• “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” Please reflect on these words of wisdom attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. It rarely occurs to us to think about our own faith journeys, the example we set for others and the Christ-inspired joy we should radiate as the most effective ways to share our faith. Letting others see Jesus Christ at work in us is a powerful form of witness that will attract others who want what we have in our lives.
• We should share first. Why not be the one who breaks the ice by making reference to your family, challenges you are facing, vacation plans, a book you recently read, etc.? Start by sharing the easy things, encourage reciprocation by asking questions, then it’s easy to look for opportunities to share our faith. Pray that the Holy Spirit will provide opportunities for this sharing. If eating a meal with others, I have always found that saying a blessing and making the Sign of the Cross is an excellent catalyst for a conversation regarding faith. I have observed countless “guarded” conversations over the years in which individuals played it safe and politically correct. Let’s move beyond banal and safe dialogue and instead be courageous and transparent. If we truly love Christ and His Church, we need to let that love-inspired joy be known to all!
• Pursuing Heaven vs. being popular. Heaven is our ultimate destination. Will our critics help us get there? Will they stand up for us during tough times? No, they will pull us into a secular way of life that has little room for God and where materialism and popularity are the fashionable idols of the day. Francis Fernandez wrote that overcoming human respect is part of the virtue of fortitude. He describes the challenges a Christian may endure as “…rumors and calumnies, mockery, discrimination at work, the loss of economic opportunities or superficial friendships. In these uncomfortable circumstances it may be tempting to take the easy way out and ‘give in.’ By such means we could avoid rejection, misunderstanding and ridicule. We could become concerned at the thought of losing friends, of ‘closing doors’ which we will later be unable to re-open. This is the temptation to be influenced by human respect, hiding one’s true identity and forsaking our commitment to live as disciples of Christ.” (In Conversation with God, Volume 4, p. 269, section 44.2)
• Consistently pursue an integrated Catholic life. Do we take our faith with us to work, meals with friends, the kids’ soccer games and neighborhood swim meets? Or, do we only practice our Catholic faith at Mass on Sundays? It is easy to conform to secular expectations, but difficult to publicly show our love of Jesus, live out the Beatitudes, evangelize and lead a fully integrated life. I have always found inspiration on this topic in the wisdom of Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici: “The unity of life of the lay faithful is of the greatest importance: indeed they must be sanctified in everyday professional and social life. Therefore, to respond to their vocation, the lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfill his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ.”
• We can do more. “Really, most of us live below the level of our energy. And in order to be happy, we have to do more. Now, we can do more, spiritually and every other way. . . so you see how important it is to have in the mind to do all that you can. To work to the limit of your ability. Our world is really suffering from indifference. Indifference is apathy, not caring. I wonder maybe if our Lord does not suffer more from our indifference, than he did from the Crucifixion.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen
We must pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as we can’t do this alone. In my own experience, this is a daily work-in-progress, and it is never easy. We should recognize that there are others looking at our example who want to learn from us and be inspired by our courage, if we are only willing to take a stand for Christ. Think about how fortunate we are to live in a Christian country, despite the fact that our religious liberties are increasingly under attack. Fighting back and standing our ground in defense of our faith and religious freedom are part of our duty and our calling. In the early Church, to be openly Christian was to risk a martyr’s death. It is sobering to realize that Christians are being persecuted and murdered in the Middle East as you read this post. Are we prepared to be the martyrs of tomorrow and fight for our faith?
As difficult as it may sound, a sacrifice on our part is required. The sacrifice is simply to love Christ more than the court of public opinion. I hope we realize how little is being asked of us compared to what Jesus endured for us on the Cross. As I stated earlier, the desire to be liked, respected and popular is normal. I sometimes struggle with this, as do many of you. In spite of this, let’s pray for one another and continue to ask Jesus for courage, strength and the discernment to know and follow His Will and not be concerned about what others think of us.
Randy Hainis senior editor of The Integrated Catholic Life, where this article was originally published. Pre-order Randy Hain¹s soon to be released book: Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput) at Amazon or Emmaus Road.