In these times of “Christianity by hearsay” it is all too frequent to find people whose concept of Christianity is rooted in deep error; or better said, in ignorance leading to error. We see them around us all the time in form of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. This post is devoted to saying a couple of words on the concepts of “taking up the Cross”.
It is a sad reality of our day that either vaguely “new age” ideas or analogous “prosperity Gospel” concepts find their way to the minds of Catholics through popular books. Which is no surprise if you consider that upon entering every “Waterstone’s” in London you will be confronted with a “gay and lesbian” section but the “Christianity” section will be underdeveloped, mainly filled with popular let-us-make-things-easy-for-ourselves, so-called “self-help” book and a sad joke as far as Catholicism is concerned.
The casual client browsing through a modern bookstore’s shelves will not easily find books who properly explain the Catholic view of “taking up the cross”. Rather, they will easily find books that subscribe either to one of the many “law of attraction” variations or to some variant of the so-called “prosperity Gospel”. Both of them (particularly the former) have a fundamental concept in common: that God is willing to make your sojourn on earth pretty much of a paradise, if you but allow him to do it. Here we see the clear desire to expunge the uncomfortable news and focus only on the good part. Unfortunately for us, it doesn’t work in this way.
Firstly, the idea that God wants everyone to be healthy and prosperous (and prosperous, and prosperous to boot; and did I mention prosperous?) is in marked contrast with the most obvious experience of the human condition, filled with people who were extremely saintly without ever being healthy, let alone prosperous. Saint Padre Pio or St. Therese of Lisieux come to mind, but you’ll certainly have many other examples. Therefore, this theory implies that these saintly people had it all wrong and – what is worse – just couldn’t see how wrong they were so that they could help others. Ah, they reason, if only padre Pio had come to the conclusion that he only had to attract health! How many people he would have been able to help, and a saintly man like him would have been given the most wonderful clinical record ever, just for the asking! Alas, these people should read a bit about Padre Pio, or St. Therese. If they did, they would know what bearing the cross means.
Secondly, the theory is an obvious post hoc, ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. Let us say that one thousand people dream of becoming, one day, a billion-dollar-heavy TV presenter and producer. They all try with the same passion, positive energy and unrelenting optimism. They are all equally persuaded that they will succeed. In time, nine hundred and ninety-nine fail to achieve the objective and their lives go along different rails, in which by the way they may find their true happiness. The one-thousandth is a lady called Oprah Winfrey who, after the fact, starts to subscribe to the idea that the simple fact that she wanted to be extremely successful and accepted this as a given started a chain of events which then led her to the “attracted” result of becoming a billionaire. This is the same as the one winning the jackpot at the lottery maintaining that he did so because he drunk skinny caramel latte at Starbuck’s every second Tuesday of the months ending with “er”.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we must go around expecting disgraces, or even wishing them. It is good to have a fundamentally healthy outlook on life and joy, and enthusiasm and faith in the Lord will – if this is God’s will, and with the assistence of our Guardian Angels and of all those in Heaven we will ask to help us – clear a great deal of obstacles from our way and open the way to all the graces God will deem fit to bestow on us (the one or the other might, by her effort and the grace of God, even become a billion-dollar-heavy Tv presenter and producer….). But this doesn’t mean becoming a Pollyanna, or rationalising every problem a posteriori by saying ourselves that in some strange way – and unknown to us?! – we must, truly must have attracted that truck coming straight against our bonnet….
END OF PART ONE…..