Talking Point by Dom Meese
WE all know it is certainly needed. In a world that seemingly encourages self-indulgence over self-giving, promotes consumerism and avarice over generosity, embraces relativism over truth, and advocates sex and wealth over fidelity and happiness, evangelisation across the world is critical.
However, in order to defend our faith and spread the Good News of the Gospel, we are required to act in a loving, charitable way, always willing to listen and never quick to criticise.
This is what I call being the Church soldier.
The Church soldier is opposed to the Church belligerent, who has the best intentions at heart, yet turn people away by coming across as extreme, stuck in their ways or too strong in a situation that requires caring and attentive guidance.
A classic example of the Church belligerent is the way some Catholics exercise their zeal for the pro-life movement on social media.
Graphic photos of botched abortions, or dead babies post-abortion, are broadcast via Facebook and Twitter in the hope that this will shock women into converting to a pro-life mentality.
Similarly, women who have had an abortion are sometimes labelled as murderers and are “damned to hell”.
While it is important to reflect the realities and horrors of abortion in some situations, the Church Solider will consider the audience with whom he is engaging.
Taking into consideration the fact that one in three women in Australia will have an abortion, the Church Soldier will discuss abortion in a sympathetic and empathetic way.
He or she might consider posting beautiful pictures of babies in the womb, or beautiful pictures of new-born babies, in an effort to promote life.
Another example of the Church belligerent is found in those who do not accept Church teachings – for whatever reason, but often because they have a personal preference against the teaching.
Take the contraceptive pill for example.
Many Catholics have said to me that “The pill is evil and cannot be used in any circumstance.”
However, with respect, the Church’s view on this issue is that the pill per se is not evil; it is the intention behind taking the pill that is potentially evil. To clarify this point, in some medical situations, it is permissible to use The Pill as a medication to rid certain ailments.
The Church soldier, even though he or she may not agree with the predominant use of the pill in the wider society, will not insist against the use of the pill based on his or her own preference, because he or she knows that the Church approves of it in certain situations.
The Soldier realises that nobody is bigger than the Church.
C.S. Lewis sums up the difference between the soldier and the belligerent perfectly: “What (God) wants of the laymen in the (Church) is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise – does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting humble receptivity to any nourishment going on.”
Another Church solider, Virginian priest Fr Paul Scalia also provides words of wisdom:
“Those who constantly challenge and criticise cannot be taught … they cannot learn, because they never stop questioning, criticising, picking things apart. If we refuse to trust anyone, then we set ourselves up as our own personal magisterium … At the end of the complaining, have we become holier? Have we grown in the interior life? And what attitude have we fostered in those around us?”
In my opinion, we need to consider the purpose and effectiveness of our evangelisation. Imagine how much influence we will have, if together, we are all pulling in the same direction.
In the words of our Holy Father, “Christ’s name creates communion and unity, not division. He came to create communion among us, not to divide us.”
If we are winning hearts rather than arguments, loving and listening instead of condemning and criticising, and attracting others through beauty and sincerity, rather than aggressiveness and blatancy, in union we can achieve great things.
We are fighting the same fight, but we need to be fighting as a unified army.
Dom Meese is a young Catholic blogger.