I have thought a bit about it, particularly in terms of coming up with a root cause for this national shortcoming, and I believe that cause to be rather obvious. We are not serious as a nation for by and large, the people of this country are not serious, but rather silly and shallow. We see this in so many aspects of ordinary life: sloppiness in dress, the disregard and outright disdain for common manners and decorum, crude "humor" and of course, sexual immorality and increase of violence.
Several years ago, someone wrote a book entitled "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff - And It's All Small Stuff". I suppose a lot of people think that just because some goofy idea finds its way to paper and print, then it must be some oracle from on high, because too many people started quoting that statement as though it was from Sacred Scripture itself. No one dared question the utter banality and nihilism inherent in that statement. It became just one more excuse to treat life as a silly joke. Let me counter that phrase with another by Martin Lloyd-Jones, a British protestant who wrote in the beginning of the 20th century. Yes, he's protestant, but truth be told, many protestants of several generations ago make far more sense than do many postmodern Catholics. Anyway, he mentioned in one of his books that "life is a solemn affair, for the choices that one makes during their life will impact how they will spend eternity". I might add that those same choices can have an influence over where other people will spend eternity as well.
But let's look at how this silliness has infected Catholic life. After all, the Church does possess the Fullness of Divine Revelation as well as the Sacraments. She is meant to be the primary instrument of eternal salvation; part of that entails teaching the world how to conduct themselves according to God's designs. Therefore much will be required of us at the Final Judgment. I suspect that at this time, many Catholics will be called on the carpet for their flippancy and silliness in how they conduct themselves publicly.
Even in parishes that are relatively decent we see problems, most noticably at Mass: people dressed not for Mass but for backyard barbeques or the golf course, priests turning their homilies into Jay-Leno comedy routines, socializing in the nave. None of these things necessarily stem from malice, but they do reflect a lack of appreciation for the Real Presence in the Tabernacle as well as the fact that the Sunday Mass is the most important act of worship we offer during the week. In fact, it's the most important thing we do all week, period. A true appreciation of that fact would (hopefully) be reflected in dress and conduct of both priests and congregation.
One immediate consequence of this shallowness is lack of appreciation for doctrinal precision and the dignity of the episcopal and papal offices. The pope sits on the Chair of Peter. He is the Vicar of Christ. For that reason, this office has, over the centuries, been accompanied by various traditions of conduct, dress, ceremony that are designed to convey the dignity of this high office. No previous popes have dared to eschew these customs even if they doesn't prefer those ceremonies, for they realized that the papal office and its duties superceded their own personal preferences - until now. Pope Francis, from the get-go, refused to live in the papal apartments, does not wear the red slippers, has dodged his security detail. Some foolish Catholics have chortled and enthused over this, finding it "delightful" that he shed the traditions of the papacy. Others of us immediately looked askance. We feared that disregard for tradtion with a little "t" would be harbinger for disregard for Tradition with a capital "T". I regret that recent history has proved us correct. Let's not forget the principle of "lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivandi". We saw the "lex vivandi" and later the underlying two soon made themselves manifest. I and others have written about these manifestations in the past and I won't rehash them here, lest the main point of this post be obscured.
At about the same time as the "Don't Sweat" book came out, a song became popular. It was by Bobby McFerrin entitled "Don't Worry Be Happy". Again, it was just more of a push towards silliness, emphasis on "positive feelings and experiences" and a general lack of appreciation for life and its duties.
We see the above mindset reflected in our homilies. How often do we hear the value of experiencing (there's that word again!) God's love, with no mention of repentance from sin? In Mark's Gospel, the first recorded word of Jesus is "repent". It even precedes "believe". It certainly would precede "experience" for I don't recall once in the Gospels where Jesus mentions the word "experience". Yet where is the emphasis for so many (a particular problem for charismatics, by the way)? Experience - which is subjective by definition. That's not the Gospels. Particular experiences are not promised by Our Lord. In fact, happiness in this earthly life is not promised by Our Lord, but only in the next, provided we live authentic Catholic lives of faith and obedience to His teachings. That of course entails that we conduct ourselves as adults and not as overgrown adolescents.
What might some suggestions be for combatting this malaise of silly immaturity?
- Dress properly at Mass, as befitting dignified adults. Here are suggestions that I voiced several years ago.
- Address and refer to your priests as "Father (last name)" as opposed to "Father (first name)". He is not "one of the guys" but an alter Christus.
- Resolve not to engage in chit-chat before the Blessed Sacrament. Save the conversations for the church lobby. Ushers! Do your jobs and maintain order in the nave before and after Masses! It is a place of prayer, and that cannot occur in the ungodly din that is often present these days.
- Turn off the television. The casual and moral slop oozing from the boob-tube will corrode the mind of anyone who regularly injests such mental bile.
- All of us must re-learn our Faith. I'd suggest to us all that we seek out material that was promulgated before Vatican II. That also includes some basic philosophy, to counteract the postmodern dribble that assaults our brains daily. We need to learn our history and reasons for our tradtions. We need to learn basic theology - dogmatic and moral. Without this basic knowledge we won't be able to withstand the satanic onslaughts of this age. Once upon a time this education was standard fare in Catholic grammar and high schools, but gone are those days (except in home-schooling enclaves). We can no longer depend on today's church institutions to provide the real meat-and-potatoes knowledge that we need, but must seek it ourselves.
- When you see childish behavior from Catholic adults and even clergy, do not maintain a polite silence and for heaven's sake, do not approve of it. Be polite but be firm and factual in your refutation of the erroneous behavior and/or discourse that needs attention.
- Priests and deacons, start preaching of the need for repentance in your homilies. Be specific about the sorts of sins that are mortal and can damn them to hell - that means sins against sexuality, life and marriage. Many in the pews, owing in large part to clerical dereliction of duty, are embroiled in those sins. Make plain that they are not to receive Holy Communion if they haven't confessed these sins to a priest, lest they add to their charge yet another mortal sin of sacrilegious Holy Communion.
- Catholics, encourage your clergy to do what is asked in the previous bullet point. Thank them when they do so, for they will get pushback from leftist people in the pews.
- As you take the above-mentioned measures, be prepared to be mocked and villified for so doing. You will be known as a parish nut or a scold; deal with it. You may even find yourselves being ousted from roles and positions in your parishes. So be it. Not everyone will appreciate objective truth, especially in this era where feelings trump intellect and reason.
- Above all, pray for grace. Be praying your Rosaries and making use of the Sacraments for your own salvation. We will offer our sufferings for the glory of God and salvation of souls.