Knowing that I would probably need a day off from the computer after Easter, C. has graciously composed this guest blog for our edification on this Easter Wednesday.
There is nothing more crippling to the Christian message than the thought, “Please like me!” How many times has it you kept you quiet when you should speak?
I received a life-altering ray of light while surfing channels a few years ago. Mother Angelica was explaining the concept of “human respect”, how Jesus didn’t have it and neither should we. It suddenly dawned on me that my greatest deterrent to talking about my faith was my desire to be liked. The desire to make the message somehow “cool” was making me into pathetic mute. This little gram of understanding liberated me completely, and I began talking about my faith when the situation demanded it, and I didn’t care about the consequences. The results have been amazingly positive. My greatest unfounded fear was that talking about the hard issues courageously was going to make me hated, and I am still prepared for that. But to my surprise, I have been showered in love and gratitude.
Great opportunities are missed by fearing the wrath of unreceptive ears. Don’t be afraid of the angry people. They’re not so far away as you think. I used to flip past EWTN as quickly as possible for fear I might hear something challenging that I didn’t want to hear. I remember that subtle desire to think that those priests and nuns were really shams, then I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty about my own faults. Bishop Sheen once said that passion is a force and it has to choose a direction. I know from experience that what looks like anger is really fear of the message and its implications. Understanding can change fear into loving acceptance, but if we don’t have the courage to lead people to understanding, then were losing valuable members of the team, people who can launch their passion in the direction of Truth rather than rebellion. Anger and attitude are easy. The humble consideration of, “Maybe I’m wrong” is an act of the will that is hard to come by, but the grace to do that has made several 180 degree turns in my life. If we Christians “in the know” don’t lead others to that, who will?
How many bowls of homiletic porridge have been offered to the god of being liked? Listen, all you religious out there: if getting us to like you is your mission, mission accomplished! We’re falling all over ourselves liking you. But is that your mission? It’s good to educate AND be engaging, but which is your real goal? I think sometimes priests make the same modern mistake that some parents do: they want to be their kid’s pal rather than their parent. Your position is so much more powerful than “pal”! The dignity of the collar, the disinterested love, even a holy detachment, they fill us with awe of something greater and more powerful than that! There’s a time and a place for “pal” just not in the context of the sacraments. Don’t be afraid to upset us. If you are going to deliver the message authentically, you like St. Paul are going to be “disturbers of the peace”. Bishop Lennon recently reiterated that parents need to be the primary catechists of their children. He’s right. 100%. The only reason I persevere in the faith is because of my parents. But I fear he might just as well have said, “Let them eat cake.” We can’t give what we never received. It’s up to you in the pulpit to re-catechize us.
When I was looking of for the fullness of my faith, I was so skittish I could barely get near the very message I sought. I remember reading about St. Pio (not a subtle guy) criticizing immodest dress, and it was like a flamethrower in the face. At the time I was a poor little fat girl who suddenly whipped herself into shape and thought the best way to celebrate this fact was to dress like a hooker. Can you imagine my horror of any talk of modesty?! I wanted the message so badly, but I was as afraid of it as a vampire of holy water. Just because I wanted the message doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have hissed at you if you tried to deliver it. I didn’t “like” St. Pio for what he said, but I needed to hear it. Now I know that he also said, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry” and “Be sweet and loveable in everything”. Like all things Catholic, it is not either/or but both/and. It’s not a choice between gentle and direct. We need both.
Truth be told, I love Mother Angelica and Fr. Corapi but I STILL am not comfortable with what they say. I watch them like I watch a horror movie, peeking between my fingers lest I see something I don’t like. But the only truly life-altering messages I ever got came from them. Frankly I think they are improving with age, getting mellow like a fine wine. Mother has slowed down, and Fr. is getting grey. The message is clear as ever, but it is more of a roaring furnace of charity than a flamethrower. That’s my idea of the perfect delivery. It works for me every time. None of us are called to be tyrants. Christ did not give us the cross to bash people over the head with it. But every man is called to a father and every woman a mother, either literally or spiritually, and if we don’t want our kids to end up in prison, we’ve got to be clear on how to live a good Christian life. Our kids aren’t always going to “like” us, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to get them to heaven, and for that they are going to more than like us, they will love us.