Last night, I had the privilege of spending a few hours with some friends of mine. It was just me and three of my dearest friends with our Starbucks in hand, enjoying the rare opportunity to converse without the interruption of any of the 17 children we have between the 4 of us. The lovely women I shared the treat of my “night out” with are all beautiful, strong Catholic women. And together we discussed our faith, our Church and the struggles of raising our children to be good strong Catholics in this world that threatens to distract and mislead them at every twist and turn. We shared the struggles of our own tendencies to be distracted and misled, our own weaknesses and the challenges they present when constantly on display for our impressionable children, and our attempts to focus always on the goal of raising our children to know, love, and serve God above all else. We covered a lot of ground in the few hours we had and though we certainly did not solve any of the problems of the world, I felt so renewed as I headed for home in the chill of the night knowing I am not alone. For in contrast, I had encountered a woman just the night before who was ranting and raving about all the problems within the Catholic Church and her disappointment in its inability to cater to her beliefs. She was going on and on about how she felt the need to protest against the Church, which she was obviously a member of, by purposefully living in defiance of its teachings. I listened from afar to her strong convictions but said nothing. I wondered why she continued to consider herself a Catholic when she seemed to have nothing but problems with the Church. I wondered why she was so passionate in her distaste and so vocal about it yet was still willing to identify herself as Catholic, at least in name. I wondered, too, about whether or not she really understood the teachings of the Church. But, despite my wonderings, despite my equally passionate beliefs in supporting the Church and its views, I was not sure how to approach the woman or what to say in response to what I had overheard and so I remained silent.
But, if I had spoken up here is what I would’ve, perhaps, should’ve said….. Our Church is beautiful in its traditions. It is strong and unwavering in standing for the Truth. It is unbending and I love that. It is the Church’s strength of conviction in standing up for what is right that reassures me that it does possess the Truth and the fullness of faith. Our Church is not fickle, flighty, or changeable based on what is popular. Our Church does not strive to be trendy or fashionable. It does not exist to please the people or to win popularity contests. Sort of like Jesus- our Church strives to always reveal and uphold the truth. Jesus did not win any popularity contests. He did not gain the approval of the general public in His times. He refused to agree with sinful values and selfish motivations. Our Catholic teachings, likewise, denounce sinfulness and selfishness.
It is not surprising we, as Catholic Christians, are persecuted. Jesus told us we would be. I suppose it is not surprising that some of the persecutions come from within, Jesus was not accepted or supported by those from His own home town. Yet, like Jesus Himself, the Church remains strong and focused on its mission. The Church, in her beauty and strength, does not bend because it cannot bend. We are led, through the direction of the Holy Father, by the Holy Spirit. God is unchanging. Truth is not elastic or malleable, and so neither is our Church. The wonder of it all though is that the Church exists, not to control us or enslave us, but to aid us in our journey to Heaven. We are so blessed to have its wisdom and clarity in a world that is lost and confused. And if we are willing to trust in the Church, to accept and follow its teachings- all its teachings, we will be led to Christ. That is the hope that infuses the lives of the beautiful women I spent last evening with. The peace and holiness they possess is so encouraging and is a whole lot more inviting than the anger which I encountered the night before. I think I’ll stick with my Catholic faith. I will continue to try, as best I can, to follow all the teachings of the Church and I am grateful to know that there are others in the pews that feel the same and are willing to support me on my journey.