We are always only one generation away from atheism.
Paganism is faith in something, or somethings outside of a person. Atheism is faith in nothing outside of the person. Atheism is not a belief system but a rejection of any relationship between humans and God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us that “Many … of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time” (CCC, 2123).
The Church Teaches
In the Vatican II Document on “The Church in the Modern World” we read that
Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion. (GS 19§ 3)
I spoke with a young man who is a foreign exchange student from a European nation. I took him to our evening Mass one Saturday and afterwards he told me that it was the first time he had ever been in any church. He is seventeen. He explained that his grandparents were Catholic but his parents were not. They never went to church. He and his friends decided that they would not go to church either. I said, “When you were a baby and a little boy, surely your grandparents dragged you to church?”
“No,” he explained. His parents would not let them. He was not sure what “atheist” was and could not articulate it in English. He just decided that he wasn’t interested in faith and religion. He could not fit religion into the plans he made for his life.
I wasn’t able to explain my faith to the young man due to time restraints. When he left to return to his host family, I was amazed to think that he was the first person I ever met who never went to church, was never baptized, never catechized in any Christian Faith.
Taught in the Family
In a previous article called “Faith in the Body and Blood of Christ”, I noted that researches point out that a large percentage of Catholics who attend Mass do not believe the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ but merely symbolize the act. What heresy do the non-believers in the Divinity of the Eucharist teach their children?
In the Catechism, the Church affirms that:
In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example … the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. (CCC, 1656).
The “domestic Church” is under attack. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul explains that, “…although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh, (4) for the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. We destroy arguments (5) and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
It is the responsibility of the leaders of the Ecclesia domestica to learn the truths and then teach them to others. By doing so we “destroy fortresses” because we destroy arguments against the truth the Church teaches.
An Ancient Witness
Saint Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, Syria, according to Catholic Online. He was the disciple of John, the beloved Apostle. Ignatius was consecrated bishop around the year 69 by the Apostle Peter, the first pope. “A holy man who was deeply loved by the Christian faithful, he always made it his special care to defend ‘orthodoxy’ (right teaching) and ‘orthopraxy’ (right practice) among the early Christians” (Catholic Online). Condemned to death by the teeth of lions by Trajan, the emperor of Rome, Ignatius wrote letters to churches and to his friend, Polycarp (who would also give his life by fire), as he passed through Asia and Greece in chains, on his way to Rome.
In his letter to the church in Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey), Ignatius gave direction regarding those who refused to partake of the Eucharist because they did not believe Christ came in the flesh (the heresy called Docetism):
They hold aloof from the Eucharist and from services of prayer, because they refuse to admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which, in his goodness, the Father raised. Consequently those who wrangle and dispute God’s gift face death. They would have done better to love and so share in the resurrection. The right thing to do, then, is to avoid such people and to talk about them neither in private nor in public. Rather pay attention to the prophets and above all to the gospel. There we get a clear picture of the Passion and see that the resurrection has really happened. (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 7)
The saint explains that the Docetists do not believe that Christ came in the flesh, so, obviously, the Eucharist cannot be His Body and Blood. However, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. It is one of the reasons Ignatius was condemned to death, he refused to commit apostasy and renounce Christ.
Spiritual Warfare on Many Fronts
Catholic families would do well to learn the truth the Church teaches regarding the Eucharist and begin there to teach the truths that pour forth from Him who first loved us. Let total faith in the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Jesus, be the starting point.
Spiritual warfare takes place on many fronts. One of the most insidious is the non-threatening, “everything goes” front that lets one off the hook when it comes to learning the Faith and teaching it to others, especially family. When we read that multitudes of Catholics do not believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, we wipe out almost two thousand years of Church teaching.
Today, men and women give their lives for their faith. They earnestly believe that Christ in the Eucharist is the only answer to a world in great need of peace. For many, it’s worth dying for. Learning the Catholic Faith this year may be a wonderful “New Year Resolution!”