Bp. Etienne: “Secularism is the moral grizzly bear of our day!”

The Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming (covering the whole state), His Excellency Most Reverend Paul Etienne, has a blog.  I have posted about his hunting with the Mystic Monk Coffee Carmelites in northern Wyoming.  Also in the Diocese of Cheyenne is Wyoming Catholic College.  I like bishops who blog intelligently.  I like bishops who have guns, too.  Put the two together and… well… I’m writing about Bp. Etienne, aren’t I?

A kind reader here alerted me to Bishop Etienne’s post about his sermon for the 1st Sunday of Advent.  The second part of the sermon caught my attention.

My emphases:


This past week I had the opportunity to hike and hunt up on the South Fork of the Shoshoni. By midweek, the temperatures approached the mid 50’s, warm enough to bring the bears out of hibernation. Sure enough, as we walked along, we saw fresh grizzly tracks in the snow. I need not tell you, a grizzly is a frightening and fierce creature to encounter in any circumstance, and is always an imminent threat to life and limb, whether one is carrying a high powered rifle and wearing a side-arm or not! Thankfully, no such encounter ensued, but it put me on high alert!

It is precisely to such an “alert way of life” Christ is calling us this Advent season. We hear much in our day about “secularism” and the “New Evangelization.” But what exactly do these mean? First of all, secularism is a philosophy of life which rejects God, and rejects any attempts on the part of believers to insert their faith and morals into public discourse, politics or legislation. Webster’s Dictionary defines secularism thus: “a view of life or of any particular matter based on the premise that religion and religious considerations should be ignored or purposely excluded : a system of social ethics based upon a doctrine that ethical standards and conduct should be determined exclusively with reference to the present life and social well-being without reference to religion.”

My dear friends, secularism is the moral grizzly bear of our day! The New Evangelization is our response. The New Evangelization is our opportunity, our mandate, to re-proclaim Christ to a culture and world that formerly considered itself Christian. The New Evangelization is our effort to “Go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News,” to bring Christ to our people, and to bring our people to Christ. This is the “good work” the Opening Prayer of Mass exhorts of us: Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.

We must pray for the Wisdom of Solomon, and the patience of an oyster, as we face this present culture, and address its many, subtle efforts to lower our moral standards and discredit any belief in the Divine Revelation that is ours in Sacred Scripture. Advent calls us to be honest about the values and beliefs that we hold because of cultural convenience, rather than the values and beliefs dear to our faith. We must be alert to the many cultural messages that reinforce a relative view of Truth. Let me be very clear: We as Catholic Christians believe in an absolute Truth, and that Absolute Truth is found in and preached by Jesus Christ. It is this Truth that underlies our Christian values and beliefs. This is the Truth we are called to live and bring to the public forum. The death many people face today is a moral death, and the only remedy is Christ and the life which only He brings.

Secularism is real, and recent surveys tell us it is having more of an effect on the values and morals of our people today than is our faith. Advent is our claxon call to “Wake up!” It is time to not only draw a line in the sand, but to reclaim lost ground in the culture war for moral values and Truth. We belong to Christ. He has claimed us for Himself and His Kingdom through his life, death and resurrection. He and His Kingdom are all that really matter. He and His Church, His Catholic Church, are to be our passion and our life.

My dear people, Advent calls us to be alert for the presence of Christ in our daily lives. Advent calls us to renew again our commitment to acknowledge Christ as the source of our life and to make Him once again our center. He is our origin and our destiny. This admonition is captured well in our closing prayer for Mass:

…even now, as we walk amid passing things, you teach us by them, O Lord, to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures, Through Christ our Lord.

My dear friends, let us live accordingly! Let us live according to Christ our Lord!

Well done.  WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Etienne.

I must, however, make an observation about his use of the Post communion prayer.

I think the “them” in the phrase “as we walk amid passing things, you teach us by them, O Lord, to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures”, refers back to “mysteries” in the first part of the Collect, which he did not quote.

Prosint nobis, quaesumus, Domine, frequentata mysteria,
quibus nos, inter praetereuntia ambulantes,
iam nunc instituis amare caelestia et inhaerere mansuris

May these mysteries, O Lord,
in which we have participated,
profit us, we pray,
for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
and hold fast to what endures

You decide.

In any event, I like the use of the grizzly.  I am reminded of the roving lion of 1 Peter 5:8.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gregg the Obscure says:


    We also need intercession for fighting secularism, perhaps seeking the prayers of the Martyrs of the Vendee, Servant of God Leo Heinrichs, Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro and all of the martyrs killed by secularists.

  2. Good post by the bishop.

    Secularism, however, has been the moral grizzly bear of our day for at least a century and a half. Actually, more like a prowling lion seeking the ruin of souls. But grizzly works, too.

    …the Latin seems pretty clear with respect to the referent of quibus. Yet, the ambiguity in the English is not totally false either, even if the alternate reading is not exactly what the Church had in mind. Still, it would have been better “….for even now you teach us by them, as we walk amid passing things, to love etc.”

  3. Despite the myriad of howlers at a certain liberal web site, there is no ambiguity here for one who knows how to diagram an English-language sentence. For the main line of the diagram will be

    May these mysteries, O Lord, profit us, we pray, for even now, you teach us by them to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures.

    So there is nothing but these mysteries for them to refer to. The clause

    in which we have participated

    will be on a line hanging off from mysteries, and the clause

    as we walk amid passing things

    on a line hanging off of now, thereby completing the diagram of the whole sentence. (Aside from the goal of in transmitting accurately the genius of Latin orations, expressing each as a single English sentence vitiates the possibility of ambiguity of meaning, however ineffable the result may appear to fuzzy thinkers.)

    Fr Z's Gold Star Award

  4. AvantiBev says:

    Wild and wonderful Wyoming, like no place else on earth. I fell in love and left my heart on a Jim Mountain near the Shoshoni Forest. I keep an eye on all things Wyoming while stuck here in Chi town since someday I will go back to stake my claim there.

    I was very happy to hear of Bishop’s Etienne’s appointment since before entering the seminary he obtained a B.A. in Business Administration and worked out here in the real world with us tax paying grunts for a while. [Too many men who went straight from home and high school to seminary have tethered our Church and “social justice” solutions to more and more tax payer funded programs. Big Gov ends up in God’s place.] I always pray for mature vocations to the priesthood. The Bishop’s sermon also has a manly quality to it that has been sorely lacking over the past few decades in our Church and in society as a whole.

  5. Eric says:

    We must pray for the Wisdom of Solomon, and the patience of an oyster

    All these years, I’ve had it backwards!

  6. Springfielder says:

    Bishop Etienne,
    Thank you for you insights and challenges to the ‘roaring lion’ in our midst. For 40+ years for the most part I have remained quiet and unknowingly been a part of allowing the evil of secularism to go unchallenged in conversation, to creep into our family life and to eventually prevail in the culture. With the help of Almighty God I will no longer be a coward and will out of love for Jesus Christ speak out and stand up for what is right and true to our faith and not fear rejection or ridicule by those who think God is irrelevant.

  7. pattif says:

    I was amused by AvantiBev’s comment about Bishop Etienne having worked in the real world before entering seminary and the importance of mature vocations: in the photograph, His Lordship looks about 12 ( if you know you’re getting old when policemen look young, you must be positively past it when bishops look like schoolboys!).

  8. Sam Schmitt says:

    I agree with Henry Edwards that the sentence is, per se, perfectly intelligible, but the very fact that he had to parse it means that you really can’t blame anyone for misunderstanding it, especially when hearing it for the first time upon an Advent morning. The habit of English listeners – fine in most cases but wrong in this one – is to refer to what was last mentioned, “passing things.” The version of this prayer previous to the final redaction was clearer in this regard, even though it translates the plural praetereuntia as a singular:

    May the mysteries we have celebrated profit us, we pray, O Lord,
    for even now, as we journey through this passing world,
    you teach us by them
    to love the things of heaven
    and hold fast to what will endure.

  9. AvantiBev says:

    PattiF: I agree he looks baby faced. However, Bishop Etienne was 50 when he was installed as Wyoming’s bishop in late 2009. Perhaps he has an anti-aging serum he should use his business acumen to market and raise funds for the diocese. Or maybe it is all that clean living and a love of the outdoors (with carefully applied sunscreen no doubt).

  10. Adam Welp says:

    @AvantiBev It must be an Etienne family thing. All the Etienne men look young, especially +Etienne’s biological brothers Frs. Bernie and Zach Etienne (both priests of the Diocese of Evansville). There’s a funny story about a little “family fight” over Zach I can tell, but that will have to wait until another day.

    Anyway, I would love to see +Etienne return to Indiana some day. Now that I think of it, my Archdiocese is currently vacant. :) LOL If +Coyne is reading this, we love you and hope that you are here for many more years to come!

  11. benedetta says:

    The situation we find ourselves in is very well stated here, and the encouragement from this Bishop is needed right now.

  12. irishgirl says:

    Bravo, Bishop Etienne!
    Yes, he does look young, and all that outdoor exercise (especially with the manly Carmelite Monks) makes him look that way!

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