Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why heaven isn't taken seriously anymore

"I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell." ("And When I Die," Blood, Sweat & Tears). ... There's the perversity of the world in a nutshell ...
As one who, under family obligation, attends the occasional Novus Ordo funeral Mass, I have observed that the crude conceptions of Islam [instant paradise] and the notions current in the mainstream Church appear to be converging. I have listened to white-vested priests, oozing with unction, talk about the dearly departed as though they had simply gone on an extended vacation to some garden spot where we are certain to join them later.

Sometimes, sitting impatiently among the mourners, I have heard the afterlife described in fruity tones that gave one the impression that it is something like a grand cocktail party with all of our friends and relations pleasantly mingling with the saints while Jesus passes out double martinis. Such affected cheerfulness and imbecile imagery bring little comfort to the distressed and, if anything, encourage them to doubt the sense and truth of the very thing that should provide hope and consolation. It makes our faith appear a vapid nonsense or a fairy-tale suited to the feeble-minded. It is as though our priests are saying, "We don't really believe any of this, and neither do you, but let's pretend we do until the horror of death and pain of loss subside and we can take up our lives again in the old way, with no concern for an after life."

I think the postconciliar church has a difficulty in making Heaven plausible because of its de facto denial of Hell. It sets up a Divine tribunal in which everyone is acquitted, which makes the tribunal itself pointless. Heaven is not a reward but an entitlement. The Church may preach morality as the means to holiness, but what's the point of holiness here if eternal beatitude is to be uniivrsal hereafter? Under such circumstances, a man would seem rather foolish not to indulge himself whenever opportunity allows. And the heaven he is promised can be of little concern.

But for the serious Catholic -- the man who believes that he is engaged in a life-and-death struggle for the salvation of his soul -- Heaven is of paramount importance: it is, to put it colloquially, the name of the game. So there can be nothing that supersedes in significance his conception of Heaven, which is the motive force of his life. Nothing -- not the virtues, dogmas of the faith, precepts of the church, grace of the Sacraments -- has any meaning except in relation to the goal of the spiritual life: Heaven.
(Excerpted from Edwin Faust, "It's All About Heaven," Latin Mass magazine [Winter 2008], pp. 31-32.)
[Edwin Faust is news editor for a daily metropolitan newspaper and has been a contributing writer for many traditional Catholic publications. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children.]

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