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Eternal Happiness

You may know Fr. Dwight Longenecker from his blog Standing on My Head. He is a former Anglican priest who entered the Catholic Church thirteen years ago. The February 10 issue of the National Catholic Register has a terrific piece by Fr. Longenecker. He writes of his surprise to find two distinct “churches” within Holy Mother Church. The first the "church" focused on happiness in eternal life. The second is the group centered on earthly happiness.

If Christians put the pursuit of happiness in this life as the primary goal, everything changes. Suddenly the Church is not perceived as an army engaged in a spiritual battle, but a mutual self-help group in which people try to make each other happy.

Church buildings cease to be marvelous buildings transcendent with beauty that take us to the threshold of heaven, and they become functional meeting halls where the mutual self-help group meets once a week.

When the pursuit of earthly happiness becomes the driving force, religion becomes utilitarian. Whatever is useful for making one “happy” is what is good. Whatever is not immediately useful is discarded.

So, for example, what use is religious art or glorious church architecture? There is no immediate usefulness, so the images are pulled down, new art is not commissioned, and if it is, it must be crudely illustrative or didactic. In other words, it has to do something and be useful.

When religion becomes a function to produce happiness here and now, hymns become comforting, banal songs about us and our problems and how God will make us happy.

When the quest for holiness is replaced with the quest for happiness, the priest ceases to be an agent of God’s supernatural grace in the world and becomes a therapist, a social worker or simply an avuncular administrator of the mutual self-help group.

When religion is expected to merely produce happiness, then worship is stripped of mystery and it must become entertaining. When religion is expected to simply make people feel better instead of being better, no one preaches on the difficult or hard hitting subjects.

The pulpit becomes a platform for pious platitudes that make people feel nice, and the confessional ends up empty.

In the end, it is not only the confessional which is empty.


Do read the entire article. Lent is the perfect time to make sure our goal is centered on eternity and not just the here-and-now.

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