It’s been one of those weeks. They don’t happen very often, but when they do happen, we all become more aware. This is a countercultural life we lead and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to swim against the tide.
There was the baseball coach who insisted that a parent must be present for the entirety of every practice and every game. When it was pointed out that he was making baseball inaccessible to any child with a sibling (or eight) playing other sports, he just repeated the policy.
There was a basketball coach who was clearly “disappointed” we were unavailable for a tournament Easter weekend. There was a frank conversation about the way Christian young ladies behave when we were confronted with young ladies who clearly hadn’t had such a discussion. Everywhere I turned it seemed, the big, Catholic family was sticking out like a sore thumb. I felt it and so did my children.
Those are the times my husband and I genuinely smile all the brighter and remind ourselves that this life is a blessing — that the crosses, though real and rough and heavy, are our privilege to carry. I want to run for the hills, to build a house on the mountain and gather my children around me.
It’s a lot of work to interact with so many people who touch the lives of my many children and don’t understand why we live the way we do. Instead, I try mightily to smile and give an authentic Christian witness with my entire being. Those are the teaching opportunities, the chances to show the children by example that being Catholic isn’t something we do for an hour on Sundays, nor is it something we do when it’s convenient. Being Catholic is who we are, all the time.
I think that’s why it was particularly disturbing to me this week when Georgetown University shrank from its Catholic identity. Instead of proudly being Catholic for the world to see, instead of proclaiming itself Christian, the prestigious Catholic university cowered in the corner like Peter before the cock crowed. True, they didn’t honor the president with a degree the way Notre Dame plans to do. Instead, they just obliterated Christ.
According to news reports, President Obama asked that the “IHS” inscribed behind where he was speaking be covered. The White House made it clear that the monogram, which stands for the Greek translation for Jesus Christ, not be visible to cameras. It was covered over with a piece of black painted plywood, which remained in place even the next day. As a parent who teaches her children to be authentically Catholic every day, I am dismayed at Georgetown’s decision. I don’t take down my crucifix or hide my statues when non-Catholics come to visit.
From a purely secular perspective, I might even understand why Obama would ask to have the IHS covered. It’s a politically-motivated, misguided communication strategy. Such a request is disrespectful to the host, but I understand it.
What I don’t understand is why Georgetown would agree. To remove the ancient symbolism of Jesus Christ Himself from a Catholic institution in order to placate one of the most extreme anti-life, pro-abortion-under-any-circumstance politicians in the history of the our country shows a clear lack of character.
They could have said, “No, we won’t deny Jesus at the nation’s oldest Catholic university. Respectfully, Mr. President, you’ll need to find another place to deliver your speech.” We practice responses like that with our children all the time. Perhaps if the folks who make decisions at Georgetown were made to practice authentic Catholic responses, they, too could answer readily in defense of the Faith.
Perhaps Catholic University spokesman Victor Nakas would coach them. He said, “I can’t imagine, as the bishops’ university and the national university of the Catholic Church that we would ever cover up our religious art or signage for any reason. Our Catholic Faith is integral to our identity as an institution of higher education.”
On Good Friday, when I talked with my children about Peter’s denial of Christ, and then we prayed the Stations of the Cross, my 8-year-old’s eyes filled with tears.
“Why,” he cried, “why didn’t anyone step in? Why didn’t the Apostles stop them? Why did everyone just let Jesus die?”
In this country, He’s dying again and again and again. It’s time to speak up before the cock crows.