"If you can keep your head…" UPDATED

There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling – I’m sure we all know it:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

As I wrote below, I don’t often come up to smack. But it’s important to keep trying.

And on this issue of dealing with things that drive us mad, the tireless Mark Shea has written a particularly brilliant post addressing the whole point of Christianity, and why one mustn’t allow one’s wrath, no matter how righteous, overtake one’s own sense of the gift of joy, in Christ:

“. . . the trick will be avoiding becoming a bitter Pharisee who turns Catholic faith into a particularly nasty and uninviting sort of Protestantism.

What do I mean? I mean that you cannot build a life on protest, not even a protest against heresy. If your Catholic faith is primarily a reaction against Those People Over There (whoever They are) then it is not about Jesus Christ, but about anger over some human hurt you have received (like the hurt of getting drivel from teachers who have betrayed their office and used it to subvert the gospel). The Catholic faith is not a mere reaction to this world. It is about God breaking into this world with joy in order to save it. It is hell, not the Faith, that is on the defensive. That’s why “the gates of hell” (a defensive image from siege warfare) shall not prevail against the Church. So the trick is to be joyful, not angry and bitter, in your work of subverting the dominant paradigm. Have worldly teachers sold the Faith for a pot of heterodox message? Sure! What did you expect the world to do?

But the good news is, not only is that project failing, but the gospel is emerging stronger than ever because Jesus Christ lives. Brickbats and crosses it shall endure till That Day, but it remains full of joy, not bitterness, till then. So the approach we take is not the mere anger of the Revolutionary against the Old Regime, but the gladness of the saint.”

I urge you to read the whole thing and print it out, either for yourself, when you feel inclined to shake a fist at what goes on about you, or to pass on to someone else, when their blood pressure is rising and you’re afraid they’re going to stroke out on your doorstep.

I think it was St. Teresa of Avila who would pray, “God save us from sour-faced saints,” so I think she was on a similar wavelength. So was my Auntie Lillie, bless her, although she would have put it much less gracefully: “the only thing you get out of bein’ a miserable bastid is convincing others that yer a miserable bastid.”

I do believe St. Teresa and Auntie Lillie would have liked each other.

UPDATE: Fr. Z showcases an example, and gives sound perspective on it.

On Friday I found this notice posted on a door at my parish: “Super Bowl, Sunday (February 6, 2011), No 6:30 p.m. Mass. (Because our Green Bay Packers are in this year’s Super Bowl, we have cancelled the 6:30 p.m. Sunday Night Mass that night. We assume that most would be in agreement … (unless you are a Chicago Bear fan).”

Catholics who do not take their Faith seriously will not object to the above notice. But to those who believe that we should place the Mass above any worldly pursuit like watching a football game, it is an insult.


Okay. Let me play devil’s advocate here and argue the other position.

Is that the only Mass on Sunday at that parish? The parish is certainly not canceling all its Sunday Masses because of the Super Bowl.

Get a grip. People can go to Mass on Sunday.

I have begun to believe that there are some people in the world who just can’t have a good day until they’ve found something to be insulted about.

Speaking of St. Teresa, Benedict did today, in his ongoing audience teachings on great Catholic women.

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Nbwooden

    Awesome post Anchoress! You have given all of us a lot to think about. I love the little guy in your photo; what kind of dog is it? He is so cute kinda looks like Reepacheep from Narnia.

  • http://twitter.com/realsaveliberty saveliberty

    Thank you for posting this!

  • francesca

    Great post. While there will always be struggles, challenges, missteps, Catholics should face the future with confidence and serenity. Happened to have a conversation tonight with a young one about a sampling of popular culture with a nihilistic message, though extremely popular, that could potentially threaten to undermine faith if accepted without critical thinking. Still, as one who believes that children ought to first be listened to and not instantly dictated to about the sacred, I asked for opinion first, listened first. And what I heard was so brilliant, so astounded me, so totally rooted in Christian hope, that though the prevailing culture and media dictate one thing, ultimately I truly see no reason to worry that it will churn out perpetually soulless, cynical, hollow youth. I have every reason to believe that children who are being raised in households that let in joy, imagination, and real faith will be our future at its best.

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  • Phcate

    I hate to bring this up about the poem, but the writer kept the “nots” going throughout. In other words, where the post has “being lied about, don’t deal in lies”, it should read . . .not deal in lies. Etc. Simply substitue “not” for ” don’t”. Doesn’t that sound better?
    Thanks for posting that poem.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    LOL, I’m one of those people who’s righteous wrath overtakes me on occaision. But hey, I’m human. I can enjoy life and be pleasant too. I’m not one dimensional. And I can pray and love God too. I think Mr. Shea’s characterization is a bit two dimensional.

  • SusanL

    I have to disagree with being insulted about a mass being canceled for a Super Bowl game. I think it is an insult. Yes, there are other masses being offered that weekend; however, what was the reason for offering mass at that time anyways? There have been times when one of my kids could not go to mass any other time than Sunday night without real problems. Yes, I would have canceled something else rather than miss mass but it would have created real problems.

    There is something unsettling about canceling mass in favor of a Super Bowl.

  • Manny

    I didn’t comment on that, but I feel the same. So what if there is only a third the attendance. Not everyone watches the super bowl or cares about it. I think the act of prioritzing mass out is fundentally wrong. It says something about our culture. And I might add about the Monsignor who made that decision.

  • Pat G.

    This is “Fluffy – the Destroyer of Worlds” – look it up!

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