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Greatest tool Satan can use against the young is not sex or drugs, but rather indifference.


by Deacon Mark Plaiss


       Carmel Catholic High School cranks back up this month. The faculty report back to school on Aug. 9, while the first full day of school for students follows a few days later. Once again, I will battle ignorance, indifference and ennui.

       The clash with ignorance and ennui is a fender bender. The collision with indifference is head-on. A teacher can easily dispel ignorance. Ennui can be thwarted by simply juggling the classroom procedure. But indifference? That’s cold, very cold.

       Ask any religion teacher.

       The ardent atheist is far preferable to the entrenched indifferent. You can debate with an atheist, and from that debate, the whole class can become absorbed. Even if the teacher possesses a spectacular command of logic and Scripture; even if the teacher is a wizard of memory and can spew forth passages from the Catechism at will; even if the life of the teacher is a paragon of Christian virtue; even if all these talents fail to convince the atheist, the lesson has at least been heard, has at least been acknowledged, has at least been witnessed.

       Not so the indifferent.

       The greatest tool Satan can use against the high school student is not sex or drugs. Rather, the greatest tool Satan can use against the high school student is indifference.

       Indifference is far more subtle, its residue is much farther down the line, and the odds of overcoming indifference– though less violent than overcoming sex and drugs – are far less than overcoming sexual or drug problems. Every year, sex and drugs claim victims,but those victims can usually be helped immediately and – hopefully – can be helped quickly.

       Indifference has a far greater chance of being a life-long problem. And though rehabilitation methods and services abound for drug and sex problems, nothing of the sort exists for indifference.

       What to do?

        I offer only the following: faith, patience, humor and humility.

        Faith. It is the bedrock of our lives. It is the foundation on which we live. This faith must be genuine, not feigned; lived not preached. Nothing repels more than the mountebank. The antenna of the indifferent is searching specifically for that person.

       Patience - the life blood of faith. St. Paul commands us to “put up with the failings of the weak.” (Rom 15:1) The indifferent is not impressed with your show stopping arguments and jaw-dropping examples? Remember, you were once seventeen.

       Humor. Is there anything more galling than the dour, self-righteous galoot who fails to see the humor of things? God has a sense of humor! Evidence? The woodpecker. God says, “I’ll create an animal that enjoys banging its head against a tree.” It is my experience that the indifferent far prefer the woodpecker to the sloth.

       Humility. This may be, by far, the greatest tool to fight indifference. Not so much in regard to the indifferent, but to you. You know what? You are not responsible for converting the indifferent. That’s God’s job. Your job? My job? Lay it all out for the indifferent; live the life of the Christian so that they can see it. Folks, that’s it. So, don’t have a messiah-complex. We already have a Messiah.

       My favorite comedian was George Carlin. I was hooked on him when I first saw him perform on Saturday Night Live back in the mid-1970s. Carlin was raised Catholic; went to Catholic school (albeit expelled).

       During his routines, Carlin frequently railed against God. But Carlin’s venom was reserved for the Catholic Church. When I’m blue? I pull up Carlin on YouTube. Always makes me laugh. Always. Honest, I laugh so hard tears come from my eyes. His profanity filled jabs against the Holy Roman Catholic Church are clever, precise. And they hit home. Sure, theologically speaking, Carlin is way off, but so what? He’s funny and his harangues often ring true to a certain degree. Besides, he keeps me honest.

       Think of the indifferents of this world as George Carlins. True, Carlin was not indifferent to the faith, but he does make me think, and he makes me think about that quote from St. Pope John XXIII: “The sacred deposit of faith is one thing, but the way it is presented is another.”

       My point: we must certainly not water down or obfuscate the faith, but neither should we make the faith legalistic or maudlin or vapid. And while it is true that we do not convert, (God does), it is equally true that your job and mine as Christians is to position a person in such a place where God can then take over and convert.  

       The indifferent need to see Christianity, not its farce. The indifferent keep us honest.

       Man, how I wish George was still with us.


Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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