Those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, Christ promised us, will inherit the kingdom of God.
Given the cultural climate, we’d do well to meditate on this promise and prepare ourselves for battle.
Take for example the recent incident that erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina. Nashville Dominican Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel gave a presentation at a Catholic high school on the Church’s teaching about marriage, family life, and sexuality.
The youthful and engaging Sister, who earned a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, presented on the theme, “Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift.” Because of her reputation for orthodoxy and gentleness, it is hard to believe that the presentation was any more hateful than the truth of the topic presented. Following her talk, however, a group of agitated students, parents, and even some faculty spoke out strongly against Sr. Laurel for her “hateful” and “offensive” remarks. As a result, it was announced that she would take a sabbatical from her teaching post.
The fallout from Sr. Laurel’s presentation on Church teaching illustrates our culture’s distorted perception of reality. Her audience took offense because the truth was spoken as truth.
We live in an age of relativism. We’ve been conditioned to dilute the truth, present it as one valid option among many, or abstain from presenting it altogether. But this enforces a subjective mentality that attempts to conform the truth to one’s own preferences or purposes. As CUF founder H. Lyman Stebbins once quipped, “Our Lord never said, ‘Blessed are they who hear the word of God, and, when they agree with it, do it.’”
Now more than ever, all Christians— especially the lay faithful—must take up arms in defense of the truth. This requires not only an affirmation of what is true, but also a refutation of all that is not. In that vein, Stebbins concluded, “Those who want to protect Holy Church from harm have the obligation before God to be in conflict with everything that would do her injury, whether the injury is intended or not. About that there can be no question or difficulty.” If we truly love Christ, how can we not risk everything in defense of His Bride?
At the same time, there is a difference between remaining firm in the truth and aggressively wielding truth as a weapon. Stebbins astutely recognized how naturally we succumb to this temptation.
Now, no one can help seeing today the blandness, the luke-warmness, the faint-hearted infidelity and indifference—out there! The trouble is that it makes some of us think, “This luke-warmness is unbearable! Someone, somehow, just has to hot it up. Let us at least be decisive, courageous, energetic!” And so we stir up within ourselves emotions which are—let us say it—sinful ones: scorn, self-assertiveness, anger, resentment.
Our Lord knew that if we stood in defense of truth we would inevitably come under attack. That doesn’t mean we are to be the attackers.
We must not allow fear and ambivalence to silence us, nor venture to the other extreme, taking it upon ourselves to deal out God’s vengeance. “Many of us have been conducting examinations of conscience,” Stebbins noted, “but the consciences are not always our own!” This assessment rings true decades after it was first made.
The key to overcoming both of these extremes is to start, as we CUF members pray daily, “with the renewal of our own hearts.”
If our actions spring from love of God— who is Truth—we should remain focused on God’s will and nothing more. As Stebbins exhorted all of Catholics United for the Faith,
We know that the Holy Spirit has the power to renew the face of the earth, to usher in a new springtime in the Church. Think of that for a second! We know that He can; we know that He will; and we know that He will do it through His instruments, because that is how God has willed to act among His creatures.
And if we, His humble instruments, are put through trials in the process, so much the better! Christ said, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Mt 5:11-12).
Why would we fear to suffer for the truth? He suffered for us with such great love—we should long to return this love by suffering for Him. May God grant us the grace to defend the Church with fortitude and humility.