I grew up with the Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honesty, Integrity, and Personal Courage underlying much of the expectation of my conduct. I devoured stories which told the tales of bravery, dedication, perseverance, and faith, and espoused those Army values, reading about the lives of the various saints, some of whom have their lives for their faith and love of God – and, of Jesus.
This past Advent, I was having a conversation with a priest, and asked him for clarification regarding defending one’s faith. I asked how we’re supposed to know when to let someone express their thoughts and feelings on the Catholic Faith, rather than trying to correct the teachings. His response was to always correct those who have gotten something wrong about the Catholic Faith. In those situations, he advised we ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, but to never shy away from clarifying or teaching what the Faith says.
His guidance made me think of the stories of countless saints, who had chosen God over comfortability and popularity. Since that conversation with the priest, I have spent a good amount of time reflecting specifically on St. Joan of Arc, whose last comment is recorded as, “Hold the Cross high, so that I may see it through the flames.”
And, as I have watched life unfold around us, I have realized just how important it is to be bold and brave in our Catholic Faith.
It’s not entirely popular to be Catholic these days. It is actually extremely awkward to be faced with pure, raw emotion from someone demanding to know why you are Catholic, when the Church only, “spews hatred and bigotry against certain people based on sexual orientation,” and, “maintains a wall of silence, secrecy, cover up, and finger pointing of child molesters and sexual abusers.” And, quite frankly, I have had to wrestle with some of these own thoughts and emotions, as I have absorbed the news articles, the interviews, and even the social media commentary and banter.
It is astonishing to some people that anyone, “with a brain,” could ever consider themselves a practicing Catholic. I have known others who have left the pews and Church entirely, with the most recent round of scandals rocking the Church. And, I can’t say I can blame those who give into the whispers of doubt placed in their hearts.
Yet, as I have watched the Catholic individuals and families I know shudder under the weight of the burdens wrought by mortal men, I again turn my eye to those who have gone before. Specifically to the young girl whose life ended early as she consumed Jesus in the Eucharist, from the floor of a guard-watched, ransacked chapel in China. Her witness inspired devotion of my favorite almost-saint, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, for Jesus in the Eucharist; it has also spurred my fervent desire to grow deeper in my Catholic Faith through reception of the Eucharist.
I stay in the Catholic Church not because of the rules of mortal men, nor because I agree with the heinous, despicable crimes they have committed. In fact, I have my own anger and disappointment to work through, regarding their teachings on a couple of subjects. And, I have my own grief over the actions, and inactions, of how they have historically approached scandals.
Rather, I stay in the Catholic Church because if Jesus – whom I believe is truly present at every. single. Mass. I stay because I believe I receive Him – His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – every single time I attend, “His precious death and its non-bleeding renewal in all Holy Masses…”
Not too long ago, I faced an incident where every fiber of my being wanted to run away and not engage. I read something which warranted a response from a Catholic sitting in the pews. My palms were sweaty, my hands were shaking, and I felt sick to my stomach as I typed my initial response, and then engaged a little more to clarify the points I was trying to make. It was a moment I wanted to hide my Catholic light under a bushel, and wished the floor would swallow me up. Even now, I doubt my ability to defend the Catholic Faith. Yet, it was a defining moment for me.
From that conversation, a phrase which came to my heart this past summer grew deeper.
Dynamic Catholic uses the tag line, “Be bold. Be Catholic.” As I walked my pups at the RV park, and realized the tagline was already in use, I shied away from doing anything else with the phrase.
But, that push – the same one which spurred me into developing this blog years ago – continued to persist.
In today’s world, being Catholic requires us to be bold enough to share our religious preference. It requires us to be brave in the face of covert and overt attacks on our intellect, our personalities, and sometimes on our integrity.
Therefore, knowing just how difficult it is, I am encouraging every Catholic reading these words to join me on a campaign to celebrate those bold, brave moments where we embrace our Catholic Faith.
I am creating a series for this blog, meant to uncover and encourage Catholics who may just need the encouragement to learn more about our Catholic Faith, and to do more with that education by allowing it to inspire us to live our Catholic identity, not just in Mass on Sundays, but outside the pews during the week. It is a series which will hopefully celebrate those instances in which we are not afraid to engage in recognizing we are all one part of the Body of Christ, as well as proclaim to others the Gospel – through both word and action.
I am inviting you, dear reader, to
Sainthood isn’t meant to be an exclusive club, and all of us are called to be saints. Through the “Bold, Brave, Catholic” series, it is my hope that the words others write will assist someone else on their journey of faith. The “Bold, Brave, Catholic” series will kick off in February of this year (2019), and will typically feature something written by someone other than yours truly – sometimes by other bloggers, sometimes by Catholic artisans, sometimes by Catholic military women, sometimes by Catholic men. Some of the submissions may be written by an anonymous author; other times, there may be links back to business pages and profiles. Yet, the intent is clear – it will highlight ways other ordinary, everyday Catholics are living their Catholic identity in a bold and brave fashion, as we all strive to join the Church Triumphant.
And, I encourage all of you, dear readers, to link up on social media with words of encouragement by using the hashtag, #boldbravecatholic when you have moments of being bold, brave, and Catholic.
You are also welcome to the graphics I created for social media:
This series is meant to encourage readers. It’s also meant to make each of us more intentional at living our lives with our faith on our sleeves, and with a reminder that we should have our sight set on our eternal life.
Dear reader, will join me?