Everyone is familiar with the adage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” When I was bishop in Baker, Oregon, there was a time during the summer of 2001 when one would been well advised to reverse the phrase, for it was obvious that, “Where there’s fire, there’s smoke.” The frequent haziness masking the mountains and reddening the sun was a constant reminder of the existence of numerous fires. Unseen were the hundreds of men and women who battled these blazes day in and day out, men and women who came face to face with the extreme heat, the adverse living conditions, the rugged terrain, the physically and emotionally draining work….
That same summer, at the cathedral in Baker City, I witnessed and received the perpetual vows of a hermit. In the Ceremony of Profession, hermits take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They pledge to live a life more intensely focused on God, and one of relative isolation for the rest of their life. These religious often live in a wilderness area, and like the firefighters, are engaged in a daily battle.
Now some may consider this type of contemplative life and think that anyone who would choose it wanted to withdraw from the world. That, however, is overly simplistic, because the purpose of such a “withdrawal is not to seek peace [or escape] but battle.” ….The monk, the hermit, is not one who fled human society in order to find safety any more than the firefighter would be said to have fled to the forest to find solitude. Both go to seek battle, to confront forces that seek to destroy. Both go to the place where the battle lines are drawn and where there is greater clarity about what needs to be done. The work of the hermit belongs not to the hermit alone but to every person who knows they have an evil inclination that needs extinguishing or a bad habit that needs dousing. Evil, like fire, needs prevention, resistance, avoidance, and steadfast perseverance. The hermit is in the fire line, but each of us must contribute to the cause.
….There are many fires (i.e., manifestations of evil) presently raging in our society. For instance:
- Loss of respect for human life is a great one, a fire that burns rapaciously and will destroy much more than its enamored observers can imagine.
- Society’s preoccupation with and idolization of sexual gratification is another great evil, a fire which once ignited is difficult to contain.
- The glorification of the body and the tendency to see physical health as the only absolute good to be preserved at all costs, even if it means human experimentation and destruction, is a smoldering match of evil requiring a firefighter.
- Our society looks at artificial birth control as a sign of progress, necessary “health care” for women (since when did pregnancy or the ability to reproduce become a disease?), a mode of true liberation.
No. It is an evil. Many would dispute this, observing it looks, if you will, like an innocent campfire that harms no one. Only a firefighter is able to see the true danger, the real potential for harm, the destructiveness of the choice to leave this campfire unattended.
No one wants to acknowledge their campfire set the forest ablaze. Similarly, no one taking the “Pill” wants to acknowledge they are actively participating in and supporting a real evil in our society, an evil which can destroy families, diminish respect for girls and women, and corrupt genuine love that is the total gift of self and mutual donation between husband and wife. It may even pave the way for abortion, that extreme fire which has already destroyed millions of, not acres, but human persons. Contraception and abortion are “fruits of the same tree….”
To read more click Bishop Robert Vasa’s blog