The Assassination of Truth

“God is dead. God remains dead.
And we have killed him.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Whenever I think of this quote from our dead Mr. Nietzsche, I think of the typical Christian reaction, which is to claim that Nietzsche is wrong. Christians have a tendency to make Newsboys response: My God’s not dead; He’s surely alive. Christians typically say that you cannot kill God, that God is all-powerful, and that God is still there. However, one who has studied (or merely read) Nietzsche recognizes that that is not what he means. He does not mean to say that we took a knife to God and stabbed Him, or strangled Him and He is no longer alive. Rather, Friedrich was saying that we as a culture have rejected God and have banished Him from our minds. We no longer are a theistic world, but most people rely on reason and science. AS a result, we have killed him. Whether or not we agree that we should abandon faith for science does not matter. I would say that this statement is undeniable. When we look to the world around us, especially across the United Staes, we as a culture have completely abandoned God and any sense of the sacred.

We as humans are all made with a longing for God; it is a natural part of who we are. We have this yearning for the Eternal Being Who is God, and we yearn to be in relationship with Him. As St. Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” From our earliest years, we have a recognition of God, whether we realize it or not. However, in a culture that rejects God, when not nurtured, this yearning gets suppressed and lost deep within us. When a culture that has killed off God raises children, we get a generation (or more) of children who live in a perpetual state of darkness, unbeknownst to them. They have these desires, but they have no idea how to fill those gaping holes within them. I look out at my students each day and see how lost they are. While some are fortunate to have some previous exposure to God and the spiritual life, most are just as lost as anyone else.

Beyond our desire for God, we each have a desire for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. We all wish to know what is true, to experience what is beautiful, and to do what is good. We spend our entire lives seeking Perfect Truth, Perfect Beauty, and Perfect Goodness. In our everyday lives, we always encounter them imperfectly. So we seek to become ever more perfectly united to them.

Truth is a journey. We ask questions. We challenge what we hear. But we seek to acknowledge what we believe to be true. If we are to be good and honest seekers of truth, we will engage in debates and discussions, in order that we can understand all sides of an argument. How can we say that something is not true, if we do not understand what that states? Ideally, when we engage in arguments and discussions, we are seeking to learn and to encounter truth. But St. Paul wrote in the 1st century, describing what we often encounter today as “a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes” (1 Tim. 6:4). People have abandoned their search for truth. They care more about the arguments and disputes than the truth itself. As my pastor put it, they care more about who wins than who is right (or who possesses the truth). Whether or not people are right does not matter; what matters is that they win. I know that there have been situations when I have been engaging in discussions and I have realized that I recognize my error, but I do not wish to concede; I want to win the argument. So too today.

Thus, I move beyond what Nietzsche said. While we have killed God, we too have assassinated the truth. The truth is meaningless. Where recognized, it is only to prove a point; it is to be used for our own personal gain and victories. We swing the dead corpse that was once truth, as if they were nunchucks in the hands of 3 year old, taking out everything in his path. We need not worry about the consequences, because no one can make a judgment about my actions, because that which was once the scale for morality now lies dead and limp within our hands. In recent centuries, we have lauded the truth and actively sought it. When we found it, we embraced it. However, in embracing it, we inadvertently suffocated the truth and drained all life from it. There are some of us who seek to perform CPR and bring it back to life, but as long as people treat the truth like their own personal weapon, no life will return to it.

“Whoever is careless with the
truth in small matters cannot be
trusted with important matters.”

-Albert Einstein

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Duc In Altum

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The Family That Falls Together

“As the family goes, so goes the nation,
and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

-Pope St. John Paul II

When we come into this world, we enter crying and naked. We enter crying as we become separated from the safe and comfortable warmth of our mother’s protection. We were once nuzzled in the warmth of that womb, where we are so utterly protected. We are naked, for we come into the world with nothing – no knowledge, no possessions, nothing. During our nine months in the womb and the several years afterward, we receive everything from our parents. All food, clothing, shelter, knowledge, values – everything comes from them. We are born into this world with a natural desire for these things. Our bodies need nourishment and protection, and our minds desire the same.

Traditionally, parents would serve an active role in this process. They would teach their children about whatever faith they professed and about the world. They instilled values and remained an active presence in the lives of their children. Today, we cannot expect for this to be the case. Families are broken. Parents are absent – if not physically, than at least emotionally. Parents have replaced interactive parenting methods with technology. When a child wants attention or to interact with parents or siblings, the immediate reaction has become to give them a phone or a tablet with games to play or videos to watch. Rather than children playing games with other people, they become closed in on themselves.

While it might initially seem to have little impact, as these children grow older, we can see some of these longterm effects. We see children and adolescents glued to their phones. They struggle to go a few minutes without a visual confirmation that the phone is indeed in their possession. They must look at their phones for the time, because they cannot seem to read the clock. Even more than these: adolescents do not have a proper understanding of authority. Because there is an absence of discipline in the home, they grow up seeing adults as just older peers. While previous generations of adolescents have had a disdain for authority, this current generation does not even recognize authority.

Because they have no notion of discipline from their parents, they have developed no form of discipline for themselves in their studies. They have lost all sense of a desire for knowledge and a sense of wonder. When students see a challenge before them, rather than pushing themselves to work through it, they stomp their feet and complain about how it’s too hard. They have an overwhelming sense of entitlement, which paralyzes them whenever they encounter something that does not come with immense ease. Students reject books for the sake of technology. School libraries remain ghost towns filled with the unencountered spirits of ages past trapped in the pages of unopened books. What is left to happen with these libraries but to throw out the books. The culture and knowledge of ages past has thus been rejected for the sake of the new and entertaining pages of websites that lead to new pages, which lead to new pages, which leads to the infinite nothingness of the ignorance of the uneducated Lords of the Interweb Realm.

I am scared for the future that lies ahead, with these students turning into responsible adults. These adolescents have been raised with no sense of responsibility or perseverance. What will happen when they have jobs that challenge them? How will businesses succeed with entitled 20-somethings, 30-somethings children. I look out at my students on a daily basis and wonder what the future holds for us. While some of these students are strong-willed and intelligent, many of them lack the strength to persevere in hardship. Many of these problems are surely based in the frailty of the family. The family is the fundamental building block of society. When the family falls, so does society. We must seek to strengthen the family once again, in order that all might persevere in strength, intelligence, and responsibility. This world that we desire must start with us. We cannot alter the hearts and minds of others. However, we can seek to inspire others by how we choose to live our own lives.

“If this country is ever demoralized,
it will come from trying to live without work.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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Duc In Altum

Ring out the False, Ring in the True

“The object of a New Year is not
that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose;
new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.
Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions,
he would make no resolutions.
Unless a man starts afresh about things,
he will certainly do nothing effective.”

-G.K. Chesterton

In the past, I have indeed taken a somewhat cynical view of New Years and resolutions. I don’t want to do that this year. The new year is a time for us to truly renew ourselves, renew our lives. We all have our birthdays. We Christians all have our Baptism days (when we have our spiritual birth). However, those dates differ amongst most people. There are few people that share my birthday, or my Baptism day. New Years Day is that common day amongst all people. We all have that day to seek to renew ourselves. We need not do this alone. We have (essentially) every person on earth by our side to seek this renewal that we all know we need. We have others to hold us accountable. We have others to encourage us. We have others working on their own resolutions to serve as that additional reminder. We are not alone, so we need not go through this all by ourselves.

However, it’s not inaccurate to say that New Year’s resolutions have a tendency to fail. Actually, let me correct that: we have a tendency to fail at our New Year’s resolutions. It’s not just cynical to say that; we would be lying to ourselves if we said otherwise. What is to keep that from happening again? I can see two main aspects to examine in regards to this: ourselves and our resolutions.

Firstly, we ourselves are different. We do more each year. We experience more each year. We learn more each year. NResolutionso, our identity does not change. However, much of how we are does change. We are entering this New Year much different than when we entered last year’s, and even more than the year before that, etc. We know more what we’re capable of. We know more what we need. We can deny as much as we want that we need not change. However, no one is perfect. We can easily see in others the need to change, but how often are we willing to see the need to change within ourselves. We enter this year to form a new soul, new eyes, new ears, etc. We seek to change, to be changed by our experiences. Where do we need to change? What are some practical things we can do to improve ourselves in this coming year?

That brings me to my second point: our resolutions. People have a tendency to ‘resolve’ to do things immensely impractical. I resolve to go to the gym everyday. I resolve to not eat ANY junk food. I resolve to not drink alcohol. While those things might be great to do, they are so impractical. When we make those resolutions, we don’t actually expect them to be successful. They are cop-out resolutions, because they are not true resolutions. All they do is make others see how much we’re willing to change this year, but we need not actually change, because we know we cannot achieve them. Like I said above, we should all be able to agree that we all have need for change. Therefore, our resolutions should reflect that. We need to take a good look at our lives and honestly say to ourselves that places where we need to change. Then, we must be able make resolutions based on those areas for change. If we don’t make practical resolutions, then why make resolutions at all? Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Lastly, I want to challenge you. This year, I challenge you to duc in altum. At the end of every post, I put “Duc In Altum.’ It means ‘put out into the deep,’ coming from Luke 5:4 when Jesus tells Peter to cast his net into the deep water. It can be taken a few different ways, in a spiritual sense. Ultimately, it can be taken as going out to do something difficult, which will have much resistance. In the Church, it can be used to refer to going out into the world to evangelize, for there is much resistance to the Gospel in the world. There are many things that we need to do in our lives that will be met with much resistance. I challenge you to hold true to those. Bringing the Gospel out into the world is one of the hardest things to do, especially with the status of society today. But Christians have been given the duty to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ I challenge you to duc in altum, to put out into the deep in this coming year. Happy New Year, and good luck with your resolutions.

“Resolution One: I will live for God.
Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”

-Jonathan Edwards

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Duc In Altum

Gobble Gobble

“Thanksgiving is a time when the world
gets to see just how blessed and
how workable the Christian system is.
The emphasis is not on giving or buying,
but on being thankful and expressing that
appreciation to God and to one another.”

-John Clayton

Happy Thanksgiving. Today is an opportunity for us to step back and recognize all for which we are thankful. We take stock in all that we have, being content with all that the Lord has given us, and all that we have received from those around us. Especially in times like this, there is a tendency to lose sight of thankfulness and gratitude. We constantly want to get and get (or sometimes give), but we do not take time to be thankful for what we have. Thanksgiving is set apart as that day. While some people may get bogged down by the foundations of the holiday or the foundations of the country, we must not let that be an excuse not to celebrate this day. What is this holiday? It is an opportunity to thank God and those in our lives for everything that we have.

As Catholics, we seek to celebrate Thanksgiving in a special way. Every Sunday (or every day) we have the opportunity to take part in the Eucharistic celebration. Eucharist itself means ‘thanksgiving.’ While celebration of the Mass always presents us with an opportunity to thank God for all that we have, on Thanksgiving Day, it is especially important to step back and thank the Lord for all that He has given us. Though not a holy day, beginning this holiday (which ultimately came from ‘holy day’) with the Eucharist places everything in perspective: God has given us all that we have, and we place it all at His feet to do with as He wills.

As I said above, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to give thanks for all that we have. Black Friday has gradually been taking away from Thanksgiving and taking over. Black Friday was fine for a time, for it was merely a beneficial day for businesses. Then, as consumerism continued to prevail in our culture, Black Friday sales continued to start earlier and earlier, until they’ve gotten to a point where stores are opening at 5:00 pm, or even earlier. People are thus being overcome by their desires for more that they are neglecting to be thankful (with friends and family) and celebrate Thanksgiving. Not only are customers being taken from their friends and family, but so are employees at these businesses, having to get there early to set up and then to open the store.

I call for us to return to a proper celebration of Thanksgiving Day. While, as I said, Thanksgiving might not have had the best foundations, we must uphold the ultimate spirit of this holiday: true thankfulness and gratitude. We must seek to return Black Friday to FRIDAY. Thanksgiving must continue to reign on Thursday, as our national day for thankfulness. If we lose sight of Thanksgiving and the need for gratitude, our country will continue down this path toward self-centeredness, neglecting to be thankful for what we have and always desiring for the next new thing.

“Gratitude can transform
common days into Thanksgiving,
turn routine jobs into joy, and
change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

-William Arthur Ward

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Duc In Altum

The Good Worth Fighting For

“When I despair, I remember that all through history
the way of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers,
and for a time, they can seem invincible,
but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

I’m sure that most people have heard about the acts of terror in Paris, Kenya, Baghdad, and Beirut, in addition to the disasters of Mexico and Japan. It can be very easy to lose hope, to despair, to become overcome with hatred. We can cower in fear. We can view these times of tragedy as an excuse to go to war or to discriminate against different groups. We can toss around blame and displace anger from one group to another.

But we cannot let that happen. Dictionary.com defines terrorism as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce.” If we do what I mentioned above, we let them win. They want us to be scared. They want us to respond with violence, so that they themselves could be justified in their use of violence. By allowing ourselves to fall into despair and hatred, we give terrorists the power that they desire. We are letting them get exactly what they want. I feel like it would be fairly universal desire to keep power away from terrorists; we don’t want them to win. We have the power to keep them from winning. Yes, they might continue in their violent and horrific acts, and we must seek to stop that, but as Gandhi said in the above quote, there have always been tyrants and murderers, but they are always defeated by truth and love.

The Shadow, darkness, evil – whatever you call it – does not have power to defeat the good. There is good in this world. No matter how dark the world gets, the light will never be extinguished. As long as we continue to hold onto the light and the good that is still present in this world, darkness will never have chance. We must hold true to the words of our dear Samwise Gamgee: there is good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for! That doesn’t necessarily mean taking up arms and going to battle for the good. But it does mean holding on to hope, truth, beauty, love, for the sake of the good. Things will happen in our lives that will make us fall into darkness. But we must continue to fight the good fight, to keep the light alive in ourselves and in the world. We must do what we can to keep good forever in this world. Terrorists may steal, and slaughter, and destroy, but they cannot take away the light and hope that is within us. Only we can rid ourselves of that.

Additionally, I read a story (below) about a woman who was out having a good time during one of the attacks. She had to lay on the ground for a long time,

acting like she was dead, in order to not be killed. She witnessed the deaths of many that night. And yet, what did she think about? She thought about her loved ones, hoping that someday she will see them again. She thought about all the good from her life. She thought about and appreciated all of the good. So many people sought to help in seemingly minor ways, but those ways were the biggest helps of all. They helped the woman see that there is still good in this world. We can easily get bogged down by every horrific act done in this world. There are a lot, so good luck with that. Or we can allow ourselves to be encouraged by the evil to live even more for the good. The rampant evil in the world is evidence for our need to continually fight for the good. Maybe someone else will do it. But no one can fill your place in this world. No one can replace the good that you are called to do, the good that you can and should be doing in this world. Evil evermore encourages us to do and to hold onto the good, but that’s only if we allow it to do just that.

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower
high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.
The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land,
and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold,
the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing:
there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

-Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

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Duc In Altum

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