“The lukewarm, lukewarm Christians, without courage … That hurts the Church so much”

From Pope Francis’ fervorino at his daily Mass:

“When the Church loses courage, the Church enters into a ‘lukewarm’ atmosphere. The lukewarm, lukewarm Christians, without courage … That hurts the Church so much, because this tepid atmosphere draws you inside, and problems arise among us; we no longer have the horizon, or courage to pray towards heaven, or the courage to proclaim the Gospel. We are lukewarm … We have the courage to get involved in our small things in our jealousies, our envy, our careerism, in selfishly going forward … In all these things, but this is not good for the Church: the Church must be courageous! We all have to be courageous in prayer, in challenging Jesus!”.

In the first part of the Divine Comedy, Dante describes what his poetic-self sees as he and Virgil pass through Fore-Hell in Canto III:

“These people have no hope of again dying,
And so deformed has their blind life become
That they must envy every other fate.

50 “The world will not allow a word about them;
Mercy and justice hold them in disdain.
Let us not discuss them. Look and pass on.”

And I, looking again, observed a banner
Which, as it circled, raced on with such speed
It did not seem ever to want to stop.

55 And there, behind it, marched so long a file
Of people, I would never have believed
That death could have undone so many souls.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Pope Francis keeps upping the ante, so to speak. He is addressing issues in a very straight-forward and blunt manner, but I think that’s something we all need, especially in America. Speaking plainly about the Evil One and the tendency to be lukewarm will, I hope and pray, do great good to those on the fence about either. Too many people believe that demons are simply personal problems to deal with, not fallen angels who are very powerful and are hell-bent (pun intended) on dragging as many souls away from God with them.

    Fr. Z,

    Thanks again for providing a site to help keep us informed. Thanks for the “American Church” book suggestion. It’s probably the best book I’ve read in a year and it has countless penciled-in underlines where the author hits the nail on the head.

    In Christ, Through Mary,


  2. anilwang says:

    No-one needs to argue that lukewarmness hurts the Church, but the question is, how to combat it?

    When someone who knows the faith, and knows to the core of their being that in God is our only hope, IMO lukewarmness arises more from being caught up with the day to day battles of life or perhaps being stuck and not knowing how to move forward. Encouraging words, spiritual reading, reminders about our priorities, and sometimes a good kick in the pants is all we need to get back on track. Courage really isn’t really the cause (though it can be an excuse).

    But if someone is lukewarm due to lack of courage, I don’t see how that person can truly understand that God is our only hope. And if that’s the case, I don’t know it’s possible to bring someone to that knowledge. Suffering may help one see God more clearly, but for some people it can also discourage them into thinking there is no God or he doesn’t care and you have to rely even more on yourself and your social group.

    There’s so much indifferentism in the culture around us, that I honestly don’t know what can be done (other than prayer and fasting and living the Catholic life) to start a fire in even one person, much less the culture.

  3. Cantor says:

    Courageous in prayer takes us only so far. The Samaritan did not kneel and pray for the injured man.
    Courageous in words is of little help. “Isn’t anybody gonna do something for that poor man?”
    It takes a Church courageous in deeds to kneel down, get dirty, and ACT.

    We’ve seen bishops and priests on all sides of our battles lately, flinging words at us poor sinners, but, quite literally, damned little action. If this talk by His Holiness is the introduction to serious change in behavior, including, perhaps, the pruning of some of the Church’s leadership, then perhaps there is yet good to come of it.

    If not, then just as Bishop Tobin said, we are in the post-Christian world.

  4. BLB Oregon says:

    C. S. Lewis wrote “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. ”

    On that account, when I read this I hear the Pope saying that the Church is harmed when we content ourselves with mediocre or imaginary virtues, or when we abandon virtue for petty little dramas. We don’t have to feel less fear, but we do have to continue to pursue a life of holiness with greater fervor. That is the foundation from which prayer and evangelization both naturally spring. Without it what evangelization can there be? We could lack all physical and psychological fear, and yet what kind of preaching would it be without virtue?

  5. mamajen says:

    This ties in very neatly with your earlier post about gay marriage and our lack of Catholic identity!

    I’m afraid I am very guilty myself of being lukewarm at times.

  6. Where there is no courage, there is fear. Where there is fear, the is the Devil.

  7. onosurf says:

    Great and very relevant post. Sadly, Lukewarm is a great description of Western World Catholic Church.

  8. McCall1981 says:

    I also liked this part of today’s homily:
    “I remember – excuse me – a personal story: as a child every Good Friday my grandmother took us to the Procession of Candles and at the end of the procession came the recumbent Christ and my grandmother made us kneel down and told us children, ‘Look he is dead, but tomorrow he will be Risen! ‘. That is how the faith entered: faith in Christ Crucified and Risen. In the history of the Church there have been many, many people who have wanted to blur this strong certainty and speak of a spiritual resurrection. No, Christ is alive”.

  9. anilwang says:

    I really don’t think courage is at the heart of lukewarmness.

    Let me illustrate. I’m sure most of us are lukewarm about sterilizing a room. Why? There are many practical concerns and there aren’t really any reasons to do it.

    But suppose I told you your child was immunocompromised and he would die in an unsterilized environment. We would not be lukewarm about this. And suppose acquiring the sterilization equipment would place you in some risk. Would you do it anyway? If our child had to be in that room, then most of us would move heaven and earth to make and keep the room sterile regardless of the risk.

    From my experience, I sincerely believe most lukewarm Catholics are lukewarm precisely because they don’t have a reason to be anything other than lukewarm. I have no idea how to reach them. Educating them about the faith helps (and there is lot of poor catechisis), but even when the head knowledge is transferred (and doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other), it needs to become heart knowledge. It needs to become relevant, or there’s no point. We need to understand that God is our only hope (John 6:68) or alternately expressed, our hearts are restless until they rest in God.

    I sincerely have no clue how to bridge the gap or even where to start. And I don’t think many people do, otherwise many of the sincere devoted priests, bishops, and pious parents of fallen away Catholics who would given their limbs to have their child return would have more success. The old “preach the gospel always and use words when necessary” line is nowhere near good enough since its often confused with simple charity, even if you wear Catholicism on your sleeve.

    And for those who do know better (most of us here), I don’t think courage is at the heart of it either. IMO, it can more readily be explained by self imposed blindness resulting from one of the 7 deadly sins, especially acedia.

  10. Jacob says:

    I don’t think there’s anything we can really do about it except trust in God and wait. Western Man is trapped in a prison of his own making, a comfortable, safe, padded-walled prison where has allowed himself to become anesthetized to all the real dangers of the world that Modern Medicine, Technology, Economics, (fill in the blank) have pushed away. Death comes, but by the time it arrives it’s too late for a lot of people.

    I think it was Diogenes at Catholic World News who had a post many years ago about ‘give us this day our daily bread’ and what that meant for starving people as opposed to Catholics in the Developed World. Catholics who believe in God and His Son are still able to go pick up a loaf of bread at their supermarket and as long as they’re able to, they’ll continue to be anesthetized.

  11. John Nolan says:

    Fr Faber wrote: “Sweet Saviour, bless us ere we go;/Thy word into our minds instil;/And make our lukewarm hearts to glow/With lowly love and fervent will.”

    Everyone has a tendency to be lukewarm – that’s why we need grace.

  12. Priam1184 says:

    Lukewarmness is easy to fall into and exists in great volume in every age, as evidenced by Father’s 700 year old citation from Dante. Do what the Spirit moves you to do with those that you encounter in your life, but you will never encounter 99.9999% (because the number is so vast) of them so do pray for them and for the unbelievers. I have to very much disagree with Cantor on this. Prayer is the beginning of everything, as evidenced by the life of Our Lord Himself, and I take great issue with people who seem to want to discount it. Prayer is the beginning and end of everything and if you lack courage then pray; sincere prayer will make your cup overflowing with courage and your actions will become forms of prayer in and of themselves.

  13. Katylamb says:

    People have free will. There is nothing WE can do to save them, for it is Christ alone who saves. The pope is speaking to us- to you and to me- not to some vague “world” or “America.” You (and I) are the one who needs to have courage and not be lukewarm. I see way too much worrying about the souls of other people instead of working on ourselves. Pray, fast, do charity, and be brave in proclaiming the faith in word and deed. That is the way to help others. And some will not be helped because they don’t want to be. We need to understand that. Prayer is the very best thing we can do for them, but constant worry and whining about how awful everything is is not going to help at all. Courage is trust in God. Trust him. Trust that He loves the world way more than we ever could.

  14. RafkasRoad says:

    Some of us; I suspect, more than merely ‘some’ of us, out here in Suburbia are just plain weary. a bone-weariness that can be at times exhausting. It is a spiritual weariness that can seem almost unnavigable at times.

    The world I was born into is not the world that exists now. The world that exists now is more like a cross between Huxley’s nightmare ‘Brave new world’ with disturbing elements of Orwell’s ‘1984’ breaking through the surface.

    I’m tired. plain and simple. very, very tired. those of you with good liturgy easily at hand, GIVE THANKS!! and do what you can to promote it elsewhere (adopting the ‘evangelical’ Church-Plant model – would it work for ‘TLM church-plants in the Roman rite?) The secular world is increasingly counter to what it was even 30 years ago.
    I am the only believer in my family; all either dawkinsesque ‘intelectual’ atheists celebrating the freedoms of liberal society with no interest in the teachings of Holy Mother Church; judgement and hell are a fable, the devil and God are fables etc, or those who see all religion as ‘BS’; ‘how can a good God let bad things happen to good people’ bad things happen, hence God mustn’t exist. all the Biblical verses, CCC passages, church writings etc just bounce right off. The mentality of Australians (and especially ex-pat UK etc) is far different from that of the US which, to a much greater extent, still contains an element of ‘background noise’ from its more ‘Churched’ past. I offer prayer after prayer, rosary after Rosary, CDM after CDM for them, first Friday prayers etc… to get an idea of the sort of thing I’m speaking about, read ‘The Rage against God’ by peter Hitchens, the brother of the late Christopher Hitchens; unlike Christopher however, peter came back to Jesus Christ just over a decade ago now and speaks articulately to this matter in the way Lewis did half a century before him in god in the Dock’.

    Please pray for me, please pray for them, and please pray for all of us who are lone souls in our families and within the majority of our family-associate friendships.

    Aussie Marounite.

  15. av8er says:

    I am reminded of a saying I heard that goes something like “religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell and faith is for those who’ve been there.” You won’t find lukewarmness for “those who’ve been there”.

    As for reaching those who are lukewarm, my suggestion would be to challenge those who say they believe if they REALLY believe. One must look themselves in the mirror and ask “Do I believe that there is a God, is Jesus Christ His Son and did he incarnate and die for our sins.” Those who are lukewarm who ask themselves this question honestly, can no longer stay that way. Better to be cold or hot. I realize this sounds simplistic but why does it have to be complicated?

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