power Murphy recognized when he showed reverence t the priests who have received that power from the bishop in ordination. Henry VIII had no such power. When Delaney realized that fact by studying history, with the help of God’s grace, he not only became a Catholic, but he also became a priest, so that he could possess the power Christ gave His priesthood and His Church.
The two biggest problems in the Church today aren’t from priests. They’re not even from bishops, archbishops and cardinals. The pope isn’t even the source of the two problems. Those men of Holy Orders aren’t the Church; they’re merely in the service of the Church. The Church is Jesus Christ as its head, and we’re its members. In other words, we laity are the Church.
So what are the two biggest problems in the Church today? Well, it’s the ignorance of the laity, and the apathy of the laity. Regarding these two problems, I’ve been talking about them for years, but apparently with little effect. Providentially, God permitted me to ask several famous Catholic guests on The Cantankerous Catholic about this. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke agreed with me about this. So did famed homilists Fr. Robert Altier and Fr. James Altman. Four famed Catholic laymen agreed with me as well: Terry Barber of Virgin Most Powerful Radio, Michael Voris of Church Militant, and Brian Lee and Bob Wilson of St. Paul Street Evangelization. In fact, the cardinal, two priests, and four laymen all said I was being entirely too generous when I indicated that at least 95% of Catholics are ignorant of the faith. They all said it was closer to 98%-99% of Catholic laity. Now, this is where bishops and priests have failed us, in that they haven’t actually taught the faith in the last 60-70 years. Obviously your priest wants to do the right thing, or you wouldn’t be reading this now.
St. John Henry Cardinal Newman once said that the greatest tragedy in the Church is an ignorant laity. He was right 175 years ago, and it’s right today. I’ll be happy to prove to any of you that you’re completely ignorant of the faith you profess. Contact me and I’ll send you a test that every Catholic eighth grader had to pass in order to graduate seventy years ago. I’ll just have to trust you not to look up the answers. No more than 2% of you would be able to pass with a 70% score. Then you’ll have to face the fact that you can’t live what you don’t know. Once you acknowledge that, I can and will help you correct it.
The apathy—another way of saying lukewarmness—is a little different story. Coming out of your apathy, your lukewarmness, is entirely up to you. But Jesus had something to say about you being lukewarm, a warning. Maybe what He said will motivate you to shake off the apathy. In Revelation 8:15-16 He said, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” In other words, you’re allowing your lukewarmness buy you an all-expense trip to hell on the Hell Hound Express.
Don’t think that just because you’re a Catholic and you attend Mass that you’re assured heaven. You’re not. It requires a great deal more than that. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” If all you’re doing is attending Mass and going to Communion, you’re walking through the wide gate and heading for destruction. To enter the narrow gate it’s a bit harder than that. You have to believe and obey everything that the Catholic Church believes and teaches, not just what’s convenient. You have to perform all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. You have to obey all of God’s moral laws. You have to share the faith with others. Is doing all of this at every opportunity hard? You betcha! But that’s how you get through the narrow gate and avoid the wide, easy gate.
Contact me at JoeSixpackAnswers.com or at Joe@CantankerousCatholic.com. I’ll give you lots of tips for overcoming your apathy. And I’ll also actually help you overcome your ignorance of the faith. You older Catholics—especially those who’ve bought into the phony “spirit of Vatican II”—really need to pay attention to this. Your time is really getting short.
I’ll make you two promises about apathy and catechetical ignorance. The first promise is that if you overcome the apathy and ignorance, Catholicism will become the most exciting lived experience you’ve ever known. The other promise is that if you fail to overcome apathy and ignorance, you’ll be reminded of what you’ve read here every moment that you occupy hell. Buy a lot of stock in an ice company. It won’t help, but it may give you a little security while being obdurate.