A running commentary by a former Anglican priest who was baptized Catholic,

kidnapped from the Church in his youth,

and found his way back through the blessings of Anglican spirituality.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Selfish World

Selfish parents raise children to be selfish. Selfish school teachers teach children to be selfish. Selfish leaders encourage selfishness in society. We are a selfish society here in America, and our selfishness is "new every morning". It seems that we are constantly coming up with new ways to view our selfishness as a virtue. Years ago, honor was a known virtue. Today it is almost forgotten, and those few who know what that word actually means find it hard to point out good examples of it. When rebellion began to be viewed as a virtue in the last century, honor quickly became a matter of personal interpretation. What is honorable to me, may not be to the next guy. Selfishness never used to be honorable; times have changed.

Apparently our illustrious mis-Leader, Mr. President, spoke recently about the school shooting in Connecticut. In this speech he was quoted as saying "we will have to change". This coming from a man who believes that it is acceptable to murder unborn babies if they are inconvenient to our individual desires. Selfishness once again. I mean no disrespect, but I cannot take his claims of sorrow as serious. Yes, we will need to change, but he has absolutely no idea of what that means in God's eyes.

We are sick. Yet, most do not get it. Our sickness is deep; deeper than most people are willing to look. School shootings are not the main problem, they are a symptom of a greater problem. This greater problem is one that many of us do not want to deal with. It is the problem of selfishness. Those who choose to pick up a weapon and kill innocent people are certainly not doing so out of a sense of personal self-sacrifice. Selfishness is rampant in the world today, and this is one more symptom that shows just how far selfishness can go.

The reality of our selfishness is not easily made clear. We often think, "I would never do such a horrible act as he did", and we do this to salve our conscience. Yet, each of us has our own selfish streak. The Blessed Virgin lived selflessly, but the rest of us fall short of this at one time or another. If God spoke to you today and said that you were selfish, would you know what behavior He was speaking about? Would it take you time to figure it out? I am afraid that for most of us, it might require some extensive introspection.

When I first read about the shooting in Connecticut, I could not even read it aloud to my wife without crying. I mourn for everyone effected by this tragic event, and they are all in my prayers. I also, however, mourn for what is in our future. We keep seeing these horrific events take place, and we cry out "why?!" and look for answers. Yet, few are willing to admit that it is our own selfishness that encourages this type of behavior. We have been recreating our world to support and defend selfishness, and yet we cannot see the clear consequences of this foolishness. We want to have more security guards and better metal detectors at the schools, but we do not want to give up our lusts.

The collect of the day for the third Sunday in Advent is different in the Ordinariate Missal than it is in the Roman Missal. Our collect comes from one that was in the Book of Common Prayer. In this prayer we petition the Lord to come to us quickly because we are "sorely hindered by our sins". It is usually our own sins that keep us from a peaceful and joyful life. Yes, there are also outside influences that sometimes come against us, but a godly response to those influences can overcome all these.

Advent is not supposed to be the time when we have big Christmas parties, and get all festive. The days of Christmas (which come after Christmas, not before) are the times for celebration. Advent is the time of introspection and preparation (signified by the liturgical color violet or deep blue). The distortion of Christmas from a time of rejoicing in what we have been given into a time of rejoicing for what we can get has driven us all away from the point of Advent. The Church encourages us to spend four weeks preparing to worship Jesus correctly on Christmas day. Are you wasting this time focusing on other things?

This is going to be a hard Christmas for many who have suffered from this recent tragedy. It is also going to be a hard Christmas for every one who refuses to prepare themselves to stand before Jesus. It may be a good Christmas if all we care about is how big a haul we take in, but if eternal issues matter to us we will spend the right amount of time making our hearts right with God. To show up in Mass focused on self and attempting to look good for everyone except God is not what we should call a "good Christmas".

"Getting ready for Christmas" should mean more than buying gifts and putting up decorations (which did not used to happen until Christmas Eve--for good reason!). It should mean thinking about our own need to give up our sins; our need to be willing to sacrifice self for the sake of others; and our need to ready our hearts to go before Christ in the Mass on one of the most important days of the year. Christmas is the day we commemorate Christ's willingness to humble Himself for the sake of us, His selfish people. I thank God that Jesus was thinking back then more about what He could give than what He could get.


  1. With Advent almost over, Christmas almost here, and a new year dawning, just wondered if there was any news about your assignment? Your ministry? What does 2013 have in store for you?

    1. Thank you for asking. For the near future I am being assigned to care for two parishes here in the Diocese of Des Moines (in Atlantic and Anita, Iowa). Bishop Pates has been very generous in providing work for me until such time as I am called upon to serve directly within the Ordinariate.

  2. Thanks for the update. Best wishes for you, your family, and this work. Will you use the current RC Latin Rite liturgy? Will you get to do the Anglican-derived mass at all at these parishes? Week day mass?

    1. Every Catholic has a right to their rite. Thus, when I say Mass at a diocesan parish, I say their proper rite (Roman Missal 3rd). I have permission to say the Anglican Use Mass in the parish; not as one of the stated Masses (normally scheduled) but as a "private" Mass.

  3. Father, that's fantastic news that you'll be back to daily parish work and caring for souls. I am sure right now God needs you right there. And I suppose it will also add some much-sought stability to you and your family.
    The Ordinariate work will simply have to wait a while; who knows, maybe this period of your diocesan work is needed because some Anglicans somewhere need some more time to make their mind.
    After all, only God knows what and when may happen in a few years' time; no one could even imagine such developments like this recent move for unity by 11 English nuns in the UK or the 5M gift to the Ordinariate's principal church in the US, which clearly shows that Divide Providence may keep surprising the Ordinariates worldwide, confirming that they are really a prophetic endeavour.
    Jan R. Mickiewicz (Continental Europe)

  4. God bless you, Fr. Seraiah!

    Thank you for being strong, because frankly, some of us are weak and are in need of God's help.

  5. On selfishness: I can agree that keeping one's assault weapons where a mentally unstable person can get access to them and wreak havoc is certainly a selfish act. But the pathology of someone who would explode in pain and rage in this way, especially such a young person, seems difficult to explain simply in moral categories. Can you elaborate on your analysis?

    1. People choose forms of rebellion based on the examples they have received. In other words, in a society that is heavily influenced to think selfishly, people tend to make selfish choices. People who are mentally unstable (if that was actually the root problem in the Connecticut shootings) will behave in accord with the examples that are predominant around them. In a society where life has little value (abortion, euthanasia, etc.) people--sane or insane--will choose things that show little concern for the consequences to the lives of others. Simply put, insane people (regardless of their age) do not live in a vaccuum.

  6. I think your last comment is very true. I once read an analysis of mental health issues in a Hutterite community and the article pointed out that the social sanctions against violence or any expression of anger generally led Hutterites to turn any such feelings inward, into depression. But the outpouring of grief and shock around these mass shootings hardly sends the message that life has little value. Surely the symbolism of shooting one's mother ahead of oneself depends on her importance, not her unimportance. I would indict the culture of selfisheness exemplified in euthanasia etc for crimes like fraud, the sex trade, and many others, but not here. Just my point of view. Thank you for exolaining yours.