Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fr. Jim Kubicki's Heroic Catholicism: Can You Live the Faith Today?

It was a bit of short notice, but I learned about a talk that was to be given by one of my favorite friends, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer,  from a facebook friend who is now, thankfully, a real-life friend as well.  The topic was Heroic Catholicism:  Can You Live the Faith Today?  Fr. Jim's lecture was sponsored by the Marquette University Knights of Columbus for the 2013 Walter Ciszek Lecture.  I wasn't sure that I could fit one more thing into my already busy day, but this talk sounded so intriguing that I knew it was worth a try.  It took a little bit of heroism on my part just to get there after a long and busy day at work, followed by my son's basketball game, then a hastily prepared supper for the few family members that didn't have outside activities that evening, and finally driving in a downpour of winter rain.  But had I missed Fr. Jim's lecture, I would have missed an awful lot because it was fabulous!  I can always count on Fr. Jim to inspire me with his easily understandable lectures, and his talk on heroic Catholicism fit the bill!  His talk was so good that I wanted to share my notes here so that others could benefit from his inspiring words.

Here's my summary of Fr. Jim Kubicki's Heroic Catholicism:  Can You Live the Faith Today?

Fr. Jim began by speaking about a book that was written by a psychologist in 1978.  It was rejected by the publisher because it included a chapter on religion.  Nobody would buy it, they thought.  Finally Simon and Schuster accepted it and released it as a paperback in 1980.  Upon publication this little book made publishing history and was on the New York Times bestseller list for ten years.  It began with these words:  "Life is difficult."  Well everyone already knows that life is difficult but most people don't know how to get through this difficult life so they purchased The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck to find out how to do so.  And the author offered four means of coping with a difficult life:

1.  Discipline-delayed gratification
2.  Love-dispel the myth of romantic love-true love begins when the feelings wear off
3.  Religion-deep faith in God
4.  Grace-the power outside of ourselves that can bring healing and growth

The message in this book is counter-cultural.  We live in a culture that says you can have it your way, don't accept responsibility, make excuses, and everyone is doing  it.  Our culture equates love with sex, it's a "hook-up" culture all about me and how I feel, and religion is unscientific and untrue.

Viktor Frankl
Fr. Jim then shared the story of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who studied human behavior during the 1920's and 1930's.  He had many patients who had lost all hope in the economic crash of 1929, including their will to live.  The suicide rate was increasing.  Frankl tried to bring healing and hope to those who were suffering.  When World War II began, the United States offered him a visa to America.  But they only offered him one visa so Frankl refused it in favor of remaining in Austria with his family.  Eventually he was sent to Auschwitz.  While he was there he noticed two types of people-those who had strength and health and those who were weak and died.  What was the difference?  Frankl observed that those who survived had purpose and meaning in their lives that went beyond themselves.  The survivors had a sense of transcendence and they willed to live for their family, their art, or their religion.

These two psychiatrists and authors have found that the secret of a good, happy, fulfilled life on a basic level has to do with spiritual values that don't revolve around the self but that goes out to others and to God.  This notion is basic for supernatural happiness and heroic Catholicism.  Heroic Catholicism helps us to live well here and in the hereafter.

Back in the 1960's JFK said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  Now apply this saying to the Church today.  Most people would turn that around and say, "What can the Church do for me?"  or "I don't get anything out of going to Mass"  or "The Church is all about rules and doctrines."  It was Pope John Paul II who said about Christian living that, "It's a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity marked by a minimalist ethic and shallow religiosity."  We can see his point when we hear people ask "How far can I go before its a sin?" and "What's the minimum requirement to be in good standing with the Church or with God?"

When it comes to love you don't ask about the minimum, you say, "What can I do to show that I love you?"    When we fail to give the maximum in our faith we become not only mediocre Christians, but Christians at risk.  We need to take our faith seriously.  Secularism eats away at our faith.  Pope Benedict XVI speaks about two kinds of atheism:  The theoretical atheism where people struggle to believe in God and practical atheism in which the truths of faith aren't denied but they are detached from life.  People believe in God in a superficial manner and live as though God did not exist.  Practical atheism is more destructive than theoretical atheism.

Pope Benedict XVI
In Pope Benedict's lenten message for 2013 he says, “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.  I observed that being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction … Since God has first loved us  love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.” 

This is what makes up heroic Catholicism.  It's a living relationship with the Person who transforms our life.  And what does heroic Catholicism look like?  To find out we look to the example of the saints such as Saint Ignatius of Loyola whose example of discernment revealed a movement of God within his heart leaving him with peace and joy instead of emptiness, and  Servant of God Dorothy Day whom Cardinal O'Connor spoke about as an "idealist in a non-ideal world."

Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ
Fr. Walter Ciszek, also a Servant of God, was a tough and independent young man who entered the Jesuits and went to the Soviet Union as a manual laborer and from there was sent to solitary confinement in Siberia.  It was there that he learned the lesson that you can't depend upon yourself, you have to depend upon God.  When asked how he survived his ordeal he gave a one-word answer:  faith.  And how do we make our faith come alive?  Through prayer such as the morning offering which is one of the best practices of prayer.  Through it we accept from God and offer back to Him all of our works, joys, sorrows and sufferings of our day.  We are reminded of His providence.  We can pray always by making each action of the day a prayer since it has been offered to God.  Through the daily morning offering we become aware of God in the events of our daily life.

Blessed Mother Teresa
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta wrote back in 1955:  "Pray for me for within me everything is icy cold, it is only blind faith that carries me through.  Within me all is darkness."  In 1959 she wrote:  "The whole time smiling.  People pass remarks, they think my faith, trust and love are filling my entire being.  Could they but know that my cheerfulness is the cloak with which I cover my desolation and misery.  The darkness is so dark and the pain so painful."  The world didn't understand this because she felt one thing but did the opposite.  That's virtue and holiness. And we, too, can be virtuous and holy when we, like Blessed Teresa, act against what we feel.

There's an old saying, "Don't feel your way into acting.  Act your way into feeling.  Act and the feeling will follow."  We are heroic when we don't let our feelings control what we do.  Be faithful in the little things we do every day-this is heroic Catholicism.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, "The battle between good and evil crosses every human heart."  No one can escape it.

But we know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He's the truth about God and truth about how to live.  Follow Him for deeper joy and peace amidst trials and struggles because life is difficult.  We are fortunate to have Jesus in prayer and sacrament.  Our greatest prayer is the Mass where we find Jesus in word and flesh, united to us in Holy Communion.  He strengthens us to live this heroic life.

Tom Burnett
A real-life hero of  recent years was a man named Tom Burnett.  Tom was on Flight 93 on September 11th, 2001. At his funeral service a man who had known him during his college years told his wife that the man who was eulogized at the funeral, a man who was said to attend daily Mass, didn't at all resemble the man that he knew in college whose faith was weak.  His wife spoke about how he began to go to daily Mass in 1997.  He didn't tell her about it at first and she had thought that he was simply working more hours.  But when he finally told her where he was spending so much time he said that he felt that God was calling him to something big but he didn't know what it was.  He thought that if he went to church and prayed it would become clearer to him.  He knew that he would impact a lot of people and it would have something to do with the White House but beyond that sure feeling, he just faithfully went to Mass each day and waited to see what God had in store for him.  Now we know exactly what it was that God was calling Tom Burnett to do with his life and as a result of his actions on Flight 93 on that tragic day we all call Tom Burnett a hero.

We are all called to live our faith in a world that eats away at our faith.  Do you have it in you to live that faith today?  You will if you have Christ in the word and Sacrament because Christ will be living in you.  That will give you the courage to live Heroic Catholicism.

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. You need a "red alert" system so the rest of us don't miss these lectures!

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  3. This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing it! I love Fr. Kubicki's talks. I have an audio retreat of his from Creighton Univ Online Minsitries. God bless!

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  4. Wow! What a great talk and an inspiring read! Thanks, Anne!

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  5. Thank you for posting this. So much food for thought.

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  6. Wonderful! Thank you for posting this...what a lot to think and act on "Don't feel your way into acting. Act your way into feeling."

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