The Gift of a Public Faith

“Authentic Christianity is meant for the world and will always be a challenge to the corruption of the world.” – Bishop Robert Barron

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The past few weeks I’ve heard and experienced a very clear message from several public figures in the Catholic world: Faith wasn’t meant to be privatized. Christianity is not a privatized religion. It must be shared publicly in order to fight the resistance of the world.

I think now, more than ever, it seems we need more public displays of Christianity.

Why?

Well, not only to fight off evil, which is a good enough reason of course. But more to dispel the myths of who Christians are and what they look like and how they act. To clear up the confusion! Because I gotta tell you, there are a LOT of confused people out there who have a warped idea of who an authentic Christian is.

Due to the rise of secularism and people identifying as being either non-religious or just plain old “spiritual,” a common assumption is that we are all just like the group of Westboro Baptists. I was astounded to hear this!  Not only is this completely FALSE but it’s also disgusting and hurtful to be associated with this very very small group of individuals. In doing research for my post today I actually went to their website just to confirm that this group has nothing good to say and I was right. Sadly, they are all very misguided. They preach hate. Plain and simple. It was sickening and most of all, discouraging.

I thought to myself, “This is what non-Christians think of us? That among the 30,000 different denominations of Christianity, we are all associated with these people who preach nothing but hate and make it their duty to protest funerals?”

Isn’t this even more of a reason to publicly express our faith and what we believe, in love and with compassion? It won’t do us much good to retreat to our cozy homes or stay inside our churches and just keep our faith to ourselves.

So it starts with us; with me and you.

But where to begin?

The smallest acts can go a long way

Something as simple as saying grace before every meal, even when you’re someplace like a fast food place or a restaurant can go a long way.  How? Well, because you are being SEEN. Others notice that kind of thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said grace before eating a meal and have gotten just a simple smile from across the room from folks. Almost like a nod of approval or a just a simple gesture to show that they respect it. And it serves as a reminder to others that may have stopped practicing this ritual.

I read somewhere recently to always pray before eating a meal at a restaurant and make sure to pray before the waiter/waitress leaves the table after placing the order. That way, you take that moment to ask him/her if you can offer up any prayers for them, too!

It could be something like just bringing your Bible somewhere. Or the Magnificat or the Liturgy of the Hours. Plenty of people are nosy, I have found. They’ll strike up a conversation with you just about anywhere. (Unless it’s just a friendly Midwestern USA thing?)

Take for example, reading a book. Any place that’s public like a beach, or park or commuting on the bus or at the airport is a place where you find many people are reading while waiting for something. I’m always curious what people are reading so I have no problem just asking someone, “What book is that and is it any good?” Fr. Tom of the TOB Institute mentioned that he brought his Breviary with him on a fishing boat recently and it always gets the locals talking and asking him, “What’s that? Is that a Bible? You some kind of holy man or something?” It’s a great icebreaker.

I will give just one small example from my own life that I thought was interesting. It took place at the car dealership where I was getting my oil changed. Of all the places, I ended up evangelizing to the service guy!  He initiated the conversation by asking, “So is it Sister Michelle? I noticed that book in your car when I went to move it.” The book in question was called A Vowed Life that one of my dear friends loaned to me.

I laughed and said “Oh no, it’s most definitely not Sister Michelle.  But funny you should mention that because I’m actually discerning consecrated life, which is different than religious life.” So he proceeded to ask me all kinds of questions about that which was fantastic. Then I went to see my sales guy and he had heard from the service guy what we talked about and so then HE proceeded to ask me more questions about consecrated life and what that would look like, etc. So we had an awesome conversation about discerning one’s vocation. Both of these men had discerned married life so I explained how and why I discerned that married life is not my vocation and how I came to that conclusion. What a place to have this random encounter, at a car dealership of all places.

The point is that when out in public, and not just in the pew, we are being seen. We are being observed. Is our conduct in line with what our faith teaches us? Are our actions one of faith or one of what the culture tells us we should be doing? Are we going to let non-religious people stereotype us as “those hateful bigots?” Or are we going to stick up for what we believe while simultaneously preaching the love of Christ?

The public square is open. It’s up to us if we’re going to step into it and declare our faith to all who can hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Believe

Acts 1:8

“But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This verse reminds me of a conversation I once had with a friend of mine. He is not a believer in God and asked me why “religious people” like myself were always trying to get people to believe what I believe in. He put me in the category of a disciple I suppose and assumed since I go to church regularly I must be one of “those” people who evangelizes often.

I was slightly embarrassed to admit that I actually wasn’t the type to try to get people to convert. I left that to the people who knew more about Christ than me. This friend of mine was actually irritated that “people like me” were always preaching their beliefs to non-believers and it was irritating and annoying to him.

I recall not knowing what to say to my friend after that in regards to the conversation. I do remember telling him that as a Catholic, I knew it part of my faith spread the Good News but that I wasn’t very good at it (This was back in the summer of last year, before starting this blog).

This verse is a reminder that I don’t have to be a preacher, a priest, a minister, a nun or anyone considered to be an expert in my faith to still be a good witness to others. I hope to have this conversation with my friend again and it would go a lot differently. My response this time around would look something like this:

Friend: Why are you always trying to convert people to your religion? Why can’t we all just believe whatever we want?

Me: You can believe in whatever or whoever you want. You have free-will. But as a Christian, I have this gift that I would be selfish to keep all to myself. I would never force someone to convert or force anyone to listen to me. But if they want to know WHY I believe in God and WHY I’m so confident in my faith, I would point out resources to them to read and I would invite them to my church for a mass so they can see why I love it so much. I need to be a witness to others because my life changed shortly after my Mom died. I saw how strong she was in her faith and I wanted to live my life like that. I also saw someone I love die right before my eyes and of course that makes you take stock in your own life. I want to live my life filled with faith, not hate or neutrality or “I know I’m a good person so I don’t need to worry about life after death” type of mentality. I want to spread the word of how I TRY to live a good life filled with faith because of course, I’m not perfect nor expected to be. Others who don’t know about God SHOULD at least get to hear from me so they can make the decision on their own on whether or not they want to live their life the way they have been doing it, or if they want to live their life with a purpose for God.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you selfishly keep God all to yourself? Have you ever “witnessed” or discussed why you believe what you believe with someone who asked you? Try not to brush these questions off. Remember, we don’t all have to be wordsmiths or preachers or pastors in order to give advice or discuss our faith with non-believers. Just tell someone your story. You might be surprised at how they respond. You could change their life!