Saturday, May 12, 2012

X Files Spirituality?

The ever illustrious Mark Shea recently wrote a very good post criticizing the popular Catholic site Spirit Daily. Spirit Daily is so obsessed with esoteric spirituality, constantly seeking after alleged apparitions and secret apocalyptic prophecies, that the essentials of the Catholic faith fall by the wayside. This has become so bad that the website even recently featured a story with the following headline: "GRIPPING NEW BOOK DETAILS ALLEGED APPARITIONS AND PROPHECIES OF PAGAN BOY IN DEEP AFRICA". Shea writes (emphasis mine):
the Church discourages us from seeking out pagan prophets because they are, you know, pagan. (Not that God cannot reveal himself to a pagan, of course. But when he does so it is to refer the pagan to Jesus Christ in his Church–NOT TO SEND BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHRIST RUNNING AFTER PAGAN PROPHETS.) But, Spirit Daily being Spirit Daily, the emphasis is not so much on the common sense teaching of the magisterial Church as it is on a sort of indiscriminate hankering for the spooky, the signs and wonders of whatever dubious provenance, and the murky shadowy area of what I call “X Files spirituality”.
"X Files Spirituality" - I love that description. Shea goes on:
It’s not bad to acknowledge [Catholic mysticism], particularly in an age where both hyper-rationalists *and* some species of Catholic are deeply hostile to the mystical element of the faith. But there is a right and a wrong way to be open to the mystical and there is something unhealthy about cultivating a habit of running after this stuff as the central part of your spiritual diet while exercising what is often an astonishingly bad sense of discernment. God calls us to grow up into mature Christians who are formed by the ordinary common life, worship and teaching of Christ in his Church. When your *primary* diet of spiritual things comes not from the ordinary magisterial teaching of the Church, the liturgy, the virtues, and the works of mercy, but from the latest rumor about what some dodgy apparition like Medjugorje says (and Spirit Daily is *huge* on Medjugorje and other dodgy unapproved “apparitions”) or what some alleged apparition to some alleged “pagan prophet” in “deep Africa’ says, you are treading on very thin ice. What often happens in such cases is that the “seer” or the apparition or the “sign” winds up taking the place of the Church’s teaching, with typically pernicious results.
Shea is absolutely right. A few months ago, I wrote about our pilgrimage to Fatima (here and here) and how different the atmosphere in Fatima is from all of the hype about the mysterious Third Secret or ridiculous accusations on the part of some that Pope Benedict XVI, Bl. John Paul II, and others, lied to cover it up. These folks are always on the search for the latest in Catholic esoterica, running after the most ludicrous rumors, and willingly and knowingly tossing the beautiful and powerful teachings of our Catholic Faith into the trash-bin. This is not the sign of a mature faith in Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of history.

This is not to say that God does not work miracles or signs and wonders, but these things are done so that we might believe and develop a mature faith. John 20:24-29:
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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