As Catholics, we live in very interesting times. The first time I read the scripture passage where our Lord asked whether the Son of Man would find any faith left on earth upon his return, I thought at the time that things would have to be real bad for so much faith to be lost. Well, it is real bad and a lot of people, Catholics, as well as many non-Catholic Christians have now lost their faith.
In the early Church, to be Christian meant risking martyrdom at the hands of pagan Rome. Even within the Jewish community we see Saul(St. Paul) rooting out the adherents to "The Way" to persecute and execute them. By the time St. John the Evangelist died around 100AD, the Church was already on her fifth pope and all had succumbed to martyrdom. To be pope meant dying for the Faith and this would continue for years to come. Indeed, to be a Catholic in the early Church took courage for one to keep his or her faith in the face of being killed for that faith. It wasn't until after the Edict of Milan during the 4th century, which protected all faiths from persecutions, did things ease up considerably for Catholics.
Today, we have come full circle as we see more and more persecutions against Christians happening all over the world. It is estimated that the last century saw the deaths of more Christians in many parts of the world than at any other time in first two thousand years of Church history. Though western, industrialized nations with democratic governments tend to be less aggressive towards Christians, it is increasingly apparent that there is a strong renewal of persecution being conducted toward Christians and Catholics in particular by secular society. Pope Benedict was right when he said that the greatest threat to Christian life today was from secularism; the squeezing out of God from our society. As opposed to being killed for your faith through martyrdom, which is very real, very in your face physical suffering and immediately recognized, secularism has a subtly that masks and insinuates itself into society to the point that many do not realize that it is happening until it hits them. They now find themselves in a Godless society that promotes the state as the new deity that dictates what the new truths are.
The virtue of Christian courage to live in our world today and face its onslaughts, while holding on to the faith, is an absolute necessity today, and I daresay, probably more so than in the past. In the United States, we do not have the immediate concern for the physical safety of Catholics, as many Catholics in third world nations do, but we are subjected to insidious attacks on reason, our emotions, our consciences, and our ability to discern what is the 'truth' concerning morality, and our choosing between right and wrong, and it is done through deception.
The truth of abortion, active homosexuality, euthanasia, contraception etc., has been successfully blurred by those opposing Church teachings on these social ills. Many Catholics have fallen by the wayside thinking that these sins do not affect them, so live and let live they say and they remain silent for fear of appearing closed minded and being accused of pushing their beliefs on others. When we do stand up to voice our objections to these sins, we are called intolerant and hateful. It takes tremendous courage to stand up to these lies and face the hatred that is cast upon us. You see this happening to pro-lifers praying outside abortion clinics as vile and hateful words are hurled at them, yet those praying continue to defend the unborn, knowing that they are on the side of Truth. That takes courage.
It takes courage today to speak out against homosexuality because so many faithful have fallen for the lies spouted by the gay community and those that support it. The homosexual agenda has been successfully inserted into our nations consciousness, slowly but surely, over the years through television and movies to the point that many see nothing wrong with same-sex marriage or adoptions by same-sex couples. Speaking against homosexuality brands you a homophobe, a hater of the highest degree. To speak against homosexuality makes you a hated target. Defending the truth of Catholic teaching against homosexual acts today takes a heavy dose of the virtue of courage
Today, contraception is so prevalent among our population, that teaching against the use of contraception makes us the laughing stock of many. We are told that we are out of touch with reality and we have a medieval mindset. Try explaining and defending Humanae Vitae and watch the incredulous looks you get from others. I get the same looks when I tell people I have five children. Five? In today's world? That's ridiculous and irresponsible on my part as far as many that are taken in by the lies are concerned. If you want to be laughed at even more, then defend marriage as a union between a man and woman, and criticize co-habitation between unmarried couples. That should get you a guffaw or two. Courage is needed once again to continue to defend the truth of marriage and the gift of sexuality that God gave to us.
The abuse by some clergy has been an effective weapon against our Faith. We are ridiculed for defending good priests and bishops while condemning the actions of those that have abused children. We know our Church is a Church of sinners and that our sins reflect badly upon her. It takes so much courage to say yes, I know how bad members of our Church can be, but I will remain in her despite what has happened for the Truth still resides in her.
To be Catholic today is no easy task to undertake. It is indeed a "pick up your cross and follow me" endeavor. The godless use pretty words to mask their real intentions and blur the lines of truth. Deceptive arguments and the redefinition of words to sway the weak of faith has worked very well for them, enough to place doubt in the minds of many of whether the Church is up to snuff and not behind the times.
Courage, the virtue to stand up against the lies of the godless and stand fast in your faith while defending it in the face of the evil that surrounds us is a necessity. We care too much of what others think of us instead of standing up and defending our faith. We cannot keep our faith in the private realm of our homes as society is now asking us to do. We are called to "go out and teach all nations" and that cannot be done if we are left to practice our faith alone, in our own rooms with the door shut. That is our duty, our responsibility as Catholics. To stand up and defend our Faith is to make ourselves a target of ridicule and hate. The only way to do this in today's world is through the use of courage. Pray for this virtue. Exercise it everyday and become stronger in your Faith. I promise you, you'll need it in the days and years to come as things will get much worse before they get better.
The Ordinary Catholic