Clericalism: The Death Trap for Christians

"No, my children! We cannot lead a double life. We cannot be like schizophrenics, if we want to be Christians. There is only one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is that life which has to become, in both body and soul, holy and filled with God: we discover the invisible God in the most visible and material things. " St. Josemaria Escriva from "Passionately Loving The World.

Recently I attended a day of recollection through Opus Dei.  Something about the talk struck me. The speaker was making points about clericalism that I had never heard before. It made me pause and think about the way I was progressing in my own spiritual life.

So what is Clericalism?  The dictionary definition is:  a policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy 

During St. Josemaria's time (1930's Spain) clericalism was a big problem. There was the perception that  priests lived a comfortable life because of their status in society. Often times these priests lived better than their parishioners.  The priests who adopted this smugly relaxing mindset took advantage of the veneration of the people. Priesthood to them wasn't a vocation, it was a profession; a way of moving up the social ladder.

Josemaria Escriva was the exact opposite type of priest.  He regarded the concept of clericalism with great disdain.  For him, the priesthood was a means to serve God and treat God's people with love. He expanded the religious view of clericalism to apply to the lay persons life as well.  To Escriva clericalsim  meant being "double minded"  It meant that if you successfully compartmentalize your faith , you can actually lead a double life.  You can carry out your religious, moral and ethical duties at set times while still living a mostly secular /worldly life.  A classic example of a clerical outlook would be the person who attends church on Sunday but acts totally different during the week.   The problem with this is that as Christians we are called to be holy at ALL times. Holiness needs to permeate every aspect our lives as Christians.

In the West it is common, especially in business to compartmentalize aspects of our lives.  We are taught that we should act a certain way at school, a certain way at church, a certain way at home, a certain way at work, and a certain way at play.  But then, life would be a fragmented body instead of a united whole. This is antithetical to the Christian life since Christians believe that God is present everywhere not only during spiritual practices. In the 1600's the rationalist philosopher Rene Descartes sought to separate faith and reason. Sadly, he appears to have succeeded.

The way this clerical mindset seeps in the life of a believer is when a person begins to separate their spiritual life from their day to day life.   St. Josemaria was vehement in his opposition to this.  Instead he believed that every single moment can and should become a holy moment.

So how can we spiritualize any given moment?

We need to somehow develop a spiritual outlook to every single incident that happens in our lives. It may be as simple as asking Jesus to help us out when we're tempted not to put forth our best effort at work.  If our spouse or child is annoyingly complaining, we can offer up that aggravating moment as a little prayer to God.  Traffic is everywhere and were late?.. Thank Him for having a car. Or as someone adorably sweet and holy once said in a talk...."If you stub your toe...just thank God that you have a toe."   OK A little hokey but you get the point. St. Josemaria writes eloquently about this as he says,  "Live in the presence of God and you will have supernatural life." 278 from The Way.

Daily regular life becomes a never ending source of holiness. Life becomes exciting like some divine alchemist changing ordinary matter into gold. Suddenly the mundane becomes beautiful and the trivial becomes wondrous.

OK. St Josemaria. I like where you're going with all this. So much so that I've begun to daily recite your prayer:

"Grant that I too may learn to turn all the circumstances and events of my life into occasions of loving you and serving the Church."


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