Salvation and Evangelization: rooted in Joy

Salvation and Evangelization: rooted in Joy December 13, 2013
Almost a year ago I wrote a post reviewing  and critiquing parts of Ralph Martin’s book Will Many Be Saved?  in which he critiques the maximalism, optimism, or universalism (depending on which term you prefer) of Rahner’s and von Balthasar’s readings of Vatican II on the salvation of non-Christians. Martin blames this optimism for the practical disappearance of missionary zeal among many Catholics.
Martin’s book ingniting up a series of conversations and debates on the topic. Recently, Catholic World Report has hosted a symposium on “Vatican II, Salvation, and the Unsaved”, which features a number of well-known and respected theologians – Douglas Bushman, Nicholas Healy, Father David Meconi, SJ, Tracey Rowland, Father James V. Schall, SJ, Father Thomas Joseph White, OP, David Deavel, and Mark Brumley – offering some of their own thoughts on the issue.
In my post of a year ago, my intent was not to delve too deeply in the question of universalism or into speculation about the ratio of damned to saved. Rather I was and remain more interested in the pastoral question. Ralph Martin argues that the success of the New Evangelization depends in part upon changing the pastoral approach in the Church to emphasize the improbability of the salvation of the non-Christian in order to renew within the Church the missionary impulse.
I wish to offer here a small selection of insights from the symposium and to invite to your own responses for the purpose of mutual clarification of thought on the issues:
David Deavel’s review  of Martin’s book claims the view of salvation which arose out of Balthasar and Rahner was summed up well in the cartoon movie All Dogs Go to Heaven. He adds that in such a context the Gospel, which places us under judgment can indeed seem like “bad news,” and adds “The bad news is for all of us—Catholics, other Christians, and non-believers.  We all need to hear it if the good news is to make sense.  And we all need to hear it because it’s true.”
Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP also sides with Martin. White’s clarity and measured tone is always refreshing. After briefly looking the questions answered VCII in continuity with th Tradition, those left open, and those areas in which in tentatively explored new avenues, Fr. White writes:
The influential modern Catholic theologians Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar have read Lumen Gentium in a more maximalist way, as if to suggest that effectively saving grace is present in all persons irrespectively of the sacraments, such that they should necessarily be saved. In other words, they have pushed for the idea of the effective universal salvation of all. However, this view leads to a kind of Gnosticism that ignores the signs of spiritual poverty and human callousness in the real world we live in. When secular cultures demonstrate indifference to the teachings of the Gospel and become increasingly non-sacramental, they also become less human and more estranged from God. We cannot be sure of the state of grace of any particular person. But there are probable signs of the presence of spiritual death, as well as spiritual life.

Who will be saved? We do not know. However, in the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 836-56) and in the document Dominus Jesus, the Magisterium has insisted that the means instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church (her teachings and sacraments) remain the ordinary means of salvation in the world we live in. People can be saved without these means, but it is greatly to one’s advantage to receive their graces in order to be saved. The ignorance that many people live in is a dangerous one, not purely inculpable, but “affected ignorance.” They are alienated from God due to the consequences of original sin (CCC, 402-409). In this state, human beings partially recognize religious and moral truths that they nevertheless reject culpably. Here, the Church’s clear preaching and teaching are necessary in order to enlighten human consciences, and so that the grace of God can convict hearts and invite them to real conversion.

On the other hand, Nicholas Healy and Tracey Rowland, unsurprisingly respond in defense of the Balthasarian-Ratzingerian approach, and Mark Brumley argues that Balthasar was not a universalist, writing “people who seem—pardon the expression—hell-bent on characterizing Balthasar as a died-in-the-wool universalist often take relatively subtle points of Balthasar’s deep theological speculation and try to present him as something he avowedly wasn’t.” Thus he asks whether Balthasar’s hope for all is necessarily “contrary to the missionary spirit” and adds:

Of course, some such non-Christians may seem to have altogether rejected the Gospel before passing from this life. But how do we know what seems to be the case is the case? Perhaps, in the age to come, we shall discover things were other than they appeared, that in fact these seemingly non-responsive people in the end did respond to grace, however mysteriously. Who can say for certain, this side of eternity? Since we don’t know, shouldn’t we pray and hope for their salvation? Does this possibility imply that the Church shouldn’t do all she can to evangelize here and now, given that such hope doesn’t contradict the possibility of damnation?

But of most interest to me is Douglas Bushman’s contribution. Bushman argues that evangelization is primarily ordered to giving glory to God and secondarily to the salvation of women and men: 

It is impossible to know in advance the actual state of those who are evangelized. Yet, even if, by hypothesis, through a private revelation God should reassure a missionary that a person or group of persons or even the entire world were saved, the missionary mandate would remain. This is because the missionary task has a twofold end: “to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all such men…the Church painstakingly fosters her missionary work” (LG 16). As important as the question about salvation is, it is inseparable from God’s glory. Zeal for souls is not only inseparable from zeal for God’s holy Name; it is subordinate to it, and only when it is rightly subordinated to God’s glory can the zeal for souls unleash its full potential. The fulfillment of Christ’s prayer that all be one in the common celebration of the Eucharist is the greatest manifestation of the Church and thus the greatest evidence that his love is efficacious. And this is precisely his glory. For Vatican II, mission is ultimately realized when all are united in the praise of God in the common celebration of the Eucharist.

God is infinite Love, and he always has more to give. His giving and man’s resultant enrichment—his conversion into a fully human life—constitute God’s glory. Those who have been renewed by this love participate in it and, like God himself, they cannot rest with a reception of this love that is satisfied with a minimum condition for salvation, even if, by hypothesis, they had divine assurance that people were saved. The definitive explanation for indifference about mission is a defect in missionary charity and in zeal for God’s glory. A crisis of missionary activity manifests a crisis of missionary—that is, paschal—charity.

The missionary crisis, then, is rooted in the lack of conversion on the part of the Church’s members. This is why the Council’s fundamental strategy for the reinvigoration of a languishing of missionary activity is to call the entire Church to deeper conversion. Pope Paul VI outlined the program in his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, and on several occasions Pope John Paul II pointed to this encyclical as the surest guide for implementing the Council. The Church must first renew and deepen her consciousness of her identity and mission, her vocation and place in God’s plan of love. This consciousness, combined with humility and love of God and neighbor, will unleash a profound conversion as the Church’s members strive to extricate themselves more thoroughly from any influences that mitigate complete conformity to Christ and the uninhibited flow of ardent charity. This in turn will produce the fruits of service, apostolate, and ministry, all the manifestations of continuing Christ’s mission of redemption. Pope Paul called this renewed mission dialogue, and Pope John Paul II popularized it as the New Evangelization.

He concludes: 
The humble and bold missionary is one who knows from experience the liberating power of God’s truth and the transforming power of His grace, whose own spirit bears witness with the Holy Spirit regarding this grace (Rom 8:16). The Lord’s words about the greater demand being made of those who receive more applies especially to such as these. The missionary mandate is addressed to all, but only those who have ears to hear it are able to respond, and these ears become attuned to the Lord’s voice through the purifications that come with a generous cooperation with the baptismal graces of death to self and sin for the sake of new life in Christ. The hope of those “outside” the Church lies in the depth of the conversion of those on the inside.

Bushman’s essay communicates better than I was able the lacuna in Martin’s argument that left me uneasy. The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. Thus while it is not ordered to mission it is the origin of mission. If I am able to worship God rightly then in the Eucharist I will receive what I am and become what I see. I will become “his flesh for the life of the world.” My life will become an offering in communion with Christ’s offering to the Father and will (or should) bear to witness to that joy of which Pope Francis so convincingly speaks. 

 Successful evangelization, I think, cannot merely be rooted in the belief that it is very difficult for the non-Christian to be saved. (However, true that belief may be.) Rather, it is rooted in the joy and gratitude of one who knows he is a sinner who has been forgiven, who knows she is loved by Love Himself. Thus, a renewal of evangelical vigor requires the continued and deeper conversion of the Church, of me to life lived for the greater glory of God. 
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  • That missionary zeal might diminish as a result of an increase in universalist beliefs might be unfortunate, but it is also unnecessary. I do not follow the logic that the fact that many may respond, practically, in error to various universalist propositions necessarily means the propositions are false, theoretically. That fallacious argument echoes the converse of a rather vulgar pragmatism, that if it’s not useful, then, it must not be true.

    Because God would never coerce a relationship, the possibility of eternal estrangement would seem to be a theoretic necessity, even if that scenario begs the question of why God would bother, through creatio continua, to hold such a creature in existence in order to “enjoy” same. Still, a “practical” universalism has never been considered heterodox, so one can hope for and even reasonably believe that all will be saved, for all practical purposes.

    Grace indeed flows outside the institutional church and manifold and multiform pneumatological efficacies abound, not only in other religious traditions but also In our secular social, economic, political and cultural realms, although their soteriological trajectories may sometimes differ (polydoxically).

    None of this argues, however, for a facile syncretism, a false irenicism or an insidious indifferentism. With St Francis, we should evangelize at every opportunity and, when necessary, even use words. We, as pilgrims, remain on a journey to ever more nearly perfectly cultivate beauty in ritual & liturgy, preserve goodness in code & law, enjoy fellowship in community and articulate truth in creed, communicating these graces in sacrament and word. And our ecclesiology allows us to journey more quickly and with less hindrance, we believe, through what can so often truly be a vale of tears. Out of solidarity with and compassion for our fellow sojourners, why would we not long to share the consolations of this Good News to console others, now and temporally, whatever we may believe about any of our destinies, eschatologically and eternally, enjoying our own increasing beatitude, while, above all, ad majorem Dei gloriam – giving God the greatest possible glory.

    It’s all there in Ignatius’ Degrees of Humility:

    Only a quite impoverished and minimalist missiology will find itself diminished in the wake of a truly enhanced soteriology, pneumatology, christology or eschatology. If universalist stances diminish one’s missiology, one should consider a more robust missiology, grounded in the higher stages of Kohlberg’s moral development and Fowler’s faith development. Both Lonergan and Viktor Frankl amended Maslow’s hierarchy, recognizing, respectively, that self-actualization ensues from being-in-love and self-transcendence. That’s a missiology even “the pagans” can appreciate.

  • Dante Aligheri

    I certainly concur. A religion professor of mine consistently highlighted that theme in Ezekiel – i.e., that everything that happens in the book is primarily not for any purpose but the glorification of God’s Name. The question pales, in a sense, before the knowledge that God has already won His victory, and – as the Existing One – has always held the reins. Thus any worship and the Church exists primarily for that purpose, gratitude for creation and the victory, sacrifice, intercommunion between creation summed up in mankind and the Creator. Indeed, the Orthodox have insisted the Church in a sense existed from the very beginning as the creation itself under one Father.

    As a side note, while having nothing against Fr. White, I am a bit tired of modern theologians classing everything as the “new gnosticism” when talking about something deemed inimical to Christianity simply by recasting it as a synonym for generic dualism. Gnosticism was something far more complex, and there was great variety within the so-called “Gnostic” apocrypha and Jewish precursors so often called “gnostic,” some of which differed very little from orthodox Christianity and lacked the dualism of full-blown, later Valentinian Gnosticism. Clement of Alexandria even talked of a legitimately Christian version of “gnosis.” To conflate a modern mentality with Catharism seems unhelpful since I really do not see how they are related except for the fact that both are said to be “dualistic.”

    • Fr. Savio

      To be clear, I do not believe Fr. White is addressing the dualistic aspects of Gnosticism, but rather the theme of secret knowledge. It seems evident that there is denial of Christ, betrayal of the Church, hardened unbelief, willful self-delusion, and intentional rejection of the Gospel in the world; to pretend that such signs are somehow merely apparent, while REALLY a soul is in a state of loving obedience to Jesus, is to make a claim to some inner secret knowledge neither bequeathed to us by revelation nor evident to sense or reason. I believe that it is thus that Fr. White makes the charge of Gnosticism – and, as such, generically, not due to historical similarity with Gnosticisms of the past.

      • Keeping with the theme of a secret knowledge, a generic gnosticism, that is an epistemic knife with blades on both sides, n’est pas? Not so fast. Let’s dig deeper.

        The Gospel injunction not to judge, of course, does not mean that we cannot discern failures to cooperate with grace. We must discern and often even interdict such behaviors, both toward the ends of formation, deformation and transformation and to advance the common good, maintaining the public order. That admonition does mean, however, that we cannot know which such failures to cooperate with grace are grounded in inability (deformative influences, invincible ignorance and other exculpatory reasons) or are otherwise rooted in refusal (sin).

        To hope that all will be saved shouldn’t be considered heterodox. To have the confident assurance in what we thus hope for, another’s salvation, and to piously act on it, such as asking our departed to join us in intercessory prayer, such as in intercessory prayer (masses, even) for
        our departed, such as in pronouncing beatitude, blessedness and sainthood, is not heterodox either.

        At the same time, declaring anyone damned has always been heterodox. So, whether the ostensible denials of Christ, betrayals of the Church, hardened unbeliefs, willful self-delusions and intentional rejections of the Gospel that we observe in the world result from exculpable inabilities or culpable refusals, we indeed do not know, cannot know and should not claim to know.

        So, there’s an asymmetry in play. We can both hope and even liturgically act on our hope regarding others’ eternal salvation. Once that norm is established, the issue of numbers or how many to whom we can apply it seems rather theologically moot. Who would thus authoritatively exclude which of my chosen departed or, by extension, any or all souls?

        This asymmetry is grounded in a Gospel charity with its bias toward mercy. The charge of gnosticism is thus a facile category error, because this acting on our hopes in faith out of love amount to a practical and existential, pious and holy, “living as if” that is normatively justified by a Gospel charity, which exceeds the demands of justice, and not otherwise some dogmatic claim that’s been epistemically warranted by probabilistic science, philosophic reason, magisterial authority or gnostic claims.

      • Dante Aligheri

        I’ve reread it a couple of times. I can see what you mean. I probably jumped far too quickly since I’ve seen the term used many times in many apologetic works for a number of different things.


      • I agree Dante. I think Fr. Savio’s reading of Fr. White is the correct one, which makes Fr. White’s critique that much stronger.

  • Chris Sullivan

    I think God will save everyone. If God wouldn’t then he wouldn’t be God, he’d be merely human, either unwilling or unable to save all.

    But I think evangelisation isn’t about final salvation but about bringing the salvation of the gospel, the healing, the justice, and the sacraments into people’s lives NOW.

    The idea that universal salvation hinders evangelisation doesn’t hold any water for me.

    God bless

  • Mark Brumley, President and CEO of Ignatius Press, addressed this issue a few weeks ago and did a good job:

    • Yea, I mention his contribution in the post; I just chose not to quote it at length.

      • right …

        like you, I most resonated with Bushman’s essay …

        If a universalist stance, as an evaluative posit, takes away one’s normative impetus to evangelize, one’s soteriology is not too broadly conceived … instead, one’s missiology is too narrowly conceived.

        The efficacies of an explicit faith and the healings and consolations of the Gospel are urgently needed, now, during our temporal existence. Out of a compassion rooted in solidarity, our most fervent desire is that all wo/men
        realize the fruits of salvation – not just eschatologically, but – proleptically. As beautiful as an implicit faith may be, we cherish our explicit faith experience and would to be an instrument in sharing it with all.

        Missiology begins when we live in such a manner as would arouse others’ holy curiosity and moreso engage their participatory imaginations (leaving them imagining: I would to go with her for it appears that God is with her!) and less so their cognitive map-making (apologetic argument). How many would thus come and take us by the sleeve out of such holy curiousity, we might first ask.

  • To think that the New Evangelization could succeed by proclaiming the threat of eternal damnation is at odds with both the teachings and example of Pope Francis and contemporary culture. It would be a recipe for failure.

    Is it very hard for the nonbeliever to be saved? Indeed, with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

  • Martin keeps theoretically focusing on how God’s ultimate respect for human freedom can get him off the hook conceptually as all good and all loving Being if humans do damn themselves to hell. So much so, I believe, that Martin not allow himself to be overcome enough with the real Love we encounter in the self squandering paschal mystery of God, the Love that leads Balthasr et al. to proclaim that we really do have theological grounds to hope for the salvation of all men and women.

  • It is reported that the great Benedictine Bede Griffiths was asked, toward the end of his long life of living in poverty, like a Hindu holy man, among the poorest villagers of India, and building them hospitals and schools, how many people he had “converted.” He supposedly looked quizzically at the questioner and said that he wasn’t aware that “he” had “converted” anybody, and that, as far as he was concerned, giving “witness” by his “presence” among those people was “evangelization” enough. This is certainly an appropriate attitude in India, where attempts to proselytize and “change people’s religion” are considered to be acts of war against the indigenous religions and the cultures that abide (poorly, I’d say) by their tenets. “Evangelization,” in my opinion, should be done with few or no “words.”

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Pope Francis seems able to combine a maximalist tendency with great emphasis on the New Evangelization. In his Message for the World Day of Peace he writes:

    “All men and women enjoy an equal and inviolable dignity. All are loved by God. All have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died on the Cross and rose for all.”

    Or again, in the conclusion,

    “Christ embraces all of humanity and wishes no one to be lost. ‘For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him’. He does it without oppressing or constraining anyone to open to him the doors of heart and mind.”

    In reading these I am not claiming Pope Francis is a universalist: rather he seems to lean in an expansive, inclusive direction. And he sets his call for proclaiming the gospel message in this context.

  • bamacnz

    I have only recently come upon this site … am afraid that I am not all that up with the play when it comes to blogging and commenting but after being very much part of our Holy Catholic Faith for the last seventy odd years I fail to see how anyone can claim that everyone will be saved when Christ Himself has told us otherwise ,more than once, that such is not the case This link says it so much better than I could :-
    Mrs Mac

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Thanks for this link. Avery Dulles is a very thoughtful theologian, and even when I disagree with him he is almost always worth thinking about. Though very much a minority opinion, a few saints and doctors through the years have held to a maximalist (if not outright universalist) position, from Gregory Naziaznen to Julian of Norwich to Therese of Lisieux. I will confess that I have maximalist leanings myself, not least for the pastoral reasons discussed in the original post. It seems to me that very often, a focus on the “narrow gate” and the damnation of many rarely includes the (real) possibility that the speaker is worried about his or her own salvation. Rather it is the damnation of the other that is the topic of interest. And I specifically say “damnation” rather than “salvation”: it is as if the damnation of many is necessary for his/her own salvation. This is not always the case: I am not, for instance, accusing Thomas Aquinas or Augustine of gloating. But it does not strike me as a necessary or even useful approach to evangelization.

  • bamacnz

    Thank you for your response David

    There is no way that I am making the damnation of others ( as you put it ) the point of interest for I know only too well that I, more than many others, have so often deserved damnation …. I rely only on the love and mercy of God and pray every day for perseverance and a deeper love and trust in God and try, with His help, to do what I believe He wants me to do.

    It never ceases to amaze me how well God understands each and every one of us individually in His love … how often I have failed to follow out what I feel He wants of me … I could give lessons in procrastination for sure !
    This link and what the good priest shared in it , came up in my surfing just when I needed it :-

    Mrs Mac

    • Mrs Mac, I can identify with what you say about perseverance and trying and failing. I recall Thomas Merton emphasizing the difference between our seeing the path and walking it.

      There are so many stage paradigms in life, such as in developmental psychology, faith and moral development, formative spirituality, spiral dynamics, Lonergan’s conversions, Ignatius’ Degrees of Humility, Bernardian Love, prayer ladders, eros and agape, etc, whether for individuals or groups. And they say we can ordinarily understand the one immediately above the one we presently occupy.

      I suspect something like that going on in my life. I understand the concept of perfect contrition (detesting my sins because they offend Who is deserving of all my love) but imperfect contrition (detesting my sins because of His just punishment) is the stage I probably ordinarily occupy. No sense in my imagining that my seeing the path of perfect contrition amounts to my walking it. Likewise, I see what’s going on in the New Testament with invitations to intimacy, but, honestly, I’m still walking with the Prophets and Psalmists in the purgative way, often glimpsing the way illuminated by the Evangelists and Paul and simply marveling that … enough with all that.

      I love the old Litany of Humility, where we pray that others may become holier than us, provided we become as holy as we should. I would not denigrate the OT vs the New Testament, imperfect vs perfect contrition, early stages of psychological, moral or faith development vs later and so on because, in my experience, my seeing those paths, so often, has not near equated with my walking same! Perhaps, though, for now, I am as emotionally and spiritually (im)mature and as holy as I should be. I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off and try again, tomorrow, if I’m gifted one.

      The people of God, the pilgrim group that we are, express a wide range of theological opinion on such matters as afterlife realities, within otherwise essential boundaries, and we enjoy a great diversity of spirituality and piety, and every member of the Body, whether infant or elder, enjoys the same dignity and love with no increase in our God-given intrinsic value as persons due to our growth and development. We do cooperate with grace and grow as much as we should, thereby enjoying any ensuing beatitude and giving God glory.

      This is all just to suggest, once all the nuances are teased out, we all have far more in common than we may first suspect (and not just with our co-religionists).

      • While studying Marshall Rosenberg’s theory and practice of Nonviolent Communication, I learned something very valuable; He said “the semanticists warn us, the map is never the territory!” How simple it is to hold the concept in the mind, how difficult to actually do it. I lament the loss of my years thinking I had it all in my mind and being content therefore to not actually walk the thought.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Mrs. Mac wrote: ” I rely only on the love and mercy of God and pray every day for perseverance and a deeper love and trust in God”

      AMEN!!!! I can not add anything to this.

      With regards to the link you shared: I agree completely that preaching about hell, in some way shape or form, if only to remind ourselves of our own sinfulness and unworthiness, is a good thing. But this priest, though he sounds like a dedicated one, seems a little too obsessed with the topic. And it may just be me, but he strikes me as almost Donatist in his works/salvation message: pray the rosary, wear the scapular etc. and these will guarantee your entrance into Heaven. He does not seem to mention love of God and love of neighbor (except insofar as you need to preach hell to your neighbor if you love him/her.)

      • The late Fr Marcel Nault, who preached that particular sermon, I’m pretty sure was an associate of Fr Nicholas Gruner, whom the Vatican suspended years ago. These brothers and sisters of ours do echo the sense and sensibilities of the Society of Saint Pius X. So, it’s not just you, David.

        I have many friends whose traditionalist piety sometimes seems to border on the traditionalistic and who underemphasize the very virtues that you mentioned, so I just strive to model those virtues and to become the change I wish to see in them, especially if they don’t seem to have the questions that would go so well with MY answers! As it is, most of these friends are living those virtues, so, though their verbal apologetics don’t emphasize them, their lives otherwise still have great evangelical efficacy. I’m a pretty mixed bag, too, I’m sure.

        As for roman suspensions, a hometown friend, who is a priest who graduated from the same high school as me, a few years earlier, Fr Roy Bourgeois, was also suspended. I don’t pay too much attention to who’s in or out with Rome. I consider myself a Banquet Hall Catholic, who celebrates my resonance with anglican, episcopal, orthodox, roman and other catholic cousins, although many would pejoratively consider me a cafeteria catholic of the worst sort. 😉

        • Banquet Hall Catholic – I love it, Johnboy! I’m also trying to live in peace, look for the good, and be the change I’d like to see among Gruener, SSPX et al. I have family members and old friends about to show up for Christmas who have close ties to these. This will keep me smiling through it all.

  • Ronald King

    My first awareness reading this post is that my first instinctive reaction seems to be how the mystery of God’s Love fits into the mystery of human relationships. Being given the blessing of experiencing a brief awareness of God’s Love in 2004 has opened me to a sense of the weight of suffering associated with not knowing such Love. Having this awareness is a burden in that I cannot escape the reality of pain which all of us share in common whether we know it or not. My thought is that hell is not knowing this Love which heals and that my hell is knowing this Love but not living it. My “dark night” is my isolation from God which occurs when I do not Love as Christ loves and prayed for in John 17. It is my signal that I am pulling inward so as to escape the reality of suffering all around me and attempting to become “comfortably numb”. That is impossible now.

  • bamacnz

    I am not sure if any one of the commenters are old enough to remember missions given every year in most parishes ( at least in Aus. where I grew up) either by the Redemptorists or the Passionist Fathers? These missions were well attended every night and by some who were able , in the mornings as well and lasted for a week.

    The good Fathers spoke about the four last things … death, judgement , Heaven and Hell. I have heard folk , who had never experienced such a mission, criticize them for inculcating fear and dread with their talk of Hell, but such folk are way off key… We were assured that Yes, Hell was a possibility , not one that God wanted for us but one that we could bring upon ourselves if we turned our backs on God and did not make use of all the helps that God has given us out of love in the Holy Church He founded … then Father would go on and explain these God given helps….

    These priests seemed to have an endless number of sayings and stories .. always short but which would be a reminder of the mission …. one that has stuck with me was a story about two frogs that fell into a large bowl of cream … after a while one of the frogs said that it had had enough and would have to give in …the other frog encouraged him to keep it up which he did for a very short time but sank to the bottom … the other frog kept swimming until the cream turned into butter so he was able to climb on top and hop out …..Over the years I have often told myself ” keep paddlin’ frog …. Please God, grant me the grace of perseverance that I might keep on reminding myself of that and not let things get too much on top of me!
    Mrs Mac

    • When I was growing up, I remember the good fathers and good sisters talking about last things, alright, including hell and what could get you there, like the 5 M’s:
      1) miscellaneous pre-marital fooling around
      2) missing mass
      3) meat on fridays
      4) masturbation
      5) murder

      If you were rich enough to go to a Jesuit high school, you might have been taught the various exculpatory loopholes or the still controversial fundamental option, all with a pastoral nuance and sensitivity that didn’t filter down to most of the faithful from the good fathers’ pulpits or good sisters’ chalkboards.

      So, there were cyncical and morbid jokes about a high school kid, who died in a Friday night car accident after a hamburger at the malt shop and “parking” with the girlfriend, sitting in eternity in a cell next to Hitler and Stalin, responding to “What you in for, kid?” … Of course, to make matters worse, he’d used a condom and had also missed mass the previous Sunday.

      This was all positively frightening as I knew that, every day in phys ed, I was rubbing elbows with some of these moral monsters.
      For certain matters, you see, there simply is no parvity of matter.

      Note: Such essential and physicalism and biologism and legalism and [litany of -isms du jour] still reigns in magisterial moral formulations. By contrast, the magisterial social justice methodologies represent seismic shifts from classicism to historical consciousness, from natural law to personalism and from legalism to relationality-responsibility models. I say this both to offer a partial solution to the silly syllogisms of catholic moral doctrines and to recognize that the seeds of that solution have already sprouted in some teachings. The other part of the solution is their recognition that one’s de-ontology should be at least as modest as one’s ontology is tentative.

      • I apologize if that sounded a tad harsh. It was tongue (only somewhat)
        partly in cheek, inspired by my recent, annual thanksgiving listening to Alice’s Restaurant with my sons. Sadly, though, most of the critique was not at all hyperbole.