Dearly Beloved in Christ,
“Man is only a reed, the weakest thing in nature,” so wrote Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), a French poet and religious philosopher, one of the first Old Roman Catholics. “But,” he added, “he is a thinking reed (roseau pensant).”
Of course, there is good thinking and there is bad thinking. One must wonder just how much good thinking there is in today’s world. How much good thinking in our daily newspapers? How much good thinking on our TV screens? In our movies? From our politicians? Within our classrooms and from the teachers? And, yes, from our pulpits? Our churches have become again what the poet Wordsworth described as “bare ruined choirs.”
Lord knows, we are witnessing entirely too much bad thinking, which leads to bad actions. We have seen it in Connecticut, with the slaughter of so many small children and their teachers; in Orlando with the murder of 49 more adults; in Texas with dozens of innocent church goers, and we are seeing it in Seminole Heights, right here across Tampa Bay, as people live in fear wondering which victim will be next as a moronic fiend acts in apparent delight, taking the lives of people, gunning them down seemingly for target practice, as though they were beer cans. Fiend after fiend after bad thinking fiend – weak, bad-thinking reeds everywhere, it seems.
We see more slaughter through the hatred and religious intolerance of those who profess a “religion of peace,” while slaying thousands in France and Germany and Spain and England, as our youthful men and women die in God-less places, wearing our uniforms so faithfully and patriotically defending them, while other bad thinking persons right here in our own country mock their heroic efforts, while earning their millions of dollars as “talented athletes,” – those who could not earn a dollar in any other occupation! “Jocks,” we call them.
Our churches are empty; our theatres are full. Our schools are filled with empty-headed instructors, who fill the heads of our children and youth with utter nonsense, at best. Bishops argue with cardinals, cardinals fight each other and the Pope sends theological gibberish to priests and bishops all over the world. Statistically, there are supposed to be some 26 million more Catholics in this country than there were in 1965. Well, they are certainly not filling the churches. Our children are growing up with little or no religious training and devotion; they barely know the inside of a church, much less even knowing their heavenly Father and His holy mother.
It is time for some GOOD thinking and some devout praying! It is time ministers, priests and rabbis get back to that “old time religion.” We need men and women of strong belief in a loving God – men and women in religion, in the classroom, in the all the fine professions, in our state houses and houses of Congress, and yes, in our stores and other businesses, where men, women and children shop every day, not only to buy things but to interchange amicably, socially and at least tolerably with their neighbors. We priests need to show young men and women and old men and women that we are truly in love with our God and are thrilled each day to offer sacrifice at His altar because we do love Him and His children everywhere. Our example must be such that our very presence reaches out to young men and women in such a way that they desire to come after us in genuine pursuit of being the shepherds of the flocks God has entrusted to our charge.
These are not intended to be empty words or empty-headed words of a “short-timer,” but a genuine charge to each and every one of us who claims to be a devout follower of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We need to edify our laity in everything we do, in every action we take for the good of our churches and in our private lives. We need to be those “fools for Christ’s sake,” of which Thomas á Kempis speaks in his Imitation of Christ, and we need to read a small portion of that work every day of our lives. That will help us to become good thinkers.
With every good wish and prayerful blessing to you and yours, I am faithfully yours in Christ,
s/ +John J. Humphreys
The Most Reverend John J. Humphreys, Archbishop