Catholics Ought to Partake in Extreme Violence [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

The late, great Marshall McLuhan. Photo by Manuel Bidermanas.

Headline got your attention? We’re discussing Marshall McLuhan here each Monday, and how he’s a role model for Catholic communicators during the Year of Faith.

McLuhan always called it as he saw it. He began his essay, “Violence in the Media” with a Gospel verse of which I was reminded this weekend. In Matthew 11:12, Christ says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.” McLuhan’s passage:

“The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence.” Violence against the Kingdom of Heaven proceeds by prayer and petition, prayer being one of the more extreme forms of violence, since it is conducted by superhuman force. It should not be surprising, therefore, that the ages of the utmost physical violence have also produced the greatest exemplars of heroic sanctity, as in the sixteenth century, and also today. Violence means the violation of territories, whether political or psychic, physical or moral.

Have you ever thought about prayer as a violent act? McLuhan calls it one of the most extreme forms! In prayer, our humanity reaches out to the divine. Earth calls out to Heaven. How much greater could a territory be violated than as in prayer?

Our age is one of the most violent — as McLuhan says. (Did you catch it? He says, “as in the sixteenth century, and also today.”) In fact, when we count murders alone, adding up all the abortions, capital punishments, suicides, victims of war, genocide, sexual abuse, and religious martyrs, our age outdoes them all. Then, add up the other sorts of violence, and the amount seems completely unfathomable. Terrifying? Depressing? McLuhan’s point should not be missed: Physically violent times produce great saints! As the saying goes, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” But why? McLuhan’s works stress the source of violence: the quest for personal identity. Searching for who we are, we violate others’ territory (commit violence) in the process.

That’s a thoroughly Catholic concept. Our Catechism tells us that prayer is, in the words of St. John Damascene, “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God…” because “man is in search of God” (pps. 2559, 2566). “Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence” (2566). So, when people suffer extreme identity loss, they commit extreme violence.

Today, we Catholics are surrounded by extreme violence and identity loss in so many different forms. In the midst of it all, we must storm the Kingdom of Heaven with prayer. Only in God will we find our identity. Only in God will our world find its identity.

Therefore, be extremely violent…pray, pray, pray.

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