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Fr. Charles Hough IV

At that time the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, in every town or place where he himself was about to come.–Luke 10:1

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A few years back, my family drove to Northern New Mexico for vacation. It’s a peaceful enough drive. The grasslands of central Texas turn into the dusty plains of the panhandle, which in turn create a picturesque flatness to view the jagged Mountains of Northern New Mexico. When I get out on those roads I find myself imaging the pioneers trying to head west for a better life. They had a spirit about them that we as Americans have inherited, a spirit of working hard, having a vision, and completing that vision come what may. And it definitely came!

On that same trip, as we went over the mountains, we came to the picturesque adobe town of Taos. We found to our surprise that the city looks out to the west over flat land. We drove some ten miles out on that flat land and suddenly, out of nowhere; there was a massive gorge in the Earth, a gap that goes down some 800 feet. It’s a rift in the Earth caused by two tectonic plates, as well as the Rio Grand River. It looks impassible. I remember thinking to myself what did the pioneers do when they came to this gorge, and then looking back I saw Taos on the horizon, and thought…they settled there.

Some did, but others found a way around or finally built a bridge over this great gorge, utilizing that pioneer spirit to find a way to pass what looked like the impassable.

Today it seems as if the Catholic Church in the United States has come upon a great gorge in our journey, one that threatens us, seems to be impassable, one that threatens to defeat our journey, stopping us right in our tracks. It’s really a combination of challenges, which can be summed up with one word: secularism.  A changing of our society from one based on Christian morals to one that has eliminated those morals and makes judgments on purely human reason. Simply put, taking God out of the equation. It’s been a slow process, just as the Rio Grande has slowly over time carved out an 800 foot deep gorge. But this progression has finally caused some major decisions in our society, which fly in the face of the Catholic Faith, the Faith once delivered to the Saints by Jesus Christ.

We as Catholics, like those pioneers who faced the Rio Grande Gorge, have a decision to make. Do we settle? Do we allow the secular society to stop us in our tracks?  Do we just come to terms with this change and try to make the Church form its teachings around purely human reasoning?

The answer to those questions is clearly “No!”  So then what do we do?

Today’s Gospel reading from St. Luke gives us guidance. We go out in the name of Jesus and begin to teach. We pass the impassable by presenting sound arguments that specifically outline what is wrong with these changes, which were at first subtle and now have become blatant. Please mark my words, if we, as faithful Catholics do not begin to stand up, and stand firm, then the inch that has been given will turn into a mile.

After the announcement at Church last Sunday concerning the recent Supreme Court decision to do away with the Defense of Marriage Act, a friend of mine asked me why I related the Supreme Court ruling with the recent HHS mandate on contraception, which challenges our First Amendment right to freedom of religion. I said to him that the agenda has been set; once the definition of marriage is changed and society accepts it, which is happening right now, then the next move will be to make religious entities permit it. The inch will become a mile.

How do we face this situation? We face it one soul at a time. Each of us has probably had this conversation with many of our friends. It has become a national debate, a hot topic of interest.  In these situations we must stand firm in our faith. We must engage this conversation in charity, yes, but we must engage the conversation. Through this great inheritance we have been given from our pioneering ancestors we, through God’s grace, will make a difference. People yearn to hear the truth, something larger than their own human reasoning, but if they don’t hear it, and the Catholic Church is muted in society, then they will rely on their own unformed consciences to make decisions.

Go from this place today and begin to engage the culture around you, so that one day we may meet the Lord and He shall say to us,

I saw Satan fall like lighting from heaven. Behold I have given you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not in rejoice this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Books related to the topic of this article may be found in The Imaginative Conservative BookstoreFr. Hough’s homily of July 7, 2013 is presented here with minor revisions.

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4 replies to this post
  1. Father, many thanks and you are surely right. Sharing your perceptive fear that religions will be forced to comply with secular Progressivism, European believers (especially Jews, Christians and Muslims) opposed homosexual marriage legislation partly knowing that the courts will thereafter force acceptance on religions. In America this cannot be avoided either – except to the degree that churches (mosques, etc) retain financial independence from the state, which will start by halting any subsidy to religious activity unless they comply with state ideology. Even small churches now get US subsidies for food programmes and such; the degree to which they can become financially independent is the degree to which they can remain free from compulsion, at least in the near future. Eventually believers may have to “go underground” to avoid state persecution, as they did in the earliest days of Christianity, but even initially self-protection will require more time and money from church members, and forethought from clergy and lay administrators.

    In my brother’s small church in Florida, they are ahead of the curve and even penniless Hispanic parishioners are contributing – by volunteering to wash cars on Saturdays and donating the income to groceries for the very poor. If the subsidies stop, they can continue.

  2. I lived in Central Turkey, Cappadocia, in the mid-eighties. The country was under military rule at the time, yet heading toward a more Western thought. This has now changed. What I do remember are the images of dusty, boarded-up entries to village churches that had not been converted to mosques; disfigured images of Christ, scratched out faces of Him on historically beautiful frescoes; haunting praises to allah from minarettes surrounding the once astoundingly designed and constructed Christian basilicas; extreme oppression of the villagers, especially the women and daughters; newspaper photos of Christians who had been imprisoned for handing out Christian tracts and our suitcases full of Christian literature that somehow made it passed the watchful eye of airport Jandarma. This was once a land of the birth of Christianity through St. Paul and the Early Church. What remains are the Christian Armenian descendants of a slaughtered group. Genocide victims. They have lost all rights and property. They are the homeless, wandering poor of Turkey.

    Does history not speak to us? Do we Catholics think this could not happen to us? Do we think this strong ant-Christ, anti-Christian drive is not alive in the world, in the United States? Wake up, Church!! Stand up, ask for the gift of courage from the Holy Ghost so you can defend Christianity. He will give this to you. Study the Word. Know Jesus Christ. Know the Gospels. Know Christianity. Be informed. Speak. Do.

    Thank-you, Fr. Hough, for courage in the pulpit.

  3. Are there prophets among us today? Apparently there are. Father Hough predicts that “the next move will be to make religious entities permit [gay marriage]” no doubt the same way the churches have been forced to comply with racial quotas and the Catholic Church has been forced to ordain women priests. And Mr. Masty predicts that “Eventually believers may have to ‘go underground’ to avoid state persecution, as they did in the earliest days of Christianity”; “eventually” is a long time, of course, and “may have to” is pretty cautious, so perhaps Mr. Masty doesn’t really believe what he’s saying. But such prophecies sound very dramatic, and who doesn’t enjoy the self-proclaimed status of heroic martyr-in-waiting? Buck up, ye faithful: is your God not stronger than the Department of Health & Human Services?

  4. Fr. Hough, I would have cheered and applauded after your homily on Sunday, were that not a breach of decorum in our tradition. Your words were stirring, and concise, and brave. You are right, the confrontation approaches the church, not because we seek it, but because the forces of secularism are advancing in bold challenge. The day that I surrendered my defenses and made the final decision to convert to Catholicism, I was in the Triduum Mass of Holy Thursday. As I watched the celebration, the words of Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” came to mind: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcoln cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold….” And I realized this truth: Here the Center Has Held. For two thousand years, through the rise and fall of empires, good kings and even bad popes, here the center has held in this Church. And come what may, we will stand for Truth together. I am blessed to be a member of your parish and will continue to pray for you and your leadership of our little flock.

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