Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

11/1/2013 (10 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The principle of agere contra is a good spiritual tool to recall when, under God's grace, we attempt to develop our spiritual life and virtue against the attractions or blandishments of the world.

As the modern world about us goes its merry godless and morally dissipated way, Catholics will be called to be more and more contrarian.  A contrarian, of course, is a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion or current practices.  Regarding much of what relativist and secularist liberal societies consider "normal," the faithful practicing Catholic will be decidedly contrarian.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

11/1/2013 (10 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: agere contra, countercultural, contrarian, imitatio Christ, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - As the modern world about us goes its merry godless and morally dissipated way, Catholics will be called to be more and more contrarian. 

A contrarian, of course, is a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion or current practices.  Regarding much of what relativist and secularist liberal societies consider "normal," the faithful practicing Catholic will be decidedly contrarian.

Now being contrarian is not necessarily being a crank, although as society strays further and further from the reasonable and traditional Christian mores it may appear to our morally unfounded contemporaries that we are cranks.  From their vantage point, I suppose we look that way.

If we be labeled cranks, then let us make the most of it.  Let us be happy cranks for Christ. 

We might paraphrase St. Paul (without doing him too much violence) and learn to be cranks for Christ's sake.  (Cf. 1 Cor. 4:10) 

It's quite likely that, in their blindness, the godless liberal pundits and comedians, no less that the Pharisees or Sadducees, would have called Our Lord an unenlightened crank--or worse.  To call Jesus a crank is not too far from immersing a crucifix in urine and calling us cranks for complaining about it or in calling us bigots and cranks because we, faithful to the teaching of Christ and natural moral law, oppose same-sex "marriage" for what it is: a moral enormity of the first class. 

Here again, we might paraphrase this time Jesus instead of St. Paul (again without violence to the text) and suggest that if the world calls us cranks, we should recall that they would have called him a crank first.  (Cf. John 15:18)

But by resisting the peer pressure of our contemporaries and being contrarian, we are not by any means cranks, kooks, or crackpots though we be called that. 

We, after all, have right reason on our side, and the teachings of Christ, the weight of Catholic tradition, and the authority of the Magisterium which is guided by the Holy Spirit to boot.  These are good allies in assessing our normalcy and the moral deviancy of our contemporary fellows. 

These will all outlast the current madness.  Omnia vincit veritas.

We must remember when we are called cranks, that when one is standing on a rock cliff one can safely ignore the claim of the man mired in quicksand that he, and not you, is standing on stable ground.

To be sure, it is not easy to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ when the majority opinion is against you.  It hurts, and it is hard to kick against the pricks and goads of majority opinion (Acts 26:14), even if it is wrong.

Resisting the heavy weight and moral suasion of the liberal establishment and its institutions presents a significant, concrete challenge for the modern Christian disciple, especially the Catholic one who has an uncompromising moral creed that believes in moral absolutes. 

Unquestionably, fidelity to Christ--at least the ease of it--is affected by one's moral environment, by what Pope Benedict XVI called one's "moral ecology," and our modern moral ecology is foul.

As St. Thomas More wrote to his children, "It is now no mastery for you children to go to heaven.  For everybody giveth you good counsel, everybody giveth you good example.  You see virtue rewarded, and vice punished, so that you are carried up to heaven even by the chins."

"But," St. Thomas More continues as if he were writing for our time, "if you live in the time, that no man will give you good counsel, nor no man will give you good example, when you shall see virtue punished, and vice rewarded, if you will then stand fast, and firmly stick to God upon pain of life, if you be but half good, God will allow you for whole good."

Well, we are not living in a time and place where we will be carried up to heaven "even by the chins."  To the contrary, we are living in a time and place where we likely will be carried to hell "by the chins," and assuredly so if (to shift metaphors) we don't swim against the current a bit.

Let us then strive to be heroic--to be wholly good and wholly faithful to our Lord and his Church; but if we are fearful, or if we are weak, or if we fail, if our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak, let us at least try to be half good.  There is no excuse for not being at least half good. 

That means, in the words of St. Thomas More, we must "stand fast, and firmly stick to God upon pain of life."  In other words, we have to be contrarian even to be half good.

Now that means that when times are evil--when Catholics have cause to complain in the words of Cicero, O tempora! O mores!--the Catholic will have to develop his interior contrarian, his moral backbone, his steadfastness. 

In developing our inner contrarian, St. Ignatius of Loyola gave us a doctrine that might be adaptable to this situation: agere contra.

Agere contra is Latin for "to act against."  In his Spiritual Exercises--a spiritual classic of first rank--St. Ignatius of Loyola described this attitude in the context of acting against the sense of desolation or emptiness in prayer, but also in acting against temptations and sensuality. 

Particularly in those areas where we are weak, or where our disposition is wrongfully inclined, or where we find thinks difficult, unappetizing, or unappealing the principle of agere contra comes into play as a good rule of thumb for action. 

The notion of agere contra is that if we are indisposed to something we ought to do its opposite, and with even greater fervor.  Act against a disordered inclination by doing its opposite with redoubled effort.  A great example of this spiritual principle would be St. Francis of Assisi. 
When he first started his spiritual journey, the poor man of Assisi lived in great fear of lepers.  He overcame his fear by the principle of agere contra.  He did so by kissing the wounds of the leper.  When he was tempted by unchastity, he rolled naked in the brambles and in the snow.  Those are perfect images of agere contra.

Now, we need not necessarily act in the same manner (unless you want to become saints, and why don't you give that exciting life a try?), but in all cases we are called to act in a similar manner, in the Jesuit and Franciscan spirit of agere contra

In particular, when it comes to confronting our modern culture, we have to instill in ourselves this notion of agere contra so that it becomes a sort of second nature.  This allows us greater success in recognizing and overcoming the habitual vices that are considered normal in our society. 

When 50% of marriages end in divorce, and there are "family law" lawyers on every corner, and the civil laws allow for divorce on no-fault grounds, and many of our friends are living in irregular (adulterous) second unions that appear happy enough, and we are having difficulties in our relationship with our spouse, we have to develop the spirit of agere contra.  Divorce and remarriage is a false solution.

When the vast majority of married couples (not to mention those not married) use artificial contraception and have become closed to children and even more so to large families on spurious or at least weak grounds, we have to develop the attitude of agere contra.  We will be thought of as weird.  So what?

When a huge proportion of our friends are living outside the confines of marriage or some alternative lifestyle, we must resolve agere contra and resist that tendency as something normal.  We must insist on the sacredness of marriage, on the sacredness of the conjugal act, on the radical contrariness of chastity and purity.

When our friends invite us to strip clubs, or we are tempted to look at pornography, or we are tempted to self-abuse, and we hear the common refrain that "everybody does that," we must resort to our faithful rule of thumb: agere contra. "Purity? they ask. And they smile," says St. Josemaria Escriva. "They are the ones who go on to marriage with worn-out bodies and disillusioned souls."

If we suffer from same-sex attraction and the world--its psychologists, politicians, and LGBT advocates--tell us that we are excused from the moral law because of it and we may be gaily unchaste and unchastely gay, we must invoke the principle of agere contra.

If, as a young Catholic we have stumbled and fallen and gotten pregnant out of wedlock or gotten someone pregnant out of wedlock, we must resist what moderns (falsely) propose as a solution, even sickeningly a right: abortion.  Even then, it is time for agere contraAgere contra is not only for saints, it is a right attitude for all.

These are just some examples that happen to prevail in contemporary culture.  The principle of agere contra is, of course, applicable to any disorder, social or personal, which we suffer or any difficulty which we confront. 

Let us develop our inner contrarian by the principle of agere contra, as St. Paul proposes: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect."  (Rom. 12:2).

The principle of agere contra is a good spiritual tool to recall when, under God's grace, we attempt to develop our spiritual life and virtue against the attractions or blandishments of the world.

It allows us to develop a faithful Marian response to God-one that says fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, be it done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38). 

It allows us to be attuned to an authentic sequela, imitatio, and conformatio Christi, a following of, imitation of, and conformation to Christ, whose response to the will of God the Father, even in his human nature, was an unwavering and perfect: not my will, but yours be done, non mea voluntas sed tua fiat (Luke 22:42).

Agere contra!  It's time to develop our interior contrarian!

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Living Faith

Tough Lessons for Real Life from the Book of Job Watch

Image of Job was right. He was living in the heart of God's will. When Job was stripped of what his fair-weather friends believed were the -proofs- of Gods favor, he found the greatest treasure of all, the beautiful poverty of purified Love. He found the richness reserved for those who love God for God's sake. Jobs fair-weather friends told him that his loss and difficulties were his fault, but Job knew better. In his unwavering hope in God's love and mercy we find the example of purified, living faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

When Job was stripped of what his fair-weather friends believed were the -proofs- of Gods favor, he found the greatest treasure of all, the beautiful poverty of purified Love. He found the richness reserved for those who love God for God's sake, for Love's ... continue reading


Interesting facts about the 400 years old Bom Jesus Church in India, the final resting place of St. Francis Xavier Watch

Image of The Basilica of Bom Jesus Church is more than 400 years old.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Located in Old Goa, India, the Basilica of Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The foundation stone was laid on 24th November 1594, and completed on 15th May 1605. It was raised to the status of a minor Basilica in 1946 and is considered to be one of the ... continue reading


Bombing Islamic State is fueling the violence

Image of Civilians inspect the rubble of a building destroyed by Allied airstrikes in Syria. We cannot bomb our way into the hearts of people.

By Tony Magliano

We need to do something! With the barbaric Islamic State now controlling large portions of Iraq and Syria, and inflicting rape, torture and even beheading on those who do not conform to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, it is imperative that they must be ... continue reading


Pope Francis to try case of pedophile archbishop in Vatican court Watch

Image of Former archbishop and ambassador Josef Wesolowski is under  arrest at the Vatican.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Vatican will try one of its own for child abuse. After decades, possibly centuries of abuse and cover up, the use of the Church has a cover for pedophiles has finally ended. Former ambassador, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski will now face trial for abusing boys he met ... continue reading


Pope Francis says to listen to God's word and put it into practice Watch

Image of During his homily at daily, the Pope urged Christians to read God's word faithfully and to truly listen with our hearts to what He has to say.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to Pope Francis, living the Christian life is simple: listen to God's word and put it into practice. "These are the two conditions in order to follow Jesus, hear the word of God and put it into practice. This is the Christian life, nothing more," the ... continue reading


Pope Francis appoints five women to major theological council Watch

Image of Pope Francis, who has been critical on the Catholic Church's failures to adequately include women in theological discourse, has appointed five to a major theological council that is charged with aiding the pope and others with theological policy.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The International Theological Commission, established in 1969 to study doctrinal issues faced by the Catholic Church and to help the pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has just received five new female members, raising the number of female ... continue reading


Pope Francis asks new bishops to avoid self-promotion, to love their congregations instead Watch

Image of Pope Francis meets with bishops for an audience. The Holy Father had important advice for a group of new bishops yesterday.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has admonished a new generation of bishops against seeking promotion and instead asked them to look after and love their congregations. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - During an address at the Vatican yesterday, Pope Francis spoke to 138 ... continue reading


POPE IN ALBANIA: Pope Francis denounces religious militants during one-day trip Watch

Image of On his first trip as pope to a European country outside of Italy, Pope Francis made no direct reference to Islamic State militants who have seized territory in Syria and Iraq.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In his one-day trip to the chiefly Muslim nation of Albania, Pope Francis soundly denounced religious militants, declaring that no one act as the "armor of God." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Let no one consider themselves the 'armor' of God while planning ... continue reading


If Christ Has Not Been Raised Our Preaching and Our Faith is Empty Watch

Image of We too,you and me, will be raised from the dead. Only then will our redemption be complete. We are works in progress. However, that new life can begin even now for those with eyes of living faith, hearts filled with His presence, and minds renewed by the Light of the Truth which Jesus has fully revealed and imparts to those who love and follow Him.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When we learn to embrace the implications of that empty tomb, and allow grace to work within us, we are made ready for eternity - by living differently every day. The Resurrection provides a framework, a hermeneutic, a lens of meaning, for everything that happens ... continue reading


You Go Into the Vineyard Too! Every Christian Has a Vocation Watch

Image of Priesthood, Diaconate in Christ,consecrated or religious life,lay ecclesial movements, consecrated Christian marriage - every Baptized Christian has a vocation. We just have to learn to live it!

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23
1 In the end it was Job who broke the silence and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8
2 may my prayer reach your presence, hear my cry for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:51-56
51 Now it happened that as the time drew near for him ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 30th, 2014 Image

St. Jerome
September 30: St. Jerome, who was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius, was ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter