Rising Above the Darkness of These Times

Column by Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Frantz on 9 February 2023 0 Comments

I don't know about you, but in recent times, I can hardly bear to watch the news.  It's simply too depressing.  Gun violence continues to spin out of control with scant hope of any sensible resolution in sight. 

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I have seen Catholics praying to the Virgin Mary and saints, kissing and honoring statues, using rosary beads, and observing many rituals that they say are a part of Christianity. When I remind these people that being a Christian means living by the message Jesus preached about being kind, loving, and accepting of others, they become judgmental towards me. I wonder how have Christians have drifted away from the true meaning of being a Christian and instead embraced meaningless rituals and beliefs. 


Dear Roy,

Within the tradition of Christianity, there are many interpretations of what the teachings mean as well as various understandings of which aspects of Jesus’s life are to be emphasized or ritualized to best follow his example.  It is not accurate to say that Catholic Christians have drifted away from the true meaning of being a Christian, nor is it fair to point to Catholic practices and worship as meaningless.  Some Christians are strongly moved by baptism, while others emphasize the Last Supper and communion.  Some stress the importance of prayer and quiet, while others take to the streets to feed the hungry and advocate for justice.

When Jesus modeled the importance of being kind, loving and accepting of others, he often did so by reaching across societal assumptions to be in relationship with people who were making different life choices, some out of desperation and others simply because of the customs practiced where they were born.  Jesus modeled relationship by taking time to ask questions or to share a meal.

We all have examples of rituals we have attended that felt empty or compulsory.  But it is also true that most of us create and participate in all sorts of “everyday rituals,” because they help us appreciate the gift of being alive – a walk at sunset, a hot mug in the morning, expressing gratitude at the dinner table.  When rituals – formal or spontaneous – coax us away from life’s busyness and into sacred time, we are connecting with the holy.  Whatever our practice – quiet or ecstatic, still or animated, solitary or with others -- when it comes with our intention to become more aware, more kind, more loving, then we are exercising much of what Jesus wanted for everyone.  Given the many ways to pursue a Christian path, it is good to bring our curiosity to situations that feel new or different.  If visiting a Catholic parish is a new experience for you (or maybe it has been a long time), I hope you will consider attending a mass or evening vespers sometime soon. God has a wonderful way of stretching us, surprising us, and showing up in places we could not have imagined.

~ Rev. Lauren Van Ham




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