Saturday, December 14, 2013

But fools despise wisdom and instruction

Back when I taught catechism to 14 year-olds, we used to work very hard to counter the popular "liberal" (apostate) Catholic idea that "fear of the Lord" is somehow a mean, nasty bad idea that ought to be softened and smoothed and soothed away. Of course, it was impossible for them to get rid of it entirely since it is so bluntly and forthrightly described in Scripture. An interesting footnote has caught my attention at the website

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

The Hebrew words rendered "fool" in Proverbs, and often elsewhere in the Old Testament, denote a person who is morally deficient.

How often do we hear quoted the second half of that verse?

But it is not difficult to understand the concept as it is intended.

I explained it this way:

"Close your eyes and imagine the person you loved most in the world. The person who was always on your side and who you knew without a doubt loved you and would always be there for you. For me, this was my Grandma. I'll never forget what it was like when I was small to wake up scared at night and have her come into my room and sit with me until I went back to sleep. Or all the times she took me to the beach or taught me drawing or played games with me or listened to me...

"To this day, my idea of heaven is to spend eternity with her in her house, taking tea on the veranda, weeding the garden, painting in the kitchen, helping her put the dinner on, watching her work in the potting studio...

"Got it? The person you love the most is probably the person who loved you the most, right?

"OK, now imagine yelling at that person. Screaming at her how you hate her and don't ever want to see her again. Imagine swearing and cursing at her and doing everything you can to hurt her."

At this point, I could see the kids making a pained face. Ouch!

"It's awful, right? Even thinking of it is horrible and makes you cringe. Well, the Fear of the Lord is like that holy and correct fear of deliberately hurting and rejecting that person, and then separating yourself from her and never coming back into her presence or ever feeling her love again.

"Times a million."

Now, what's so hard to understand about that?

I will never forget the fury I felt when the bishop who came to the parish to confirm the kids in my class explicitly denied this simple doctrine, that I had been at some pains to instill and clarify, by calling the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, "wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and 'awe and wonder'". This replacement expression has, I am given to understand, become so popular with those who are more afraid of the opinion of the world than of the Wrath of God, that it is now the standard weasel-word. Such a common dodge has it become that it is even given in the Wikipedia page on the Seven Gifts: "Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (wonder and awe)."

At the end of the Confirmation Mass, this prancing idiot bishop magnanimously stuck around for a few minutes in the parish hall to meet the kids and their families... and the teachers. I had sat through his performance - telling hockey jokes and walking up and down in front of the first pew with his microphone in his hand like a mitered game show host - growing increasingly furious. By the end of the Mass, I had not only removed my glasses so I didn't have to watch, I had pulled my mantilla so far down over my eyes that all I could see was the ends of my sharply tapping toes.

At the tea n' snacks afterwards I had intended to discuss some doctrinal matters with the bishop, but by some unfortunate coincidence suddenly found the smiling parish priest with a group of parents in tow standing right in front of me, blocking my path to his Excellency. Which group of worthies inexplicably detained me with polite chit-chat until the target of my wrath had left the hall for his next engagement.

Such bad luck!

Anyway, what prompted the sharing of this anecdote? Why nothing.

Nothing at all...



Wendy in VA said...

Your description of that Confirmation was quite similar to the two we've endured so far. We asked for a traditional Confirmation for our second oldest, which was approved months in advance and then denied 4 days before it was scheduled to take place to "give the bishop time to formulate a diocesan-wide approach to such requests." That was almost 2 years ago.

Wendy in VA said...

I meant to add that the way things are going, I don't have much hope for any better with our next four.

BillyHW said...

My confirmation had hockey jokes too.

tempus putationis said...

I suggest we bring back the term 'knave'- a person who is morally deficient. Its falling out of fashion has allowed an Orwellian diminution of the concept. In fact, all the terms I can think of, on the hoof, to describe someone exhibiting morally reprehensible behaviour (cad, bounder, swine etc.) have that air of archaism, stemming from a time when people actually had a notion of moral rectitude... I wonder how many Catholics today would include 'sinner' in that list of archaisms.