There is no argument that BMWs are great cars. They run well, they handle well, they are safe, and they are stylish. If BMWs are such great cars why do so few people drive them? The answer, of course, is cost. BMWs are expensive to buy, paying retail anyway. They are expensive to own and maintain properly. Their cost puts them out of most people’s reach. The people who do buy them care for them. They know not only the cost of a BMW but the value a well maintained one holds.
Today we live in a throw away culture that recognizes the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Cheap is always best. There is no reason to take care of or maintain something we own. When it breaks we just throw it away and get a new one. Cell phones are a great example. We barely have one model when we start looking at upgrading to the next, best thing. I just got the Universe 8 last week and the 8A is already available.
The throw-away culture is affecting our faith as well. The “nones”, that is the people who check “none” when asked about religious affiliation, are the fastest growing group in first world nations. Catholics used to leave their faith for one the easier to follow Protestant faiths and now Catholics and Protestants alike are leaving for one of the many mega-churches that concentrate their services on feeling and experience over a relationship with Jesus.
Something that comes at great cost usually carries with it great value. Becoming Catholic used to come at a great cost. It used to take years instead of months to be accepted into the Church. As a catechumen you weren’t allowed in the Nave during the distribution of the Holy Eucharist. Porters used to remove anyone not a Catholic in good standing and lock the doors. You were allowed one confession in a lifetime. That was made in public before the entire Church. Penance was harsh and took more than a year to complete.
Most would say that the Church was too strict in the way she did things. But the Church knew the value of what she had – the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ through which eternal life was obtained. The Church was strict, but the lines for confession were long and the Masses were full of people dressed in their Sunday best. That all started to change in a major way when the documents of Vatican II were used as an excuse to undo the shackles and open the Church up to a more liberal interpretation.
Sixty years of watered down catechesis has done its damage. Churches and church organizations all over the first world are closing due to lack of parishioners. We make things easier and simpler in the hope of keeping the modern parishioner from going to another faith that is easier and simpler. The fast before Mass used to start at midnight the night before. Today it is only an hour long and is too much of an inconvenience for some. Instruction to join the Church consists of a few hours a week for about six months. Lines for confession are short despite easy penances. We live at a time where everything seems to be permissible but nothing is forgiven. People understand what is happening at Mass so well that they see nothing wrong showing up to receive our Lord in the Eucharist in shower shoes, shorts, and T-shirts full of holes.
Because we have lowered the cost of our faith we have lost the understanding of the immense value it has. It has become a commodity. It has become something we no longer need in our lives. Yet, the Church is thriving in third world nations where there still is a great cost to be Catholic. We have more Saints being created through martyrdom today than we did during the years of the early Church. People will walk through life threatening conditions for ten or more miles just to attend Mass. They have what we have lost – faith with value.
The house I grew up in has been torn down and replaced with new town homes so I cannot go home again. We cannot return to the way things were. We can only move forward. If we want the Church to flourish in this country once again we need to live our faith joyfully and publically. We need to pass down our faith through proper catechesis so those who are new to it will know the value without being charged the cost.
What value does the Catholic Church offer? We have the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus given for the salvation and redemption of all those who love him. Nothing on earth or in heaven is more precious. The cost? Your life. The value? Eternal life with God in heaven.