The Catholic Hodge Podge, or Will the Real Gospel Please Stand Up!
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far
from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
-Jesus, Mt. 15:8
“But understand this, that in the last days there will be times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, …swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it.
-Paul of Tarsus, 2 Tim. “The Catholic Hodge Podge, or Will the Real Gospel Please Stand Up?” is a compelling and impassioned plea for a reexamination and recapturing of the true meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the foundation of our Christian Faith. Author Douglas P. Michaud, Ph.D.C., an apostolic leader of the Catholic Renewal movement, argues convincingly that for many, Christian Faith is becoming a surface experience, a hollow and synthetic shell. This is because we are lacking the vital experience of God’s Love that is possible only through a commitment to and relationship with Jesus Christ. Without this personal and intimate relationship, without a genuine sense of the fusion of our lives with Christ’s transforming presence, the presentation of Christianity is stripped of its essential meaning and robbed of its pivotal force.
As a result, without the ability to truly see, feel, and receive His Love and Power, the teachings of the Church become intellectual exercises, lifeless, rational concepts that, like any cerebral machinations, are irrelevant to our hearts and souls. These – the hearts and souls of humanity- are left empty without the central experience promised by the Gospel. The core of our being is left unfulfilled, lifeless, still craving real Bread and Living Water. Especially in so many of our Catholic high schools and colleges all this is so evident: we have given our youth “academy excellence in math, literature, history and science”; we have given youth “Super Bowl football teams” and “championship cheerleading teams”, but we have not given them the Bread of Life.
For a fact today, in our schools and in our preaching, the Gospel so often seems to be an adjunct, an after thought add-on, a philosophical bolster to use in discussion of secondary issues, however important, like poverty, nuclear warfare, or simply advancing the cause of peace and social justice.
It is time to reverse this trend, to rededicate ourselves to the real goal of the Gospel: to know as a real experience the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith (Rom. 1:16); to know the Lord present in power as the transforming Love that is His Holy Spirit; to know Jesus, the Word of God, through Whom we are filled with the Fire of Love which burns in the Heart of the Father for all of us. This goal of the Gospel accomplished, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me…” (Gal. 2:20) -Douglas P Michaud, Ph.D.C.
P.S.: For copies of “The Catholic Hodge Podge, or Will the Real Gospel Please Stand Up”, go to the website "Store" page, contact Doug directly or go to the "Author's Spotlight" page for Doug's books at lulu.com
The Catholic Hodge Podge, or Will the Real Gospel Please Stand Up!
- A Foreword by Fr. Joe Towle, S.J.
“The Catholic Hodge Podge, or Will the Real Gospel Please Stand Up?” is a book written by a friend. As such, it is the object of both my understanding and appreciation. What I appreciate most about the book and its author, Doug Michaud, is the earnestness, the sincerity, and Doug’s intense love for the church, as the fulfillment of the “Father’s Dream” for us on earth and the enfleshment of God’s word through all time. Knowing Doug’s passion to see God’s love revealed in its fullness, I understand the starkness of his plea that Catholic Christians, especially teachers, recognize that all too many contemporary presentations of the Faith and movements in the church do not promote effectively an experience of that love nor the total transformation of the person it promises.
In the spirit of Von Hildebrand’s “Transformation in Christ”, Doug in part 2 draws an inspiring picture of the reality of God’s presence to the heart of the human person, using many analogies to illustrate the living power and transforming intimacy with the Lord that Christian faith involves. Doug’s faith is passionate. His teaching, I can attest from experience, has never underestimated the depth and challenge of the Catholic tradition. The effects of his teaching, especially on the young, have been profound and real. He knows, then, the experience that many people are missing in the hearing of the Christian message today. And it pains him.
With that in mind, the reader will employ a certain indulgence toward the author in accepting the starkness of some of his critiques of deficient proclamations of the Christian message in part 1. While Doug makes no apologies for them, even as his friend and brother I felt uncomfortable at times with some thrusts or expressions critical of current trends, described in images of infection, cancer, and tragedy. But it is the passionless person who can describe great misfortune in antiseptic and casual terms. Doug sees that misfortune as Christians being sold short, deprived of their true birthright: deep personal intimacy with Jesus and a community life where God is working powerfully to build a people of great faith. His point is well taken that we must diagnose the problem clearly before it can be solved.
Unfortunately, the print of a book does not allow for much dialogue with those who are in “pain” over the conscious or unconscious loss of that birthright. While reading the book we have to engage our compassion, too, for whole generations of church people swept by a veritable tidal wave of secularism and sociological change that has left them without moorings or bearings.
I find myself thinking of some Christian movements or teachers (myself included) as being in the same spiritually underdeveloped and uninstructed state as the Athenians Paul met in Acts 17. There are people, the Apostle says – in a touching phrase evoking the image of the blinded giant of Homer’s Odyssey – who do “grope about,” feeling their way through the darkness. The deepest tragedy would be if they ever stopped “groping” or if they were to say, with the Pharisees, “We see.” The very search for the truth, however, when genuine, is – as Simone Weil wrote – the search for Christ, for before he was the Christ, he was the Truth. And one cannot long search for truth without falling into the arms of Christ. The merit of Doug’s analysis is precisely in that it points unerringly to those arms as the focal point and goal of all Christian education and striving.
I will confess my preference for the center section of part 2, perhaps because I recognize so much of myself in the “reprimands” of part 1. In part 2, Doug shares much of what he understands by the mystery of Christ and the intimacy all Christians are called to share with the Father – that intimacy all too many people know nothing of. Though recognizing that no earthly image can adequately portray God’s love, Doug manages to touch deep chords and teach the unteachable by means of human stories and parallels that are accessible to our understanding: the leap into a father’s arms, the protective love of a parent, the “real presence” of a loved one in the home, the transforming power that the heart experiences in the intimacy of “Another” who is truly present to me.
The images of family life are moving and helpful to me. They instruct me in the essential difference between faith that is transforming and a faith that does not lead to the experience of Jesus and the Father’s love. Doug speaks of the Father’s “dream” that ultimately we be the ones who enflesh the Love of the Father revealed in the Passion and released to the world in the Spirit of Jesus. He shows how exciting the call to faith truly is and how far beyond our own dreams are God’s intentions for us.
At the same time, family images introduce a troubling factor. As one who of late has been assigned to work largely among the poor and marginally poor people of a large city, I do see that religious deprivation is often greatest precisely where physical and familial deprivation are greatest. The very images that touch many of us who have perhaps been graced with more stable upbringing are seen by the poor only dimly in a mirror. The poor, at times, are two stages removed from understanding the intimacy God longs to have with them. They too - or they especially – need the presence of God to be mediated by still another healing and abiding presence, that of a caring human being. Some time ago, I asked a twelve-year-old boy off the street if he knew what a priest was. He thought for a moment and offered this: “A priest is somebody who talks to you on the street and makes you feel good.” It is not the whole message, but perhaps it’s a start.
I mention the anecdote because, finally, I believe Doug’s beautiful description of “living in God’s presence” has its linkage and application to those more unstructured teaching situations too. Knowing that the love of the Father and the abiding presence of Jesus is the end of all our ministry, those specifically called to implement the church’s preferential love for the poor can find deep integration of their “social” and pastoral work precisely in seeing the Father and Christ in the poor themselves: “He [the poor person] becomes my own body and flesh… I plan nothing in life that violates a loving consideration of his will and happiness – and these become realities that I begin to feel and experience as only the heart can ‘feel’ and ‘see’ in the intimacy of ‘Another’ who is truly present to me. His good becomes my good; his joy, my own. His cross, his pain, his agony becomes my own as well.” “Christian faith,” Doug writes, “in a real sense is man in the flesh deciding to spend this whole life making love to God in this world.” Please, God, let us find You in all the depth and reality Doug describes for us.
- Fr. Joe Towle, S.J.