I've really been praying about this, and in examining my conscience, my occasions of sin, etc., I've really had to hold a mirror up to myself and accept responsibility for my own contribution to the problem.
We all seem to love a good rant. It gets us fired up, it sets off a domino-effect in the echo-chamber that is the world of blogging and social networking, and the next thing you know we're all fired up and ready for a good fight.
Oh, wait...what does THAT have to do with holiness?
One of the things I noticed is that either in writing or reading a rant, I can FEEL my blood pressure rising, and at times, it sets my blood to the boiling point. In the past I've tried to justify my own feelings or behavior by saying, "Well, there IS such a thing as righteous anger!" And yes, well, SURE there is! But the difference between "righteous anger" and "ranting anger" is that, well, I'm in control of the former, and the latter controls ME.
Now, I'm not saying that all "rants" involve anger. Often they do not. Sometimes they are simply humorous outtakes on situations, sometimes they are simply a passionate statement on some topic, and written for the point of positively getting people "fired up" to take some kind of action. The fact is that as we are humans prone to all sorts of things like laziness and apathy, at times we NEED to have a fire lit under us to get us up off our rear ends. In light of this, please understand that I am not condemning anyone in particular or any posts in particular. Nor am I saying that people should not write with passion! What I am trying to point out is that there is a difference between "writing with passion" and "ranting". Sometimes the lines are blurred, and we have to learn to recognize those lines.
I can't always.
A few weeks ago as I began to ponder my own Lenten sacrifices, and the point of them, which is conversion, I took a look at my own blog and noted a few things in the blogs of others. For awhile now I've been avoiding the ranting-tone writings of many bloggers, for I noticed that they do to me, physiologically-speaking, what the sudden use of curse words would do when I worked in adolescent psych: it upset my balance, it sent me into stress mode, and it caused me to want to make an immediate response. Adrenaline.
I shouldn't need an adrenaline dump if I'm sitting at my computer. It's a waste of perfectly good neurochemicals and quite honestly, it distracts me from God. It distracts me from prayer. It disturbs the peace which should remain with me as I struggle constantly to keep focused on the Lord.
In all honesty, I'm sick of reading about complaints about the Church, and I'm sick of writing them, too. We as human beings are so given to criticism, to focusing on the negatives in the Church, to carrying on the rants of others and making them our own. But do we ever stop to consider whether or not our rants are BUILDING UP the Kingdom of God? Do we ever stop to consider whether our rants truly Glorify GOD, or are they just self-seeking pleas for personal glory from a rant-happy crowd of unhappy Catholics, feeding further into their (and our) own unhappiness?
Is there true goodness in that, or do you, like me, smell the acidic scent of sulpher?
As I've been discerning the Visitation Nuns, I've pondered more the words of St. Francis de Sales, their Founder, and his gentle approach. Time and time again I've come across writings of Saints, and statements about them, referencing their continual kindness towards others, their constant peace and gentle responses even in the face of outright hostility, dissent, etc. I am further convicted by the book I'm reading for Pastoral Theology: Jean-Baptiste Chautard's "The Soul of the Apostolate." He references this reality of holiness, and how souls are won not through harsh correction, but by a gentle, consistent response and patient teaching. Even those that seem "lost" come around when they recognize the need to drop their own hostility, for it is not being returned in kind...ever. They recognize, in a gentle response: God.
True holiness cannot be attacked, cannot be undermined, cannot be destroyed. It needs no defense. The most an attacker can do is destroy the body, when truly they are trying to destroy God in the soul of that holy person. This is the reason for all the martyrs throughout the history of the Church. God can't be killed.
Why, then, do we become so defensive and angry when our faith is attacked? Why are we so ready to respond with condemnation and judgement and vile, mean-spirited humor? When, in the history of the world, has THAT tactic EVER won souls?
Although St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony were known for their impassioned preaching, they did not descend into sin by allowing anger or frustration to control them. What shone forth in their words was the very passionate love of Christ and zeal for souls that hadn't a bit of anger in it. They had no need to be angry: the Truth speaks for itself, and is sufficient in and of itself to win souls.
St. Francis de Sales, another great preacher, suffered a great deal in bringing souls back into the Church, and many are not aware he had a problem with his temper. Do you know that after he died, they discovered GROOVES worn under his desk from him scraping his hands in frustration underneath, as he struggled to keep his anger and frustration at bay? Yet, none ever saw anything but an enduring patience and expressions of true charity for those who he sought to help.
In light of all of this, and in light of all I am continuing to read, I've decided to take it all to heart. Although I am fond of passionate writing, I will do my best to keep it from being a "rant" so that none will read anger, especially where there isn't any! I will try to avoid any use of sarcasm (for which I have a special, but clearly disordered "love"), and as I have been, I will continue deleting old ranting posts. I may even clean up those posts that seem angry in tone, albeit only as I have time. (School takes precedent over all of this.)
For Lent, I'm going to work on focusing on what is GOOD about the Church, even as I also continue my focus on the Passion and Death of Our Lord. Yet, I hope my "rants" are over, and maybe for good. Lent is a time for conversion, a time to re-focus on God and grow in holiness.
If we are not growing in holiness, then what ARE we growing?