In his book “My Battle Against Hitler” (translated by John Henry Crosby and his father), Dietrich Von Hildebrand writes about habit being a ‘sort of beneficial adaptability’ in human beings that can either make their lives more bearable or diminish their spiritual alertness. In the latter case even those who are indignant when first exposed to an evil in society can become accepting of it.
Hildebrand explains: “If, however, a person simply permits himself to get used to an evil, if he simply ‘comes to terms’ with it because it exists de facto and he cannot change it, then his soul will suffer harm. It is imperative that we recognize this danger and take up the battle against the desensitizing effect of habit.”
One wonders if in our oases of comfort and convenience, we, heirs to a once vaunted and virtuous civilization, are ourselves increasingly desensitized to the moral failures so prevalent in our world and, indeed, in ourselves. Does our never-ending dance between hyper stimulation and instant gratification so numb the antennae of our consciences that we are increasingly unaware or indifferent to the moral erosion and cancerous injustice that threaten our society and, indeed, our humanity? What harm does this seductive distraction portend for our souls?
Eighty years ago Dietrich Von Hildebrand broke free of the false allurements of the Third Reich, and he did so with tremendous sacrifice. More recently Archbishop Oscar Romero was another individual who refused to abide by the “go along, get along” ethos of his time and 35 years ago paid the ultimate price for his integrity. His sanctity will be formally recognized later this month when he is beatified by Pope Francis.
These men resisted false cultural appeasement and remained true to their alert consciences. In doing so, they found themselves in hot water with their adversaries. But, for those of us at ease in the security of our own oases might it be that while we succeed in avoiding the hot water of moral challenge we are oblivious to the imperceptibly rising temperature of the very waters into which we retreat? Will our ‘diminished spiritual alertness’ prevent us from realizing that the water is getting hotter?
Is it possible to “opt out” in the advance of the Kingdom?
Incidentally, some of you may be interested to know that a fund has been established at the National Catholic Community Foundation to support the cause for Archbishop Romero’s canonization.