Witness

Over the past several weeks, faithful Catholics have been circling the wagons in an attempt to understand what’s gone wrong with the culture, and what one ought to do going forward.  The recent election, more than any other in recent history, has struck a nerve.

But don’t worry, I’m not writing about the election today.  That proverbial horse has already been beaten to a proverbial death, many times over.  No need to rehash anything here.

What I am far more concerned about is faith–more specifically, the Catholic faith, and how well I am living this faith.  See I am convinced more than ever that while we may see this or that issue playing out the wrong way in the political arena, what the world needs most of all are true and humble witnesses living in earnest and joyful obedience to God.

This witness will of course include one’s choices made in the voting booth, but that only happens every two to four years.  So clearly that is a side-issue, or at most a side-effect of living an authentically Catholic life the other 364 days that year.

Of all people, the Catholic witness ought to be bold, and clear.  We have centuries’-worth of beautiful Church documents, letters, and wisdom to draw from.  We have the saints, the martyrs, the popes, and the doctors.  We have the Sacraments.  We have the truth.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”  Perhaps not what one might expect coming from a woman famous for her laborious work among the sick and dying, but that makes it all the more telling, I think.

Because our world is surely NOT at peace.

Our culture is not at peace.

The scourge of abortion, the reality of crumbling marriages and broken homes, the swath of destruction left by pornography and the misuse of sexuality…all of it is bitterly and painfully overwhelming.  I grieve for the victims left in the wake of these social and soul-destroying ills, and simultaneously wonder what I can possibly do about it.  It’s tempting to believe that in order to change the world (which, let’s face it, every 18 year old genuinely believes he or she is going to do), we must have the time and means to exactly imitate the sister in Calcutta.  (Moving to the slums and taking a vow of poverty, for example.)  Which, truth be told, is more than a little discouraging—I am, afterall, a mother to seven, with number eight due in a few months.  My vocation necessitates my presence in my home, and my duties require things like daily meal preparation and the constant tending to small children.  I homeschool, as well.  So what is someone like me to do?  When I am concerned about the state of the world?

I believe I must—we must—press onward in the precise vocation God has given us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and on the Sacraments, cultivating a home of charity and  of peace.  The world will keep spinning, the culture may continue crumbling, but the only way to transform society is from the roots up.

We must live a Catholic witness.

For far too long we have flirted with the world, attempting to emulate their customs, and in doing so have shed our distinct Catholic identity.  What might some of the martyrs think of the way we live?  If they saw our looking to the government for our salvation, or the way we have slowly but surely bought into the culture’s ideas of success and happiness?

You see, our society is now not only post-modern, but post-Christian as well, and thus begins a new chapter in the life of Christ’s Church here in America.  Our lives and homes must reflect the truth and love of God, and if they do?  We will look vastly different from most of the world.  And if we don’t, we ought to really ask ourselves if we are shining as a witness, or merely straddling the fence.

But oh, it is hard.  It is more difficult to properly love the people around our own dinner table than the ones at the homeless shelter, and it is not easy raising children up in a faith which sets them apart from most of their peers.  The long road of obedience to Jesus is not always a smooth one, for sure.

But this is precisely what our Lord requires of us, and this is what will ultimately change hearts and save souls.  I’ll be honest and say I was discouraged right along with everyone else when the election results came in.  But you know what?  More than anything else, I felt convicted that I must simply work even harder to give my children a strong foundation with a distinctly Catholic worldview.  This is why we homeschool, why we invest time each day in reading about a great saint, why we take our children to Mass instead of leaving them at home.  This is why we pray a decade of the Rosary together each night as a family.

See my greatest platform and my largest sphere of influence is not my circle of real-life-friends or list of Facebook acquaintances, and it’s certainly not my blog or this column here at Ignitum–no matter how much traffic I get.  It is, instead, my home.  My children and my husband, the people God has given me to pour out my life and love upon.  That is the greatest and most important contribution I can make to both the Church and to the world.  Some are indeed called to forsake all possessions and live amongst the poor in a far-off country, but I have been called to marriage.  And that is no small thing.

Because really, how might our culture be different if it were permeated by loving, faithfully Catholic couples raising faithfully Catholic children?  How might our Church be different?  How might the world be impacted by Jesus’ beautiful bride if she were a bastion of life?

Now more than ever, we must resolve to boldly live our vocations and Catholic identity, even in the face of opposition and scorn.  Especially in the face of opposition and scorn.  We must rethink our priorities and how we have ordered our lives, and make adjustments until they match the standards set for us by the Church.

If we are married, we must consider if we are truly open to life and to children as a natural part of marriage.  If we have children, we must teach them the faith, guide them in the truth, and instill in them a love for God and for His Holy Church.

Married or not, we must pursue a life of chastity and service appropriate to our station in life, and cultivate virtue in our hearts.

We must forget the world and all of its trappings.

And instead, live boldly for Jesus Christ, and accept the fact that we are merely passing through a foreign land–because our true citizenship is with God, in Heaven.  The greatest thing we Catholics can do for the world is to humbly live out our faith, and to be a witness.  It may not be glamorous or earth-shattering, but there it is.  And please hear me when I say this doesn’t mean that we disengage from society or hide in our homes, refusing to vote and participate in our communities.  Quite the opposite, actually.

But Blessed Mother Teresa knew that peace, holiness and love must begin within our families and homes.  And that this is the long, God-given road to a world–and a Church–transformed.

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