If, as I do, you find the New Age slogan with which I have entitled this piece annoying, good! But I have plundered their arsenal for a purpose, as I hope you shall see. As the nation enjoys the collective hangover it has received from the two political party conventions, I should like to draw my readers’ attention to several facts those orgies of self-congratulation underline. As believing Catholics – despite the fact that both vice presidential candidates claim membership in the Church, we count for nothing politically at the national level. I need not mention the unspeakable Hillary’s speech, but the Donald, although fumbling approvingly over LGBTQUXL issues (for which fumbling in itself I did not blame him, given that those letters are constantly expanding) did not mention abortion once. Now, that is not to say that he will not do something about it in office. He is a pragmatist, and may well see the havoc a falling birthrate has done and is doing to the economy and the military. But if a Trump administration does take some positive action, it shall be for his reasons, not to please us. Politically, at the national level, we are ciphers.
As ever more of us awaken to this reality, the result is often despair – which is what the devil wants from us. But not only is giving the father of lies what he wants not a good idea in and of itself, it is also needless. There is a great deal of constructive work we as individuals can do – we simply have to reorient our thinking. I ended my last column in the following manner: “We should … get to know our town or city, and our county – not simply for its own sake, but as one small portion of the Kingdom of Christ. Working for the conservation of local nature, the preservation of nearby historic sites, and the efforts of local libraries and museums shall bring us into contact with many folk in the area, and possibly provide opportunities to evangelise. In a nutshell, we must grow within ourselves the only true cure for the Schizophrenia of the West: love of God above all things, and of our neighbour as ourselves – always bearing in mind that the spiritual gifts we have to share are richer and better by far than the corporal ones.” In this go round, I want to look at this a bit more closely.
Most of us who do try to follow the four creeds of the Church suffer from two weaknesses. On the one hand, we naturally prefer the company of the like-minded – whose company, thanks to the internet, are available to us on a scale and immediacy never before possible. The benefits of this are of course tremendous – we can be reinforced in our Faith and in turn we reinforce our co-believers in it in real time from Singapore to Stockholm; thanks to the miracle of Google Translate, we can read the work of great Catholic writers in every European tongue. This is a huge blessing; but it can distract us from our fellow Catholics and from non-believers far closer to us. On the other hand, we all to some degree listen to media that constantly direct our attention to the international and national news, where most of cannot (save through prayer) really affect anything – though we can surely become deeply discouraged and angry at the ongoing and unavenged persecution of Christians in the Near East, often incomprehensible Papal off-the-cuff comments, and the Trump-Clinton follies here at home. To turn that discouragement and anger into positive action with real and beneficial results can be done, but it shall take not only effort on our part but a major reorientation in our thinking.
For starters, if we are Confirmed Catholics, than we are obligated to evangelise. It is really quite that simple. From all eternity, God knew us as individuals, and knew the particular circumstances we would face from birth – our strengths and weaknesses, our parentage, our ethnicity, our places of birth and residence, the era in which we would live, our future career – all of it. Speculating on the exact relationship between Divine Grace and Free Will is a surefire path to the insane asylum, which is why Pope Paul V in 1611 very rightly silenced the Jesuit/Dominican dispute on the matter. But we can know that each of us was placed in our circumstances for a very particular reason – the Salvation of Souls: both our own and those of anyone we can affect. And if we are tempted to complain over much of the human and imperfect aspect of the Church’s governance – which at times seems to put roadblocks in the path of summoning souls to Christ, we should remember Vladimir Soloviev’s dictum precisely about that human side: “…it must be human and imperfect in its historic manifestation so as to admit the possibility of moral resistance and allow room for doubts, struggle, temptations and all that constitutes the merit of free and genuinely human virtue.” God wants us to try to love Him and do His Will of our own Free Will. Regardless of Pope, Bishops, or Priests, God wants each of us to bring knowledge of Him and His saving Church and Sacraments to the people we encounter upon our life’s journey.
This duty of ours is in play regardless of whomever is Pope, president, King or Queen. But to be able to perform it, we need to first be Catholic ourselves. That means – at the very least – knowing, accepting, and internalising the Four Creeds. Beyond the basics, and depending to a great degree upon your own personal bent, there are literally mountains of Catholic theology, philosophy, history, and literature to be encountered. Alongside continuing Catholic education, however – and in fact giving it its reason for being – is the need to ever deepen our Sacramental and devotional lives. At the centre of everything, of course, must be the Blessed Sacrament – that true Holy Grail – of which every one of us can partake, together with frequent Confession. The Rosary and other Marian devotions, the Stations of the Cross, the Precious Blood, the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, the Divine Mercy, the Kingship of Christ and Queenship of Mary, the Saints, Angels, and Holy Souls: all of these must ever deepen within us to the best of our ability. These things may seem basic, but they are easy to lose sight of in day-to-day life, and absolutely key in maintaining our resolve and sense of purpose. If we are to evangelise successfully, these are essential.
But grace builds on nature. We must look realistically at our strengths and weaknesses (which shall affect how we evangelise), and our interests (which determine where). We are all of us in a given family, a given place geographically, have various leisure pursuits, and are engaged in a given employment. Let’s start with the family. Obviously, family circumstances are of infinite variety, and we may be parent, offspring, sibling, and/or all three at once. We may be part of a small nuclear family or a large extended one. We might even be single, far from any blood kind kin, and relying upon close friends for the support one usually derives from family. Speaking of which, we may be on good terms with any or all of them – or not. All, some, or none may share our Catholic Faith. Whatever the case it is with our family that the duty of evangelisation starts (and often may be the most difficult arena in which we have to work).
One could write an entire volume on this aspect of evangelisation. But the most obvious point is that even if one’s family has not been the sort of “home church” a Catholic family should be, it has certainly played a part in making us who we are. Gratitude requires us to share the Faith with those of our kin who do not have it – but very often our own past mistakes and faults may be seized upon to ignore our religion. Nevertheless, we must try; if we have non-Catholic relations, and if they find any aspect of our personality or our accomplishments admirable, we need to point out the part the Faith played in creating what they admire. Should we be parents, it is up to us to create for our children a Catholic home – one so enjoyable that they shall seek to reproduce it in their later lives; moreover, we must strive to be the kind of parents children want to imitate – and the importance of our religion to us must be part of that. Although to a necessarily lesser degree, those of us who are aunts, uncles, and grandparents must attempt the same. It is also important (and ever easier in ths internet age) to discover as much about our genealogy as possible – partly so we can pray for those who came before us, partly to understand who we are. And, of course, if you were born here, you had ancestors close or remote who brought your family here from abroad –and to them a special honour must be given. As the old Loyalist revolutionary war song puts it – “Our worshipful fathers, we’ll give them a cheer, who to regions unknown did courageously steer!” That is true if they came here in 1650 or 1950. Knowing who they were instills pride in us, and gives children a sense of belonging.
You cannot love what you do not know; to evangelise your neighbourhood, your city, suburb, or village, and your county – and also to make whatever political work you may decided to do effective – you must learn as much as you can about the locale in which God has placed you, and work to make it better. Study the history, geography, and ethnicities of the place in which you find yourself. Learn about its outstanding figures of the past, and its current leaders and governmental structure. Seek out its parks and natural beauty spots, its scenic byways and public gardens, its historic sites and houses, its museums and cultural venues. Discover the history of your parish and its neighbours – and find out if there are any ethnic Catholic or Eastern Rite parishes nearby, as well as houses of religious orders. Look into the Chamber of Commerce and whatever annual events take place in the community – be they seasonal, ethnic, or whatever. Are there farmers’ markets? What are the locally-owned businesses? If this sounds like it might take some time – it will! Where to find such time? Well, to begin with, you might devote some of the minutes or hours you devote to learning (and worrying fruitlessly about) the international and national situations to this quest. Believe me, it will be far more rewarding. When your survey is complete, it will be time to take action.
Depending upon your interests and talents, take part in the life of your local area. Find out who you favour (and don’t) on your City Council, and why. You may not be able to get the president or congress to defund Planned Parenthood, but you might well be able to assist it in leaving your town. If you are of an historical bent, think about joining the local historical society, and/or volunteering at an historical house museum, if one exits in your part of the world. You might look into civic or volunteer organisations – even local branches of national ones (you may not like the group’s national policy; but depending upon how tightly local groups are bound by it and what they actually do in your town, you might join). Perhaps your tastes run to reenactment – or gardening – or music – or cooking – or reading! Fine – see if something exists in your area, and join it. Remember your genealogical research? Well, you might be either interested as a result in joining either a genealogical society or an hereditary society – if you qualify for the latter – and particularly if there is an active State or local chapter.
What is the point of all of this activity? Well, there are three, really, in ascending order of importance. First, depending upon your endeavour, you may well improve yourself by either or both expanding your pool of knowledge and extending your range of abilities. Second, you may well contribute to the building of a better and more cohesive community – extremely important in times of disaster and unrest. Third, you will be in a position to evangelise through both word, deed, and example – if you are effective in any of these pursuits, your fellow club members shall want to know more about you – and, of course, what is most important about you is your Catholic Faith. In a concrete way, you can try to love your neighbour as yourself, and so God above all things. Mind you, some people have the time , organisational skills, and energy to handle jobs, family, and leadership positions in seven different organisations at once – others are fortunate if their everyday concerns leave them able to attend a monthly reading club. We can’t neglect our states in life to pursue outside interests. But what we can do, we must do.
Which leaves the workplace. Now, obviously in most job situations – be they blue- or white-collar = lengthy or detailed profession of one’s belief is eith forbidden or highly frowned upon. But even here you can make an impact. Find out the patron saint of your profession, learn about his life, and if you are allowed that much freedom, display a statue or image of him – and be prepared to ask questions about him when they come up. Invite whichever co-workers you are friendliest with to family baptismal or confirmation parties – which rites you’ll have to explain.
Remember that wherever you are, you represent the Church. You are able to go into places that no priest shall ever see. Just as the key to a happy future is making the present the best it can be, the real key to helping the country and the world is to do your best by the immediate surroundings in which God has placed you. If you do that, you may well improve things a bit in the natural sphere, and possibly win at least a few souls for Christ. But most importantly, you’ll have done a bit toward saving your own.
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