As a recipient of 8 years of Jesuit education, I, like so many others, can testify to the impact that St. Ignatius has had on my life. I have often wondered what makes St. Ignatius so popular. What about his spirituality lead to the largest order of priests in the world? What about his life has drawn students to his education for centuries?
There is an old phrase, “where the rubber meets the road,” that is often used to describe a moment of truth, or a time when something very important happens. St. Ignatius’ magnum opus was The Spiritual Exercises, a text written to guide a reader along a spiritual retreat. In the early 1500s, lay people could not go on retreat. People had to work each day just to survive. Even though there was a spiritual thirst, the general population did not have a way to bring Christ into their lives in a meaningful way. St. Ignatius sought a way to bring Christ into the daily life of all people, not just priests and monks. Because of the Spiritual Exercises, lay people were given a method in which to allow Christ into their daily lives, allowing Him to help shoulder their daily burdens. Now, people could fully experience the truth Christ had to offer. For St. Ignatius, a better way to express the old phrase would be “where the shoulder meets the cross.”
In modern times, with so many opinions and an overabundant access to information, many often find it difficult to discover relevance in their lives. In times when the Church is often considered to be “out dated” and “not relevant,” St. Ignatius gives us proof that Christ desires to find us no matter where we are in our lives. St. Ignatius also showed us that in order to be found, we must be disciples. We must answer the invitation Christ offers with His simple words “follow me” (Mark 2:14).
The success of the spirituality of St. Ignatius today shows the desire for Christianity that is relevant to one’s own life. St. Ignatius gave everything up and allowed Jesus into his life completely. In so doing, he was able to share his struggles and joys with the Lord. In following the spirituality of St. Ignatius, Christians today can bring Christ into their lives in a meaningful way, and can find Christ “where their shoulders meet the cross.”
Suscipe by St. Ignatius
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my entire will
- all that I have and call my own.
You have given it all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours, do with it as you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.
Thomas Coast is a theology teacher and Assistant Director of Christian Service Learning at Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is a graduate of the Echo Program at the University of Notre Dame.
Recently, I took the plunge into adulthood and joined a local parish. This was no easy task and was a long time coming. For the past year or so following my college graduation, I have been searching for a parish to call home by attending Mass a few times here and a few there throughout my city. Just when the “church hopping” seemed endless...I found it. I knew it was where I belonged from the smiling baby in front of me, the bright and spacious sanctuary, and the other young-adults and families in the surrounding pews. I had been searching for a long time, focusing on small things like location, time, music selection, and ambiance, but I realized it was the community I was searching for so desperately. At this parish, it all came together.
My new parish is full of people, from newborns to elderly choir members, from single twenty-somethings to couples celebrating 40 years together, and everyone in between! The people are kind and welcoming, something I had not found in every church I stepped into. In the other churches people didn’t sing, or the homilies didn’t make sense, or the vibe was off, or there were no screaming kids present, and none of that seemed quite right. Although many people go to the parish closest to them, we are not at all required to do this. I was searching for a parish that felt right to me, especially after going to college where community was the center of my life, I knew I needed a place where an atmosphere of joy was present and alive in its parishioners each time I worship there. To illustrate my point, the USCCB provides a perfect explanation of what a parish community is:
"The parish is where the Church lives. Parishes are communities of faith, of action, and of hope. They are where the Gospel is proclaimed and celebrated, where believers are formed and sent to renew the earth. Parishes are the home of the Christian community; they are the heart of our Church. Parishes are the place where God's people meet Jesus in word and sacrament and come in touch with the source of the Church's life." --Communities of Salt and Light, p. 1
Now is the greatest time to become a parishioner. It is never too late to join a local parish, and it can be as easy as filling out an online application (like I did!). Here are three things that helped me throughout my search:
1. Bring someone. One way to not be nervous about going to a new church is to bring someone else with you like a friend or significant other.
2. Do your research. Look up all the information on that parish before you visit so that you understand a little bit more about the priests, rectors, and the size of the congregation.
3. Go early and explore. My favorite part about seeing a new church was when I got to walk around and see where everything was; everything from the beautiful stained glass and statues to the bathrooms and church hall.
Not long ago, I yearned for a welcoming, warm, friendly, vibrant, energetic parish that could be my new faith-filled community. Taking this leap into adulthood closed a chapter from my formative college years and began a new chapter in continuing my faith journey. So, whether it is Marriage, Baptism, Confirmation, Easter, Ordinary Time, or Advent, I know my heart will be open to listening for God’s message of love in a place I can call my home parish.
Krissy Kirby is a teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
As I looked from the trail, I saw a beautiful, soft mist that seemed to be gently kissing my face. There was a purple hue on the vast fields of heather ahead; while the surrounding foliage was the brightest green that I'd ever seen. There was a soft breeze that gently traveled through the glen and seemed to be the words of encouragement I needed to keep climbing; to keep pushing. In the distance there was a long loch that seemed to stretch for miles and miles. In the air if I stopped and listened, I swear that off in the distance a lone bagpiper was playing. In this moment, I finally gained appreciation for the country of my ancestors. I was in Scotland, climbing Ben Nevis, the tallest peak in the country. I was on a pilgrimage through land of my ancestors. My grandfather's family hails from the northern most island in the Orkney Islands called North Ronaldsay. The Tulloch's were proud members of Clan Ross, and were happy to wear the family tartan. I thought I had found paradise, and I didn't want to leave.
Many years later, I was walking down a cobblestone street and found another paradise. I could hear bells tolling and I could smell another phenomenal dish being served at a sidewalk restaurant. There was a clear, deep blue sky above, even on New Year's Day. It did not take very long to actually hear a musician playing a familiar country tune. I went from church to church walking with the saints. This was the city of Rome, in all its glory. As I wandered the streets with our pilgrimage group, eating gelato, I thought to myself that this place also was paradise and I didn't want to leave.
In a way that's what pilgrimages do. They transport us to a new location, both physically and spiritually. This Saturday is the feast of Saint James the Apostle. St. James was one of Jesus' first disciples, was present for the transfiguration, and it is believed that he was the first apostle to be martyred. After his death, his remains were transported to Spain and he was buried at Santiago de Compostela. This site has become one of the greatest pilgrimage locations in the world called El Camino, The Way of St. James. Pilgrims since the Middle Ages have been making the trek in northern Spain. It can take a pilgrim several months to complete, depending on which route they take, and the pilgrimage is becoming increasingly popular. In 1985, records show that approximately 700 pilgrims made the trek, but by 2010 there were nearly 273,000 pilgrims that set out to complete the Way of St. James. This popular pilgrimage was documented in the 2010 movie The Way, starring Martin Sheen and written by his son, Emilio Estevez.
Pilgrimages can be anywhere and can take any kind of form. We can travel to distant places, far from home, or we can visit somewhere close to home. Pilgrimages are meant for us to find ourselves and to deepen our relationship with God. When we walk with a friend, we chat and get to know them better, and the same is true when we walk with God. As we move forward in life, we are never done with our journey. When we rejoice, God is there rejoicing, and when we cry, God is there too, comforting us. Pilgrimages remind us of this. If we can seek God in all places then one does not have to be in the Scottish Highlands, in the streets of Rome, or on the Camino to be on pilgrimage. We can go anywhere and we will be on our way to find God.
Patrick Fricchione is the Research and Production Associate for the Catholic Apostolate Center
To learn more about Martin Sheen and his Catholic Identity, check out this webinar where Sr. Rose Pacette, FSP discusses the faith surrounding this actor and the stories that shaped his Catholic Faith:
I remember the first time I felt true repentance. It was not because I got caught making a bad decision; not because I simply felt guilty; not because I thought about what others might think of me—all of which might be gateways to repentance, but not sufficient in and of themselves. I remember the first time I felt true repentance out of love of Christ and sorrow for the rejection of His love through my sin.
I was in a small chapel in the hills of Los Gatos on a five-day Ignatian Silent Retreat. The assignment on this particular afternoon was to spend time praying over and reflecting on your past sin, on how you had rejected God’s love and, in so doing, on how you had contributed to His pain on the Cross. It was a heavy day.
I took a deep breath in the chapel and started remembering and reflecting on past sinful decisions. Some, I knew blatantly. Others seemed inspired by the Holy Spirit. I had not even realized how past decisions might have affected other people more than myself, and I was illuminated in such a way that I saw how my sins spread out like a web contaminating the lives of others. Tears flowed unguarded from my eyes. How could I have done such things? I placed myself within the crucifixion narrative and saw that I had joined the Roman soldiers with their whips, their taunts, their hammers. I had pierced my Lord.
I felt terrible—like the scum on the bottom of a lake in the darkness.
And then I felt Him. I felt His gaze from the tabernacle. He beckoned me, inviting my eyes to meet His own.
“I can’t look back at you, Lord,” my heart said. “I’m too broken, too ashamed, too unworthy.” I kept looking down at my lap, afraid to meet His gaze. But the feeling of being looked at persisted, gently. After a few moments, I could no longer bear it. Anything, even Christ’s condemnation, would be better than avoiding Him.
I looked up. And I met Love.
I felt Christ’s presence in the tabernacle and saw Him looking at me as a bridegroom looks at his bride on their wedding day: joy, peace and love filling his face, eyes brimming with pride and tears and awe. The gaze with which Christ looked at me turned my blemishes into radiance. I became a spotless bride because of the overflow of His love. I knew, in the midst of my sin and ugliness, perhaps the ugliest I had ever felt, that I was inherently and infinitely loved, that my dignity was in Him. And so the tears flowed evermore—tears of humility, peace and joy. I had been given yet another chance, which I used to further receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
I assume the joy and freedom I felt after this experience and after going to Confession is how Mary Magdalene felt when she met the Christ and was freed from seven demons. We know with certainty that Mary Magdalene had been cured of seven demons, that she was a follower of Christ and that she was present at the crucifixion. We also know Mary Magdalene, like all of us, was a sinner. When Christ met her, she might have given up. She had been plagued by seven demons and thought that perhaps she would never be free. Christ offers her another alternative: freedom. As a result of our encounter with Christ's forgiveness--both by encountering His love and by being reconciled to Him--we can live in the joy of the Resurrection.
For this reason, it is fitting that Mary Magdalene is cited as the first witness of the Resurrection. St. Augustine called her the Apostle to the Apostles. We find Mary Magdalene in John's Gospel weeping by the open tomb of Jesus three days after His burial, for she thinks His body has been stolen. When Christ meets her, she mistakes him for the gardener. “Mary!” Jesus exclaims to his forlorn disciple, calling her by name (John 20:16). “Kate!” He exclaimed to me in the chapel. He meets us in our despair, our sorrow. Only then can we join Mary Magdalene in looking at Christ, recognizing Him and meeting His gaze. I imagine she grasped her bridegroom’s feet, kissing them in thanksgiving and bowing before Him. We cannot stay there in gratitude. Christ called me to go out from the chapel and to go out after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as he did Mary Magdalene:
“Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers” (John 20:17).
The repentant sinner becomes the Apostle to the Apostles. This can only be so after we have encountered the love of God. Today, I invite you to an examination of your own sin, of any time you have rejected God’s love. Do so in a sacred place: a chapel, a Church, a reverent place in your house. I invite you to this in order to surrender these moments over to Christ and to allow Him to transform them by His love. Allow Him today to gaze at His beautiful creation, which has become broken or tarnished by the Fall and by sin, and allow Him to meet you where you are at, to love you there. Only by knowing how infinitely you are loved will you be able to “go to [His] brothers,” to go out to all the world in love—radiant, joyful and renewed.
Kate Flannery is the Social Media Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center
I remember the day, many years ago, that my pastor came around to the fifth grade classrooms wanting us to sign up for the training for altar servers. He explained that it was a tradition in our parish for the fifth graders to begin assisting with this important liturgical role. Most of the class eagerly signed up and we embraced our new role with gusto. Despite only being 10 years old, we knew that we had an important role to play in the Mass by assisting with the celebration of it. Throughout my time in grade school, I developed a love of serving at Mass. I found that through being involved in the liturgy, I grew in appreciation for the ceremony and tradition that surrounds Mass. I learned the parts of the Mass and was taught firsthand by the priests why we do the things we do at liturgy.
Fast forward 13 years after I first began altar serving, and I am still an active altar server at a basilica in my city. I am fortunate that the staff of the basilica has been extremely supportive of my involvement as an altar server. There is a camaraderie among the liturgical ministers that I have found to be one of the many benefits I have gained from my time as an altar server, and one of the reasons I keep coming back each weekend. Women in the Church today are becoming more involved and fulfilling more leadership roles. We are a crucial voice in today’s Church, and it is important to recognize and appreciate the role women play in the liturgy.
Every time that we go to Mass we must recognize that just the simple act of celebrating the Mass takes place because of the efforts of lectors, musicians, cantors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, ushers, sacristans, servers, and countless others. Each of these liturgical ministers finds joy in the role they fulfill at Mass. I encourage you to consider volunteering at your own parish! In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Each time we go to Mass we are given the chance to connect with Christ on a personal level. We bring Him our joys and sorrows, we listen to Scripture, and we become one with Him in the Holy Eucharist. Being involved in liturgical ministries is a way to bring a new dimension to your personal experience of Mass. By serving in various roles at the liturgy, we can come to Christ in a more intentional way.
Rebecca Ruesch is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center
Forever and beyond will beauty last upon the fabric of this path we are all on. Life is a journey and a time of change, but the love and beauty that emits from the experience of life will last, will remain, and will persevere. Everything that goes through this life journey we lead as creations of a One, True, Loving Lord adds to the over-abundant beauty that is this light for our feet. From the spectacular of fireworks to the humblest of daily chores, everything holds within it an essence of glory, a glory given by the graces of the awakenings of the Spirit in this life. Such essence of glory protrudes into the days and nights, into our sensual stimulators by one path and one path alone, beauty. Beauty in the form of simple things, grand things, petty things, and profound things. Each passing moment has beauty in it to be recognized. All things bright and beautiful stem directly from our Divine Creator. All beautiful things reflect the love and care of the beautiful Father, abounding in glory and radiant light for all to experience.
Beauty can be seen in everything and everyone, if only we have the courage and wisdom to look hard enough. Such avenues of beauty are the various art forms of life, for example, works of art, music, literature, friendships, emotion, or moments indescribable by words. Art forms are anything that leave an impression on us, for life itself is the grandest of art forms that pours forth in everything it is. It is hard for us all to see the beauty in suffering or in times of darkness, but that doesn't mean it isn’t there, in the wrinkles and the silver linings that radiate beauty in a different light than what we are used to. For life, beauty is there.
The Saints are good examples of the beautiful life, each one leading vastly different lives. Life is beautiful in each human experience, including the suffering and dark stuff. The Saints are good demonstrations of the beautiful human experience, including within it all sides of life: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, whose feast we celebrate today, is quite extraordinary and is a good example of the kind of beauty I am discussing here. Her life, besides her ardent Catholic faith, was normal for a girl in her Native American village. Her life was beautiful in her great faith, in her dealings with her family and those who did and could not understand her reasoning for believing that Christ Jesus was her Savior, and finally in her simple yet profound suffering and eventual martyrdom. She is the “Lily of the Mohawks.” Contemplate the Lily for a moment: the petals, the pollen, the beauty. So simple yet so complex, yet beautiful in its complexity. This is Saint Kateri. She is the lily, the beauty of a life lead in the faith of Christ.
Personally, I have had a special devotion to Saint Kateri ever since fourth grade. My teacher chose then Blessed Kateri to be the one we all prayed for in our daily prayer time. Growing off of that initial, prayerful experience with Kateri, when she was finally canonized, I studied her life and virtues in depth, reflecting and praying intentions through her intercession. For eyes to see the beauty of the world and of everything you experience, pray to Saint Kateri, and like a lily may she blossom in all of us the joy of the beautiful Savior, whose blood painted the most beautiful image of all, our salvation.
William Clemens is an Undergraduate Student of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Why have I lost contact with my good friend from school?
A few weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing how friendships can wax and wane, and from that conversation came the topic of marriage and dating. My friend recommended the book, “Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility.” The first chapter focused on three kinds of friendship, which I wanted to share since it applies to every person we interact with daily.
According to John Paul II’s personalist principle, “…a person must not be merely the means to an end for another person” (9). Meaning, we shouldn’t treat people as just a way for us to achieve our own purposes. Once we begin to use the people in our lives as objects for our own purposes or enjoyment, we do “violence to the very essence of the other” (9).
Why do we not commit when a friend asks if we want to hang out later in the week? We want to be available in case something more enjoyable comes later, so we don’t give our friend a definitive “yes” or “no”. We keep this friend as a “back up,” which is both hurtful to our friend and harmful to our relationship with them. Once this utilitarian attitude is adopted, we reduce the people in our lives to an object for our enjoyment. There is no foundation for a relationship if we are only with friends as long as they are advantageous to us in some way (12).
Aristotle stated there are three kinds of friendship based on three different types of affection that bonds people. The first friendship is of utility. Friendship is based on benefit or quid pro quo. Many work relationships tend to be in this category. The second friendship is pleasantness, where friendship is based on the amount of pleasure gained from the relationship. The friend is the cause of some pleasure to us, and is mostly about having fun together. Aristotle says these two types of friendships do not represent friendship to its fullest because when usefulness or good times leave (such as coworkers or friends moving) the friendship often ends (13).
The third form of friendship is virtuous. Two friends are united in the pursuit of a common goal for a moral, good life, and not self-interest. In a virtuous friendship, the individuals are committed to pursing something that goes beyond their own self-interests. This friendship is more concerned about what is best for the other person in pursuing a virtuous life.
John Paul II says, “the only way two human persons can avoid using each other is to relate in pursuit of a common good” (15). In our friendships and relationships, it is tempting to want others to do as we ask, conforming to our plans, schedules, preferences, and desires. For example, a friend may ask us to look over an application for a job, but we would rather watch TV. John Paul II states that, “when two different people consciously choose a common aim his puts them on a footing of equality, and preludes the possibility that one of them might be subordinated to the other” (16-17).
In this “do what you want, when you want it” culture, I’ve caught myself in the spirit of utilitarianism, particularly when I am stressed or very busy. I’ve also found myself on the receiving end of someone in the spirit of utilitarianism, and it’s often led to the friendship not lasting. How have you noticed or even experienced the spirit of utilitarianism in relationships?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few truly virtuous friendships. There are a few college friends where I cannot go too long without catching up over Skype, text, and phone calls. I find that we share catch up time equally, constantly asking each other questions instead of self-centered updates devoid of inquiry for the other person’s life. We share struggles and achievements of our spiritual life as well as obstacles we face. We pick up right where we left off and it’s like we’d just seen each other yesterday.
Have you experienced a virtuous friendship? What made it different from other relationships that were “useful” or “pleasant”?
As one last final thought, imagine a world where each of us treated everyone we encounter by using the personalist principle. Imagine how much more of a caring and virtuous environment we’d live in. While it is a struggle, we can strive for this each day.
Dana Edwards is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. She currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida where she works as a Digital Strategist, and volunteers as a lector and with communication outreach at her local parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
I have been taught lectio divina in the past, which I practiced fervently at one time and set aside as I pursued other spiritual interests. Lectio divina, though, has never been put together for me quite the way Fr. Chris Hayden (a New Testament scholar, author, and a priest in the Diocese of Ferns, Ireland) was able to do when I recently attended his seminar “Praying the Scriptures.” As a result, I have refreshed my own spiritual life and have reincorporated lectio divina into my spiritual repertoire. My point here is not to relay new facts but (as Fr. Chris would say) to rehearse what we already know – to cement who we are as a people who want to pray, who want to grow in the spiritual life.
Lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) was not something new to Christians but flowed out of the Hebrew method of studying the Scriptures, haggadah, or learning by the heart: “The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (Deut 30:14). While many Church Fathers stressed the prayerful reading of the scriptures, Origen is credited with the first use of the term “lectio divina” in the 3rd century: “While you attend to this lectio divina, seek aright and with unwavering faith in God the hidden sense which is present in most passages of the divine Scriptures” (Epistle to Gregory 4). Traditionally, lectio divina is a Benedictine practice of praying the scriptures that consists of reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating God’s Word in order to grow in our relationship with God. Saint Benedict first established it as a Monastic practice in the 6thcentury in which the four parts were not so much steps but rather moments prompted by the Holy Spirit. During the 12th century, the Carthusians formalized a scholastic approach (“the Monk’s Ladder”) of lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation/reflecting), oratio(prayer/responding), and contemplatio (contemplation/resting).
We distinguish lectio divina from reading the Bible for enlightenment or encouragement, which we may do individually or together as in a Bible study group, and from praying the scriptures in common. Lectio divina is a practice that uses thoughts, images, insights, and inner silence to enter into a conversation with God. There are varying approaches to lectio divina, but in reality, simplicity is at the heart of the practice. After Vatican II and the document Dei Verbum that encouraged lay people and priests to use lectio divina, there has been a resurgence in its exercise. When we read Scripture, we should be doing so not just as an intellectual activity but also as a means of gathering its intention and meaning for our lives. Lectio divina will transform you for transformation is at its core – whether you realize that transformation consciously or not, and whether you reflect that transformation visibly or not.
To appreciate fully lectio divina, we must understand prayer as a relationship between God and ourselves. Through prayer, we enter into the abiding relationship of unconditional love of the Holy Trinity. Three key underpinnings of our prayer life should be humility, heart, and listening. In prayer, we enter into humility, deflating our egos, realizing we are not God. Our humility helps us discern the true self from the false self. We continue to pray in order to break open our hearts to God, to realize what is going on inside ourselves for the heart of prayer is not what we get but rather what we become. We all know we should be receptive to God heeding the advice of Eli to Samuel, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:1-10), but many of us might prefer to tell God in prayer, “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking!” As anyone who has been successful with Christian meditation or contemplative prayer will attest, we need to make time and spaces for silence so we can listen.
What should we do, though, if our prayers seem to be unanswered? Fr. Chris offers five guides or reasons to continue in prayer (he admits, certainly, there is not just five, but I find the five he presented crucial) even when our prayer life seems to be in a drought:
Because we have the Bible, the living Word of God, our spirituality is not a set of speculations. The Bible is our story – our metanarrative. Our metanarrative unites all of our individual stories into a collective under the overarching theme of God’s eternal love. We find today that the separate designations of yours and mine drive our society; today’s society is certainly no metanarrative, no uniting of us all. Within the Biblical texts, however, we find our collective and individual stories in which we participate along with Christ in the Trinitarian love. We can break our metanarrative into four acts: Act I: The beginning; Act II: The Fall; Act III: Redemption; and Act IV: Fulfillment. Our story begins with life (the “Tree of Life” in Genesis) and ends with life (the “New Order” in Revelations as found in Christ.) We find ourselves living in the drama between Acts II and III, that constant struggle of our lives that tugs between our disobedience and our obedience as we reach for that time of fulfillment.
With this acceptance of the Bible as our metanarrative and our understanding of prayer, especially the reasons for continuing in prayer when our prayer life is dry, we can appreciate the power of praying the scriptures to transform our lives. Lectio divinabecomes, in reality, so simple.
Fr. Chris told me not to give him credit, but I must at least thank him for traveling to Great Falls, Montana, for sharing his joy of the faith, and for his stimulating way of presenting prayer, scripture, and the ancient art of lectio divina that inspired me to take a fresh look at how I pray the scriptures. I hope I have given him due credit by relaying the simplicity of lectio divina and its importance in helping us live out our shared metanarrative of God’s love.
With Fr. Chris’ inspiration, I renew myself to the simplicity of lectio divina, enhancing my spiritual life, and I pray: God help us live our story, our metanarrative, as we pray for our transformation in You, our destination.
Fawn Waranauskas teaches in the Catholic Catechesis Certificate Program for Saint Joseph’s College Online.
This blog post was first published on May 27th on the St. Joseph’s College of Maine Theology Faculty Blog. Click here to learn more about our cooperative alliance with St. Joseph’s College Online
“Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!” “Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!” This most wonderful news remains at the core of the dogma and Gospel message of Christianity; yet when it was first proclaimed by Mary Magdalene to the apostles, they thought it was utter nonsense. Even nearly two thousand years of evangelization later, there remain those who have doubts, as the apostle Thomas did, about the Resurrection, demanding hard, irrefutable proof that they might begin to believe. Some reject the Church completely, perceiving it as clinging to outdated moral and socioeconomic beliefs. The persecution of the Church in various forms and intensities continues to this day, with some parts of the world undergoing similar brutality suffered by the earliest Christians. Critics continuously point to and decry the scandals and the perceived subsequent reformation failures harming the Church, referencing various statistics on vocation shortages to the priesthood, the instability of parishes, and any and all catechetical dissent from within. In a world where evil appears to be flourishing and truth is increasingly being perceived as relative, the faithful and nonbelievers alike find themselves wondering: how does the Church continue to endure?
“I believe in Jesus Christ” the Creed declares. Our faith is in God— not the clergy, the laity, nor any others who are susceptible to sin. Christ is and remains the “head of the body, the Church… through whom he extends his reign over all things” (CCC 792). Just as Christ chose imperfect men to be His apostles, He commissions us all to “go and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). In doing so, we do not call attention to ourselves but to Christ, whose perfection we strive to imitate in our daily lives. As members of the Body of Christ, we are obligated to hold accountable and care for each other as we strive to remain holy (see 1 Corinthians 12:21-31). When one of us falls along the way, we cannot abandon that person— Christ always remains faithful (see 2 Timothy 2:13)! Everyone has shortcomings, yet our Lord never shied away from them because they weren’t perfect. His perfect love sanctifies the Church and gives her life! This same love should drive us to pick ourselves up, seek forgiveness, and continue to complete our mission of evangelization no matter the challenges facing us.
As we can see in today’s culture, one of the biggest challenges facing the Church is the problem of moral relativism. Like his predecessors, Pope Francis warned how this way of thinking contributed to the “material and spiritual poverties of our time”:
But there is no peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
The slippery slope of moral relativism threatens the stability of society and the integrity of the human person. The Church, to her credit, is set apart from the rest of the world in her pursuit of Truth. The world, like Pilate, retorts, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) to which the Church responds, “[God’s] word is truth” (John 17:17). I take great comfort in the Church’s strong convictions, particularly regarding human dignity, social justice, and the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family— she does not back down because the truth is unpopular or uncomfortable. In spite of persecution, the Church has always and will continue to remain steadfast in calling the world back to God. As the song goes:
Lord, you give the great commission:
“Heal the sick and preach the word.”
Lest the Church neglect its mission
and the Gospel go unheard,
help us witness to your purpose
with renewed integrity;
with the Spirit's gifts empower us
for the work of ministry.
Though evil seems to overshadow the good in the news, evil never has the final word. God can bring good out of evil; after all, Easter Sunday followed Good Friday. We, as Christ’s Body on earth, cannot sit back and wait for it to happen by itself; rather, it is up to us to pray for guidance and grace to aid us in overcoming the challenges that face us in the mission God has specially tasked us to complete. In the words of St. Josemaría Escrivá, “He did not say you would not be troubled, you would not be tempted, you would not be distressed, but he did say you would not be overcome” (see John 16:33, Matthew 16:18, cf. John 15:18-25). We may pray for an increase in faith, that is, “to touch Jesus and to draw from him the grace which saves,” but even the littlest faith is sufficient to do God’s will (see Matthew 17:20-21, Luke 17:5-6)! May the doubting apostle St. Thomas intercede for us as we continue our noble work!
Thomas Wong is an undergraduate at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.