Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

False awareness

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 18, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky Although college years are fading further and further into my personal past, some of the concepts I gleaned from my studies still provide a significant point of departure.

One of the important concepts I treasure from my coursework in philosophy, for example, is that of “false awareness.” Yes, it sounds rather heady, but actually is very practical.

False awareness occurs when an individual lives in a world and makes day-to-day decisions in that world based on erroneous assumptions. For the individual, of course, that world is the true one. But, in fact, it is not. He or she is living with false awareness.

It is easy to spot false awareness when we discover its extreme manifestations. There is hardly a one of us, for instance, who would not identify the false awareness of a meandering stranger on the street who insists that he is General Patton on a special assignment for the CIA.

The forms of false awareness which we encounter – or which we ourselves manifest – are far more difficult to identify. (Of course, we would be the last ones to recognize them!) Even in our personal faith journey, we may not be free from false consciousness.

One of the hallmarks of Christian spirituality is the realization that our full life in Christ is received, found and nurtured in community. Christian spirituality or discipleship, as individual as it may be, is never a private affair. Yet, the reality or importance of community often fails to break into our true awareness. We can tend to relate to the community of our Catholic or Christian lives in false awareness.

In this regard, false awareness leads us to believe that we are in a community of believers – individuals who enter or exit some kind of collective gathering at will. Such a community could be likened to the audience which watches a sports event from the comfortable and often disinterested distance of the bleachers. This kind of false awareness would find us speaking of ourselves as being “members of the Catholic Church,” speaking of Church as “they,” or referring to our attendance at Eucharist as “hearing Mass” or just “going to Mass.” In each of these examples (and many more could be cited) there is a false awareness at work which seeks to privatize our faith and isolate us from the dynamics of God’s saving work in the world.

True awareness would find us rejoicing that the Church is us, recognizing that we share with other believers the responsibility for the life and ministry of the Church. With this consciousness we would speak of Mass as a time for celebration and participation. This kind of awareness, in sum, manifests the truth that community is far more than a gathering of like-minded individuals. It is a network of interpersonal relationships which are part and parcel of who we are as sons and daughters of God.

Setting aside the preferences of introverts or extroverts, community is where God continues to be the “place” where we are saved and find the path of true life. We are God’s people, a Church. The faith we have received has been handed down to us by a community, and that same community continues to nourish it.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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