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October 11, 2006



Wonderful post Jimmy,
It took me a long time to understand what the Church teaches about man being a social creature and how orthodox social justice teaching flows from that. Properly practiced, this understanding (and the help of the Holy Spirit) should transform our parishes into vibrant communities which nurture and support their members and empower parishioners to go out into the world and claim it for Christ. Alas that we are so far from the ideal!


This is something that has struck me while learning more about John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Our call (and need) to engage in interpersonal communion is clear right from the beginning (It is not good that the man should be alone), and it is a way in which we image God's love as opposed to being a substitute for it.

Mary Kay

A perennial topic and a difficult one to address and stay in bounds. (kudos to Jimmy for such a balanced answer)

There's so much that can be said on this topic since rejection is such a universal experience. Several comments occurred to me (and I rejected them all), so I'll just get some popcorn and watch for a while.


I suspect that it is often the case that those who are in wont for those human relationships often lack the resources of various kinds to just 'go out and make new friends...etc." Yes, those things need to be done, but let us not rub salt in the wounds and tell them to just get in gear and do it. Because human beings -are- created to be social, they'd have done so if it were in their power to do so unaided.

Mary Kay

Puzzled, yes those "in wont for those human relatinships" would likely have fear of rejection, but couldn't it be said that all of us at some time, have experienced rejection or feared rejection? I think it's safe to say that there are outwardly successful people, even de facto successful people, with a fear of rejection.

Just tossing that in.

J.R. Stoodley

As someone with a lot of experience of rejection, and a couple years in the past where I had no real friends at all, I'll say that on the one hand Puzzled is right, saying affectively "get it in gear socially" does not help someone in that situation. On the other hand, in less extreme situations perhap it is a good idea to advise getting out and doing things socially more. Various things including being legal to drink have gotten me out a lot more this year, and as a result I have made a lot of new friends and have a much more fulfilling social life than ever before.

It is also good to emphasize that seeking social approval, working on social skills, etc. is not sinful and could even be the will of God for you at the moment. Of course things could go to far, towards vanity or putting the approval of others above approval from God (leading to bad behavior)or neglecting other duties or whatever, but I don't think anyone here is suggesting those things are ok.


I haven't read the book either...but from the way the excerpt is described and the phrasing used, it sounds like the message's target audience is not so much the people who put socializing ahead of God, but the people (like I used to be) who feel themselves utterly cut off from the human race, and are on the verge of true despair from it.

I've been there. Recovering alcoholics yammer on about "hitting bottom" and I never really got what they meant before, but for me, Miami was "bottom"...and just as hitting it can push an addict into recovery, hitting it pushed then-quasi-atheist me back into the Church in which I was born but not actually raised.

Yes, the companionship of other human beings is important _also_. But it's a very fickle thing. It can be lost entirely for any number of reasons, some of them our own fault and predictable, others our fault and not predictable, and others not even our own fault but rather merely the result of chance circumstance. Once lost, restoring it can be an extremely difficult undertaking.

People in such situations can really very desperately need to know that God loves them first, last, and always, regardless of whether their fellow humans can be convinced to do so. It's an important message, despite being perhaps theologically and psychologically incomplete.

Mary Kay

Matt, that's how I read it also. The first time I read this thread, what popped into my head was "Only in God is my soul at rest" (ps. 62).

One reason why I sort of danced around this topic is that all of the above are good points. Catherine Doherty has written about "doubts, loneliness and rejection" and says that sometimes one needs to do the people thing and sometimes it's God drawing a person more deeply to Himself.

What jumped out at me from the person who wrote to Jimmy was the Catholic/separated brethren aspect. Recently, I've been reading The Dark Night of the Soul, both the book itself and about it. I was surprised to read that Mother Teresa spent the last 40 years of her life in a dark night and (although I can't find the quote) said she felt like the most rejected person on earth. I think that experience can only be fully understood by people in the Catholic faith.

Anyway, my two cents for the morning.


We must also remember though that we shouldn't give in to the 'crowd mentality' and compromise our values and Catholic beliefs just for the sake of 'fitting with the crowd' and submit to popular opinion all because of the worldly desire for human approval/human relationship.

After all, even in the face of unpopularity, Jesus never gave into the crowd. In John 6, when people, including his disciples, threatened to leave him because of his teachings on the Eucharist, if winning people's approval were what was important to him, Jesus could have stated then, in order to salvage this situation and his human relationships, that he was merely referring to the Eucharist as something symbolic, as most Protestants have believed all along.

Also, if it is human opinion, human approval, that is what is above all most important, remember that in the end, it was the crowd that called for the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus could have won human approval from these folks had he acquiesced to their needs and demands; yet, he chose to stand on the side of Truth and fulfill the will of his Heavenly Father, even if it meant human disapproval.

Today, just for the sake of human relationships and human approval, people sacrifice their values and beliefs (e.g., about abortion, marriage as something sacred, etc.) because for want of human approval and just fall in the crowd. I think Jesus taught us to be better than this and rise above the crowd, even if it means human disapproval and sacrificing human relationships. We can also see this virtue in the lives of the Saints as well, where even in the face of loosing relationships even with their own family in addition to those of their friends and meeting up with disapproval by many, they, for the sake of Christ, were willing to sacrifice all these things for God.

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