Sunday, February 10, 2008


So what happens when you want to start taking your faith very seriously and those around you do not? What happens when co-workers or fellow students, or even family just isn’t up to or is even hostile to your faith journey? This is particularly hard when you are newly energized and those around you are wet blankets. It can be quite dispiriting.

It is a little different for a priest. A priest will at least have a home court advantage. People will expect him to stick up for the faith and not take him out for a couple of beers and the have the gang try to persuade him to leave “that bologna” behind. Then again, even if they do, he can go home and surround himself with people of a supportive mindset.

There is the story about the priest who goes to visit a monk and says to him, “I don’t know how you can do it! Staying behind these doors all day doing nothing but work and prayer. I would never be able to do it!” And the monk in turn says, “I don’t know how you can stay close to God out there with all that temptation! I would never be able to do it!”

I suppose that is how I look at many of you out there. Some of you are in very hostile environments. No matter how in love you are with Jesus and the Church it must be excruciating at times keeping the fire enough alive in your heart to keep being a witness to others who don’t seem to take what is important to you seriously.

But even intertwined in the most disparaging of tales I very often find a kernel of hope that the hard pressed Christian, feeling so down, has a hard time seeing. It is the very real possibility that those who seem most antagonistic have some kind of spiritual battle going on within that you are effecting. You will of course be the last to made aware of it. But that is the case with battlefields. And battlefields are rarely nice places.

You may think that priestly and religious vocations as difficult lifestyles. But in all truth I think that of the average, serious, practicing Catholic out there every day encountering every obstacle faith imaginable; the seminarian whose parents do not approve of his decision, the worker who came to work with ashes on his forehead of whom fun was made, the person who has started to take the faith seriously and has no support, all those who feel absolutely alone in belief. There are the heroes of the faith for you.

“Blessed are you when you when they insult you.”
You do more good than you know. You are the ones in the trenches. You are the ones who love despite the odds. Please do not be discouraged. Be true to God and to yourself and may He bless you abundantly in return for the sacrificial love you show Him.


Anonymous said...

"It is the very real possibility that those who seem most antagonistic have some kind of spiritual battle going on within that you are effecting."

DING, DING, DING! You're so right! It keeps turning out that way for me!

Adoro said...

Great post, Fr. V.!

And you know, having been in the real world and now in a church, I have to say that working IN the Church is no less difficult. Because we expect the people who are there to want to be holy, but it's just the opposite. I'm constantly confronted by people who put God on a shelf in favor of sports, hunting, working, a show, etc.

Today and tomorrow are going to be a couple of those days; I'm giving a talk on First Communion to the parents, and I think my opening paragraph may result in my martyrdom, but if I don't say it I won't be able to look God in the eye anymore. (I'm going to tell people that they have to go to Mass, and if they have no intention of practicing their faith, then they should not have their children receive the sacraments. Because a possible wedding in the Church in 20 years is NOT a reason to receive Christ now.).

And based on my experience in the fall, the hostile crowd, etc., let me just say I never experienced anything like that in the real world.

Stina said...

Thank you for the encouragement! Great post!

Adrienne said...

Great post, Father

Adoro - good luck.

Deacon Bill Burns said...

Thanks, Fr. V. I needed to read that today.

Odysseus said...

I have a dirty little secret (no, not the confessional kind. Get your minds out of the gutter, guys!). I believe that their are living saints all around us, even at your humdrum, suburban parish that entertains the occasional liturgical dance.

I came to this conclusion when considering the things Father V brings up here. I have felt, at times, like a lone wolf, or a liturgy nerd, or a prayer geek. I began to pride myself on taking it all "more seriously" than the people around me. Surely I was the only one so interested in prayer, who never went to communion without confession, who always bowed and genuflected and beat my chest at the right times at mass, who prayed the divine office when possible, who ....

But is it really possible that I am alone, and everyone else is this lifeless space-filler at mass? Am I really the only one who is following the priest's gestures, words, actions, etc? Am I the only one who is filled with awe by the tabernacle?

Of course not. Then I noticed the little old ladies that pray their prayers of thanksgiving after mass (when I am trying to get my eldest son out of the bathroom or catch my two-year old). I noticed the ladies that clean the church for free, the large Mexican family that often arrives late but always arrives, the quiet, single man who always genuflects reverently before receiving the Eucharist, and others who displayed an unusual solemnity.

I began to wonder, how many of these people tremble on their knees every night and pray fervently, selflessly for me or someone else? How many say rosaries as they drive or ride the bus or their bike? Is there man or woman in the audience at mass who reads scripture and the apostolic fathers in his or her spare time (and could probably liven up the homily a bit?)

I think, and I don't know why, that there are a lot of these people. I think they are quiet, unassuming, unimposing. They work at their jobs and raise their kids and think of the Lord endlessly. They scrub floors and try to remember the mysteries of the rosary, counting one Hail Mary for every tile they scrub.

I don't think any of us is alone. I think the saints are all around us.

But Father's question remains: Why, then, do some of us feel like we are in the trenches?

Anonymous said...

Why, then, do some of us feel like we are in the trenches?

I don't know for sure but maybe it is because when the Faith is in your blood, when it is part of your very being you don't talk about it because it is too private and so you make a thanksgiving after Mass or genuflect when you receive Holy Communion or offer up the pains from your arthritis for others or do a little spiritual reading not to impress anyone or bignote yourself but because that is the way for you to be docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit leading you to walk with Christ in your life.

Adoro said...

I met a Saint this evening, a man in a wheelchair opening the doors to the church in preparation for the Rosary group. He gave me his testimony, what Jesus had done for him, how He saved his life. Twice. From the same addiction.

That man told me that he doesn't just "believe" in the presence of Christ, but he KNOWS He is there. No doubt.

He is one of the quiet ones, one of those someone may not look at twice. But this evening, as he was speaking to me, I could see Christ in him, in his humility, in his confidant faith.

I think any of us, when we think we're alone, we have to remember that we're not. The testaments of Saints locked up in prison weren't alone, even Jesus wasn't alone in the Garden.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Father. It means a lot to read your words.

A current struggle for me is talking with a coworker about our mutual faith...we had a similar Catholic upbringing but we could not be more different today. I sense she wants to hear me talk about my views, but often feels I'm just a "mimic" of Church teachings and she has said I may not go to Church but "I live a good life." I struggle with judging her and telling her she is doing things "wrong." She is currently married to a nominal Morman, (her 3rd marriage) but claims she wants to remain Catholic, even if nominally. I'm kind at a loss right now to say/do anything. However, I know I need to look at my our faults before judging her and her, it is tough, and I pray for her (as well as prayers of wisdom for me).

Adoro...hope your talk with the First Communion parents went/goes well. I applaud your courage.

Rob...your insights are great.