According to an interesting op-ed in the New York Times yesterday, two years ago Google released a database of 5.2 million books published between 1500 and 2008. Researchers have searched the relative frequency of word usage over time to explore cultural shifts. Over the last 50 years words related to individualism have increased while words relating to morality have decreased. As a culture, individualism makes us less interested in using words like “bravery”, “fortitude”, “thankfulness“, “appreciation“, “modesty”, “humbleness”, “kindness“, “compassion” also “faith” and “wisdom”.

Lately I’ve been going on about the tendency of people wanting to mis-use the liturgy to assure their own holiness or to get to heaven without considering other people or even at the expense of other people. There seems to be a preference of individual over communal everything. The usual criticism, when we try to emphasize the communal dimension of a sacrament, is that we are watering-down the faith or being too soft or touchy-feely. Research shows (!) that this argument is false, “social and moral fabrics are inextricably linked”. That means, you can’t be moral without the communal dimension.

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