“If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I’ve been pondering this statement lately, and although I don’t remember exactly who quoted it to me or where I heard it, the statement resonates. Yes, this phrase does sound like something a well-meaning, albeit a bit cringe-worthy, stereotypical Protestant youth pastor might quote. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure the person who quoted it to me made that same caveat. However, intent and quality of the quote’s origin aside, it does cause us to ask, “Would there be enough evidence?”
Am I a “conviction-level” Christian? For me, this distinction brings to mind someone who is known as Catholic instead of someone who simply is Catholic. I understand that these may seem, at first, to be at best a semantic division, but allow me to explain. The former, someone known as Catholic, is the conviction-level Christian. Maybe he has all the Catholic t-shirts, or his Instagram bio has, “JMJ,” or some equivalent, “I’m a Catholic and I’m going to tell you about it” statement in it. Regardless of material qualifications, this Catholic lives his faith out loud and there’s no questioning just what he believes. On the other hand, the person who simply is Catholic doesn’t necessarily live his faith out loud. Sure, he goes to Church on Sundays, maybe you see him in youth group, maybe he’s even a fixture of whatever groups he attends, but he isn’t Catholic out loud. He says he’s Catholic if he’s asked, but the difference is that he requires asking where the, “known as” does not. Maybe he gets convicted, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he doesn’t want to be.
I’m not attempting to degrade one type of Catholic or put the other on a pedestal. I myself find I’m someone who simply is Catholic more often than I’m a conviction-level Catholic. The simply Catholic is still working to live his faith and love God. After all, progress is the goal. God doesn’t ask for perfection (thankfully), He simply asks that we try our best and we give Him everything we have to give. In a time for our Church where so many are hurt and betrayed because of the abuse at the hands of men who we are supposed to be able to look up to, I’m sure many of us find it hard to be either type of Catholic. So, for those of us that find it hard at times to live our faith out loud verbally, I offer this suggestion: live out loud through your works. It is a beautiful fortitude that proclaims the Gospel verbally, but in times where that doesn’t seem possible, there is another way. Be kind to yourself; sometimes you can’t carry the burden of living literally out loud – it’s a heavy, lonely cross to carry at times. If Jesus fell, so are you allowed to fall. There is no failure in falling, there is only failure in refusing to rise again.
Let me be clear, living your faith through works of service is not a secondary option reserved for introverts or the disenfranchised. Sharing the love of God through loving our neighbor is an incredible gift to give and cannot and will not be relegated to second best. Simply, if we find verbal evangelization may fall flat at times (as it can), giving of ourselves in another way may be just the spark that is needed (both for ourselves and those we serve) and thus should not be forgotten. We cannot all be great orators of the faith, but the beauty is that we also don’t all need to be. Yes, it is an honor to have the skills to be a great speaker and bring people to God, but we also have a duty to be servants. Servitude, more often than not, isn’t glamorous, but that should never be the aim of our love.
We cannot, at this pivotal time for our Church, be complacent. If we lack the means to speak out for whatever reason, then we must live the Gospel through our actions. We can do one or the other; both, even, when possible. The only choice we cannot afford to make is choosing to do neither. We cannot hide in the pews and feel that we are the only victims because we feel betrayed by church leaders. The real victims are those who have been abused. Our pain is a fraction of theirs and while we cannot stop the atrocities that have happened we can stand and condemn them, showing our support for the victims, and working towards the eradication of such vile acts from our Church, so that we never have to ask, “How could this happen?” ever again.
Pope Francis has said that our Church is to be a field hospital. We must heal from the ground up, starting from the most serious injuries, he tells us. Let us accept this challenge, wounded and broken ourselves, to go out to our injured brothers and sisters and bring them home to the hospital. Let us do this through our words and follow with our actions. Let us, in our brokenness, show how much God loves us despite our brokenness. Let us live lives of conviction. Let us strive to be convicted.
AMDG and God Bless,
Those Catholic Men.