Whenever I go to confession during the month of June, I’m extra frustrated. (And I’m forever frustrated with myself and my inability to get with the Gospel program. Those of us who write about the Faith are not saints but sinners all too aware of our fallings.) I struggle with pride. I hate that I do. For the longest time, I was in denial about it, too. False humility can be a killer to the spiritual life. At a certain point, unless you avoid the confessional, we all must confront our pride. I often think it’s an especially American sin. We seek to be self-sufficient. It’s the Protestant work ethic (Catholics are as guilty as anyone else). The truth, however, is that we need humility and God’s grace if we are going to get anywhere.
And yet, in June, there is pride in its rainbow form everywhere. Target maybe has moved it deeper into the store — but I suspect that depends where the Target is. In New York City, pride flags are everywhere. If you were going to try to boycott places that celebrated deadly sin, you would find a way to not spend any money during June.
A need for humility
Just before Memorial Day, I happened upon a drug store with a rainbow display that included a tutu that had to be for a child. A boy, I suppose. Why are we making childhood more confusing? Why are we giving adults more reasons to live in denial about our identities first and foremost as beloved children of God?
Rather than be triggered by the sixth month of the year, however, how can we make it an opportunity for greater love? Princeton professor Robert P. George had introduced Fidelity Month as a counter to the rainbows. We need commitments to marriage and family and true Christian friendship. Even in the Church, we’ve seen people given over to anonymous and virtual connections that are the opposite of the kind of union with the Trinity we are called to. We must reflect on humility and poverty — that’s how we make more room for God in our lives. For most of us, pride has nothing to do with the flags and everything to do with not surrendering to the love God has for us, to strengthen us, to transform us.
The sacraments of the Church are the opposite of pride. They are an acknowledgment that life doesn’t make sense without God. Our relationships are meant to be about deepening union with God. Let’s remember that the next time we are at the register at Target or wherever else. Nothing on this earth is meant to be transactional. There is a greater plan. To pretend otherwise is to be prideful.
A spiritual plan for June
So what to do about the pride flags? Pray for humility and, yes, fidelity. The flags can lead a practicing Catholic who read John Paul II on the Theology of the Body to pride. Instead, the flags should be a rallying cry to encounter people where they are. Many Catholics — including even priests, religious and theologians — abandoned the Church’s teaching about sexual morality in the years after the Second Vatican Council and Pope St. Paul VI’s prophetic Humanae Vitae. June shouldn’t be a trigger to anger or temptation to sin so much as an opportunity to reflect on the truth about love. It all goes back to Lent. What was the Passion all about? Selflessness. Self-gift. It had nothing to do with pride.
When I see pride flags this month, I hope I will pray for a spirit of truth. Pride seems to be a doubling down on confusion. Any identity that is not deepening our gratitude as created beings of a loving Father is going to set us up for some kind of failure.
Reject the deadly sin of pride. But, please, reject anger, too. People are so confused. We need to help one another grow in humility and trust in the Lord. People who go to daily Mass struggle with pride. Have so much compassion with those who have no idea because we don’t live the way we ought.