It’s surprisingly difficult to tell where the Catholics are.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are tons and tons of Catholics. Everywhere. That’s sort of the point. But what I mean is that it’s surprisingly difficult to tell who is and who isn’t until you run them through the various tests we often use to find each other. (My favorite is the Steubenville Litmus Test. You tell people you graduated from Steubenville, and if they don’t immediately respond with “huh?” you’ve got a live one.)
When did this happen? Where are the crucifixes, the saint medals, the stopping to pray in the middle of WalMart because it’s 3PM? What happened to no meat on Fridays (even in Lent, many of us try to bend the rules)? What happened to crossing ourselves as we pass a cemetery out of respect and prayer for the beloved dead?
And who the heck are we trying to fool?
Are we embarrassed to be Catholic? Are we so desperate to fit in that we can’t even do the little things? Is that it?
Because, guess what: That world we’re trying to fit into doesn’t like us very much. In case you haven’t noticed, the secular world favors all sorts of things we are supposed to stand against. And just because we’re staying quiet doesn’t mean they’ll leave us alone. Haven’t the past few years proven that?
Look around you. And I mean, really look, beyond where you’ve chosen to. Stare into the very soul of this world and tell me what you see. Stop ignoring the evil around you. Stop saying it’s just something we don’t understand. Because we understand it perfectly well. We’re standing on the side of the Destined Path, staring down the gullet of the Abyss.
Perdition is only a whisper away. And we ignore it because it isn’t convenient. It isn’t comfortable. We’re tired of getting shouted at.
That’s the height of foolishness. We can’t just stand there nodding. We need to gird our loins and get moving. Because the enemy isn’t going away.
Lent is about turning back to God. It’s about being who He created us to be, his masterwork. It’s about running headlong down the path before us, conquering our obstacles together as God’s army on Earth. It’s about coming home.
So come home.
We can’t hide our faith away like a dirty little secret. Well, I suppose we can. Many of us do. But we mustn’t.
We absolutely must let it show. Because the armies of darkness need to know we’re still fighting. Because those wandering lost between the trenches need to see our banners waving proudly, so they can find the strength to soldier on, to come back home. Because to set God on the back burner and to treat him like someone we’re ashamed to know is foolish, insulting, and traitorous behavior. He deserves better. He’s the Creator of the Universe, and He died for us. Should we really repay Him by ignoring him, by penciling Him in for an hour on Sunday?
I say no. We shouldn’t. We should wear his crest (the cross on which He died, still bright with blood) with honor, proudly in plain sight. We should treat the images of those valiant soldiers who came before us (and fight still beside us) with dignity and care, keeping them close to our hearts. And we should not ever, ever be ashamed of our traditions, because that is a part of who we are. It doesn’t matter how “optional” they’ve become.
Why is it so important for us to do these things (if doing them out of the love for our Father and his Son is not enough)? Because these things, these traditions and sacramentals, exist for us. They are there to remind us that we don’t fit in. That we will never fit in.
How could we? This is not our home. We don’t belong here. The things that exist here exist but for a while, and our place is in eternity, with the One who loves us above all things. We cannot — we must not — forget that.
So I challenge each and every one of you to be a little daring. Be proud to be Otherworldly. And be a beacon to guide others home, rather than a lamp shrouded in fear and discomfort. Your Father will not thank you for your silence. Our marching orders are clear.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Don’t be afraid. God and His whole celestial army are beside you.
Now live out your mission, and be truly His people.
You made a promise when you were confirmed. There’s no turning back.
Now let’s go do something incredible.
-E. G. Norton