|Witness to the Faith: the Walsingham Pilgrimage, in August. Book now.|
On this persecution, he referred to the case before the Supreme Court in the USA about same-sex marriage. If they find it to be a constitutional right, everything changes: and not for the better.
I think the emphasis on the importance of being in a state of grace, which I've seen from some other orthodox Catholic sources in recent years as well, is extremely good. It can't be stressed too much that if you are in a state of mortal sin you have no sanctifying grace in you; you have lost the friendship of God and the life of God in your soul. Not only will you go to hell if run over by the proverbial bus, but you can't expect to be effective in situations of what we might call spiritual combat. You won't be able to stand up well to temptations; you won't be able to give good advice to friends and colleagues who need it; you won't be a witness to the faith. If you've committed fornication, if you've used contraception, if you've been complicit in an abortion, engaged in vindictive gossip, fiddled your taxes, or cheated your employer or an employee: for heaven's sake get to confession.
There's another aspect of what he said which, in the same spirit of constructive criticism I employed after his last London talk, I want to question. For he said repeatedly that as good Catholics we should challenge people, such as family members and colleagues, about religion. He said it was not enough, for example, to have a statue of Our Lady by your place of work, hoping it might stimulate enquiries or conversations; you must go out and initiate these conversations.
Well, as a lot of recent cases in the UK have shown, this is the way to get yourself sacked from any job in the public sector; it would destroy your career and your professional relationships in almost any other part of the economy. As for family members, if you want your lapsed siblings and other close relations to think not 'oh that's Fred, he's stuck to the Faith for some reason, but he seems cheerful enough' but, instead, 'oh that's Fred, he demonstrates how aggressive, unpleasant, and bone-headed Catholics are, thank goodness I left the Church', then this is clearly the path you should take.
Maybe it is different in the USA. The tradition of Evangelical Protestantism has left its mark on the culture; this kind of thing is more easily tolerated; furthermore the 1st Amendment protecting freedom of expression gives people more legal protection than we have here. But Voris was speaking in London.
As far as giving witness to the Faith goes, there is no obligation on Catholics to pursue strategies which are counter productive. Raising the subject of religion and your friends' and colleagues' personal faith, or lack of it, is, at least in the UK, going to be seriously counterproductive, as well as leading to the would-be evangeliser finding himself in poverty, if not in prison.
Nevertheless, we should be witnesses to the Faith. We should be ready with an answer, St Peter says. Not: 'jump down people's throats with a question'. No. 1 Peter 2:15f:
Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
How do we give witness to the Faith? The reality is that for a reasonably conscientious Catholic the problem is never finding a way of letting people know you are Catholic. A complete stranger in a public place once said to my wife 'You're Catholics, aren't you?' on hearing our children's names. Taking time off to attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation, abstaining from meat on Fridays, not blaspheming, not jumping into bed with colleagues - depending on where you work, even the last of these may arouse suspicions. The next step is saying something about the Faith, and again, this comes all too readily: you will be challenged about your behaviour, and you may well find it necessary to object to things going on at work or in your family, if only to your personal involvement.
I agree heartily with Voris that too many Catholics are lukewarm. Too many go along with what they should not go along with: a work outing to an iffy club, the wedding of a divorced family member, 'congratulations' to someone having a sex change. But that doesn't mean we have to start, unsolicited, quoting Bible verses about sodomy in the lunch break or at a family get-together.
As I noted when commenting on Voris' last London talk, he is addressing an audience of zealous Catholics. By all means fire them up about their spiritual lives. But you also need to address the problem of a possible lack of discretion. To these particular people I'd say: don't go looking for trouble; trouble will probably come looking for you. To prepare for this trouble make sure you are a model colleague, and a loyal and affectionate family member, with a good prayer life, a grasp of Catholic teaching, and the phone number of a good lawyer in your mobile phone.
There are other ways we can give witness to the Faith, of course. Book yourself onto the Walsingham Pilgrimage; come next weekend to York to walk through the streets to the site of the martyrdom of St Margaret Clitherow; and join our other public events.
|LMS York Pilgrimage: this year's takes place on Sat 9th May|