Wrapping ourselves in holy Catholic warmth

  • March 7, 2024

The world can be a cold, unfriendly, even hostile and angry place — online and offline. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not supposed to be that way. God created an earthly paradise for us, but when we reject Him and His ways, we reject our true selves, each other and everything we’re actually longing for. We become prideful and selfish. Put a bunch of prideful and selfish people together and you have a recipe for guaranteed misery.

We may think: “But I’m trying to be loving — it’s other people who come at me, and I’m just trying to defend myself!” We are not to be doormats, but if we often find ourselves in an irritating and exhausting defensive posture, we need to change something within ourselves, because we can’t change others.

Hopefully, we have met kind, gentle, loving, patient people in our lives, even if it was just in passing. These people make a lasting impression because they are so Christ-like. Are we willing to “imitate them as they imitate Christ?” (see 1 Cor. 11:1). If we are forced to constantly deal with rude, abrasive souls, do we let them steal our serenity? Do we fall for their traps and get irked when they continually find ways to bait us? If we are in a state of grace, God is dwelling in our hearts, and we can escape into His throne room in the midst of frustration and find divine calm.

Much is said today about people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, whose number one goal is to stealthily make those around them miserable by their accusations, put-downs, insinuations, rumours, undermining, backstabbing and other verbal and psychological attacks and tactics. The consistent advice for handling NPDs is: 1) Go no contact, or 2) Go “grey rock.” What is grey rocking? Grey rocking means responding in a completely placid and boring way to jibes, comments, retorts, challenges and insults by the NPD person.

After a while, since they aren’t getting their “narcissistic supply” from upsetting you in any way, they will give up. Is grey rocking compatible with the Catholic faith? Yes. You are made in the image of God, so toxic behaviour towards you is not in keeping with your dignity. The greatest temptation is to respond in kind but that is changing your character, lowering your standards to the level of the miscreant — exactly what they want. The most charitable way you can respond is to practice what the Church has always praised as holy indifference, holy detachment.

You acquire the virtue of humility by not trying to defend yourself against untruths and injustices (assuming these exchanges are more or less private and their slander is not in danger of costing you your job). The important thing is never to internalize their lies about you. We must maintain proper self-esteem, that is, God-esteem: seeing ourselves through God’s loving eyes.

But there is much more we can do to enjoy warmth and spread warmth in a world distancing itself from the fire of God’s love. Fully embrace the warmth of Catholicism. Blessed Fr. James Alberione used to tell his Daughters of St. Paul: “Start each morning in meditation, spending time with those who love you: The Trinity, Our Lady, the angels and saints.” Reject the elite, minimalist, scoffing, “enlightened” sterility of the heresy of Modernism and go full-on Catholic “peasant”! Fill your life and your home with beautiful and inspiring Catholic artwork, framed Scripture quotes, religious articles. Feast your eyes and your heart on manly statues of St. George or St. Michael, your favourite Madonnas, sparkling rosaries, string lights, scented incense and candles. Create a home “altar,” sanctuary, shrine. Designate a comfy “prayer chair” where you can “pray to your Father in secret.” Nourish yourself and your family with the richness of Catholic Tradition, read the greatest Catholic poets, authors and classics. To paraphrase Auntie Mame: “God’s Church is a banquet and only fools are starving!”

What greater warmth is there than refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary? Let’s join Cardinal Raymond Burke in a nine-month novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas (North, Central and South), for all the pressing crises of the Church and the world — culminating on her feast day: Dec. 12, 2024. novena.cardinalburke.com

(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns  #medianuns)

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