The process of removing faith from everyday life and thought has been a long-standing trend. Some trace it to the18th century Enlightenment and the era of democratic revolutions. Others trace it to the influence of Marxist or contemporary liberal ideology. It’s hard to know where it begins, but we need to recognize the dangers before us.
In June 2010 the Holy Father warned that God is being eclipsed in this process of secularization, and that we need a new era of extraordinary missionary witness to reverse this pattern.
Secularization means the process of removing the sacred from discussion and institutions. In the US, there are organizations devoted to eliminating references to God in public buildings, ceremonies and squares. There are efforts to eliminate God in speech.
Overt Signs Secularization in the US
Some consider this a radically new development in the US. But, recall the Constitutional Convention’s impasse on slavery. Benjamin Franklin appealed to the representatives to allow a moment of prayer to ask God’s intervention. This was rejected, because the founders (or those who held sway that day) said they wanted the American government built on human reason rather than divine intervention. That’s a hefty piece of history to hold against contemporary efforts to secularize America.
A significant number of leading Americans in the 18th century believed in Deism, or that Deistic principles provided a broader base of agreement for our social contract. Deists believe in a Creator who is like the clock-maker: He designs the machine but provides the mechanisms to function. For Deists, God is a detached first principle, not a personal God who intervenes directly in human affairs. And save the lone Catholic delegate from Maryland, Daniel Carroll, not another Founding Father would have argued that God is actually present in the Eucharist. Thomas Jefferson even rewrote the Gospels to remove all the miracles. Bold!
But God as Creator was recognized broadly. References to God on coinage, civil ceremonies, and public buildings was accepted rather than fought out. There was no effort to whitewash government of the reality of a Creator. The founders assumed that a rational God created man in his image; man only had to exercise reason to arrive at right judgment.
Fast-forward to today and we reach an almost unimaginable extremism. Students are not allowed to pray silently – as a group – at public schools. Christmas is not “allowed” to be acknowledged in schools or public squares. Those opposing abortion are denied free speech rights near abortion clinics. Some people in offices are not allowed to have religious pictures or symbols at their desks. The list goes on.
Subtle Slide toward Secularization
How often do you hear and see reminders of God in your day-to-day life? Unless you work in a faith-related area and your children go to Catholic schools, the only outward reminder of the faith you may find is in your Church and in your home (your Domestic Church).
Now, let’s imagine what it’s like for children. Most rush out the door to camp in summer or school in the other seasons. If everyone is on time, perhaps you can have breakfast together and pray grace. Perhaps you wake them up and pray the Morning Offering Prayer with them. They are off at school all day. Do they pray in the classes, at lunch?
Once upon a time, whenever the clock chimed 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm many would pause and pray the Angelus publicly. Do you notice the clock at these hours?
It’s hard, because most of us were not raised so devoutly in the faith. If you were, please thank your parents for their Grace-filled legacy; and do the same with your own children.
How to keep God at the Center of all things
- Mother Teresa was known to say “pray while you work.” It only takes “a lifting of one’s eyes to God” to bring the Lord into all that we do.
- Make the Sign of the Cross as you encounter challenges throughout the day. Call upon the presence of the Holy Trinity.
- Bow your head to pray before you eat, whether you’re in a restaurant, in the lunch room or at your desk.
- When you’re stuck on a problem, frustrated, or upset, stop and pray before you speak.
- Tap into a rhythm of daily prayer that works for you at this stage in your life. And keep adding little bits on, to keep you challenged and fresh in your approach to the Divine.
- Bow each time you say the name of Jesus. “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.”
- Praise God in all things: in the beauty of the creation and in the muckiness of his creatures. Practice generosity and gratitude. Share joy.
Jesus sent his disciples – as he sends us – to share the Good News. Missionaries take this to all the corners of the Earth. The Holy Father now tells us that we need to go back to places that clearly know the Word of God, and re-evangelize.
We know we need that in our own lives, as do those around us. Remember what St. Francis said: “Preach the Gospel always, and occasionally use words.”