“People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Over the past two weeks, I read and then reread Habit #1 and completed the three steps for learning this habit, but even now I don’t feel that I have mastered it. During the same time, my college age son shared with me his enthusiasm and fascination for the stories of his history professor. These stories, drawn from a blend of Christian and Eastern spiritualities, reflect the professor’s belief in an impending post historical period of fulfillment, which appeals to idealistic, adventuresome young people. And finally, this past weekend, a Christian friend who wants to join the Catholic Church asked me why Catholics celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday and call Mary the Mother of God.
In my view, there is one thread running through these three unrelated events – the importance of the Sacramental Imagination (or Catholic imagination). The Sacramental imagination recognizes that the material elements in our world point to a divine reality. As Catholics, we just see things differently. And it is this imagination that allows us to believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the communion of saints, and Mary as the Mother of God, and helps us see Christianity as something altogether amazing.
But, in recent years, the Catholic imagination has been on the decline. Even Catholics find it harder to believe in those things that make us unique within Christianity. And it is this demise that is, at least in part, responsible for the exodus of Catholics from the Church. Catholics are more likely to leave the Church because it does not meet their spiritual needs then because they disagree with particular doctrines of the Faith. In essence, they are looking for excitement, and finding Catholicism rather boring.
If, as Chesterton believed, Christianity is something very exciting and even dangerous, then perhaps we have failed in our expression of it. Whereas once, Parishes celebrated the Liturgy of the Hours or held processions on the Feast of Corpus Christi, we might not even be familiar with these things. This is true is large part because we are too busy. When our days are full of work, school, sports, music practice, and appointments, there is little time left for the cultural aspects of the Faith. By accepting the secular culture as our own, we have left our own to die.