As a Catholic in today’s world, it can be easy to get discouraged or even angry. It seems that society is getting further and further from its Judeo-Christian roots. There are stories of Christians pressured into hiding their faith, sued for their moral beliefs, or simply ridiculed for their fidelity to Christ. Television shows are becoming more and more blasphemous and now there are even publicly celebrated Satanic masses. Those who once told Christians to be tolerant of other viewpoints have now grown increasingly intolerant of Christians.
Do you feel a bit like that bullied kid on the playground?
Wouldn’t a good father say, ‘Fight back!’ But how can we? We are Christians. Aren’t we supposed to turn the other cheek?
At times yes, but not always. Sometimes we have to fight. The question is how.
Christ did not avoid confrontation. After having fasted for 40 days in the desert, he rejected Satan’s temptations [cf. Mt 4:3-10]. He drove the animals and merchants out of the Temple [cf. Jn 2:15]. He called the Pharisees and Sadducees a ‘brood of vipers’ [cf. Mt 3:7]. He confounded the Pharisees when they tried to set traps for him, like when asked about paying taxes [cf. Mt 22:20]. He claimed his authority over Jerusalem in the procession of palms [cf. Jn 12:13]. In Gethsemane when he identified himself, the temple guard fell to the ground. When he commanded that they let the apostles go, they obeyed [cf. Jn 18:6-12].
The Church also allows for conflict. An individual or a country has a God-given right to defend itself from aggression. That right to self-defense is the underlying logic for the just war theory [cf. Catechism 2309].
Here today, however, we are still fighting a cultural war, a battle as to what principles will ultimately guide our decisions as a society. How do we continue to fight this battle while remaining faithful to Christ?
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that we are in a battle. As Fr. Longenecker so aptly put it, ‘From the beginning the church has been engaged… in a battle with corruption, heresy and immorality from within and persecution and attack from without.' Once aware of the battle, we may consider the Christian rules of engagement.
Below are some suggestions as to how we as Catholics can fight the good fight:
Prayer and fasting – This is not an easy out. This is primarily a spiritual battle. To turn things around, to change our culture, we must pray and fast, which is the only way to get rid of some demons [cf. Mt 17:21].
Form your intellect with sound Christian philosophy and doctrine. Just as we must draw to the source spiritually, so too intellectually. Learn your faith: catechesis, apologetics, and Church culture [history, lives of the saints, Church art].
Speak truth. St. Augustine wrote that, ‘Truth is like a Lion, you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.’ However, at times it does take the courage of a lion to speak out.
Articulate well Christian values in the public square. Practice effectively articulating the Christian doctrine and moral values you have learned. Learn to speak in a manner that others will at least understand if not necessarily accept. For example, you might use the word ‘egotism’ instead of ‘sin.’ You can practice what you would say either alone or with a friend before ‘going public.’
Insist upon public displays of religiosity. Wear a crucifix. Say grace in restaurants. Have a statue of Mary in your front yard. Wish others a ‘Merry Christmas.’ Organize and participate in Eucharistic and Marian processions. Be very intentional of making a public display of the faith, ‘And I tell you, every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God’ [Lk 12:8].
Keep you calm but be firm in the face of injustice. Charity does not mean pushover. We stand our ground when defending the rights of God and of human dignity. For example, that might mean speaking up at a Parent-Teacher-Association meeting in the face of ideology.
Get involved in civic society. We cannot abdicate the public square for a fear of tensions. We must get be part of the civil and political process.
Overcome evil by doing good. We must never stop seeking to heal, support and build society according to Christian principles.
Live charity – They will know we are Christians by our love.
Decide to be joyful. Resolving to be joyful in all circumstances is a decision. No one wants to join a gloomy organization. As Christians, our joy must be rooted in hope. God is sovereign, and God is faithful.
Christ won the war on Calvary. However, each generation, each society, each family, and each individual soul is a battle. Armed with the Holy Spirit, we must go to win the world and souls for Christ.
Fr. John Bullock, LC