One of the figures of Greek mythology that always intrigued me from childhood on is Cassandra. The daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Apollo granted her the gift of prophecy and later when she refused his attempted seduction was cursed so that no one would believe her.
The tensions of this combination gift and curse is one that intrigues the imagination and draws sympathy for this tragic character.
In modern times there seems to be an almost Cassandra-like quality to the Catholic Church. The Church teaches the truth and yet so few believe her. When Cassandra prophesied she was called crazy. A common charge of believing Catholics who are also called crazy for believing what the Church teaches. For Cassandra the people seemed to have a selected amnesia for when her prophecies were fulfilled they still thought her crazy. That type of selected amnesia is quite evident in critics of the Church. In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul VI predicted various outcomes if contraception became widespread. Yet as all of these have unfortunately come true there is no rethinking about what a contraceptive culture leads to or any acknowledgment that he was right.
We have itching ears always looking for the latest fad whether it is fashion or theology. The cult of the new (and improved!) conditions us to a worshipping of progress where something is good just because it is happening now. A look for easy answers to complicated questions. A sort of Occam’s razor prevails where the path that contains the fewest crosses must be correct. Or really if the path contains any crosses it must be rejected.
If we can’t fully understand something we assume it must be false. Yet when St. Peter heard Jesus’ words on the Eucharist:
“And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
One thing are culture is good at is creating rocky soil. Defertilizing the soil by evoking self-esteem for self-esteem sake, pride, and a disconnected individualism. License over self-control. A denial of free-will with the increasing “born-this-way” propaganda.
Yet the Church has always to some extent had a Cassandra-like quality that extends back to the prophets. The messages of the prophets were more likely to be met with a stone than appreciation. Still it is easy to whine about the culture which is just another aspect of the cult of the now. Evangelization has never been easy in any age and while there are some different difficulties now than in the past, the same basic problems exist. We are sinners that just don’t want to admit that fact. If we do admit to being a sinner we do it in the same way Uriah Heep did in saying he was humble. I find it surprising to see just how resistant to grace other people seem to be, that is until I look to see just how resistant to grace I am.
Jesus told us we would be persecuted and somehow we act astonished when we are. Or maybe like myself you see a lack of persecution because of a laxness in preaching the good news. Perhaps we experience persecution because of a politically incorrect message, but not specifically for preaching Jesus Christ. I think Pope Francis has a point regarding the primary proclamation of salvation and our redemption from our Lord Jesus Christ. We can get bogged down in serious issues and forget some of the good news to proclaim. Although this is another both/and where one thing is not to the exclusion of the other.
While I might comment on the frustration of the Cassandra-like quality to the Catholic Church, the difficulties in a post-Christian culture are not immune to grace and on our side prayer and fasting. We don’t like the new evangelization because we were never crazy about the old evangelization as both of them require work on our part.