My younger brother recently told me, “I’ve always admired you, Jeannie. You were the one person in a room of one hundred who would do what’s right, even when the ninety-nine others didn’t.”
His compliment took me aback, mainly because my brother and I warred for so many years. His jealousy over my accomplishments severed any affinity we shared growing up. After thanking him, I recalled one such instance, which occurred during my brief period of disillusionment with Catholicism at the age of sixteen.
I attended a large public high school and befriended those who ascribed to varying forms of Christianity, which intrigued me. So I nonchalantly told my parents that I wanted to “explore” some of these other denominations, much to their chagrin. The agreement was that I could attend Protestant worship services and youth group as long as I continued going to Mass with my parents every weekend and on Holy Days.
After the pomp wore off from the glitzy worship bands and megachurch sermons, I felt restless but didn’t know why. One evening, I sat among over a thousand worshipers at the local non-denominational megachurch. I had no idea, however, that it was their monthly “communion Sunday,” but I quickly received an education.
As ushers passed around trays of bite-sized pieces of bread and small cups of grape juice, I was deeply offended – but couldn’t explain why. Aghast, I refused, but the ushers insisted. I stood my ground and refused to partake. This went on for so long that people started turning around to stare at me in bewilderment, some in judgment. It didn’t matter. I knew in my heart that it was wrong for me to participate in this phony representation of the Last Supper, so I didn’t. The following weekend at Mass during the Consecration, I finally realized why – because Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. That enlightenment secured my place in the Catholic Church as my true spiritual home, and I never looked back.
I was the one among hundreds, likely over a thousand, who chose what was unpopular because it was the right thing to do.
I write this not to boast, because my decision was very difficult. I was embarrassed and lost the respect of many friends I had made in that particular church. It was a lonely decision, but it illustrates one example of what it means to enter the narrow gate: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt. 7: 13-14).
If we are faithful Catholics, these days we are likely experiencing an influx of persecution, ridicule, and admonishment from our non-Catholic, non-Christian, and sadly, even Catholic, friends. Social media feeds spread headlines about vehement political battles, blatant disregard for human life, and shocking violence even among young children. It’s enough to make us shrink in terror, to hide from it all and hole ourselves where it’s safe and secure – far away from the combative and territorial, even heretical, worldviews and lifestyles being proclaimed and lived today.
We are among the remnant, friends. This does not imply superiority, quite the contrary actually. It involves extreme humility in the form of “bearing wrongs patiently” and submitting ourselves to whatever abasement may occur from others who spit fire and hatred with their words and actions.
We cannot compromise the truth. We are not called to stand for truth only when it’s convenient or easy. “Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient,” tells St. Paul in his second letter to Timothy. Or, more specifically, he states this:
“Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Tm. 4: 2-5).
We are living these times, my friends. It appears that the majority of people have stopped listening to truth and sound doctrine. Sadly, I have seen many faithful Catholics fall away, more and more each day. Some are beloved priests whom I’ve known and trusted – they no longer believe in Catholicism. Some are friends I’ve known and entrusted many deep, esoteric thoughts with – many are now atheists.
But our encouragement can be found in the words of St. Paul, who lived his own persecution and knew what it was like to be among those who persecuted, too. We must bear our cross valiantly, daily, and never be ashamed to be among the few who have remained steadfast in truth.
When you find yourself feeling increasingly hopeless, discouraged, and confused (as inevitably happens to most of us), when you are tempted to abandon the narrow gate in favor of the road to perdition, armor up with the following:
- Read Scripture daily. Write down and/or memorize verses that uplift and encourage you to maintain hope.
- Frequent the Sacraments. If daily Mass isn’t possible for you, try attending one weekday Mass per month, in addition to your weekend obligation.
- Visit your local Adoration chapel. In some areas, there isn’t perpetual Adoration, but carve out an hour of your time when you get the opportunity.
- Stop reading about and engaging in conversations that spiritually oppress you or contribute to your sense of despair. Instead, spend that amount of time reading, listening to, or discussing something inspirational – the lives of the saints, a daily liturgical companion or devotional, EWTN, etc.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. That’s not to say to exclude your negative Nelly neighbor from your life, but limit yourself to contact with people who add to this foreboding sense of doom.
We must choose to hope when all seems lost. Jesus warned us that the gate to Heaven is narrow, and many saints have also said it is strewn with thorns and rocks. Our flesh may seek the comforts of this life, but may the spirit overcome our flesh. May hope prevail in us, so that we can bring hope to a world so desperately in need of the Gospel message.