During his homily for the 7:00 a.m. Mass we attended at St. Bernard’s monastery, Father Francis reflected on the thoughts he had during a recent sidewalk Rosary for life that he and a group prayed. He talked about how, at the time, he wondered, “What difference does this really make? Cars are going by so fast and no one’s reading our posters. No one in those cars can hear our prayers. It just seems futile.” But—after thinking further about it upon his return to the monastery, Father told us, he knew that it did indeed make a difference—that anytime we pray to our Lord, it makes a difference—and we should never forget that.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage, a lot of us have been feeling somewhat discouraged. Although many had suspected there was a reasonable probability of a decision like this one occurring, it was still a punch in the gut when it came to be. There are plenty of articles, posts and interviews from clergy and other experts dissecting the decision and prognosticating the future of religious freedom in the United States. This has left a lot of us wondering what the heck just happened, and why, after all the praying ostensibly being done prior to the SCOTUS decision, such a whacky outcome occurred. Some may even wonder, as did Fr. Francis, what difference did it really make?
Recently Cardinal George Pell, told the participants at a conference in Ireland that we are “are entering a new phase of political struggle which can only be fought by lay people.” Some pundits blame Church leadership over the last few decades for the catechesis or lack thereof that has led to the culture we now face and the resulting struggle that it has created. Whatever the reason, the fact is that in the here and now, we all have a job to do, clergy, religious and laity alike, and it’s going to take more than committed, orthodox bishops and priests to address the mess we presently find ourselves in. It’s up to all of us to make a difference.
But how can an ordinary lay person make a difference, given all that we’re facing in this secularized culture—isn’t it like trying to drain the ocean with a measuring cup? It may feel like that at times, but we need to remember that Jesus told us, “…with God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26). How can an ordinary lay person make a difference? Here are some ideas we might prayerfully consider:
· Beef up our daily prayer. Prayer is speaking with God, developing a relationship with Him. We don’t develop strong relationships with other created beings without dialoguing with them, and we won’t develop a strong relationship with the Creator without dialoging with Him.
· Pray the Rosary. As part of our prayer regimen, we ought to be including a Rosary a day. None other than St. Padre Pio said, “The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” It was true then and it is true now.
· Mass intentions. Request that one or more Masses be said for our special intentions for the country.
· Get involved in parish ministries. Many parishes have a variety of ministries in which we can play a part, ranging from supporting liturgical celebrations, to men’s and to women’s ministries, and to pro-life and evangelization ministries, to name a few.
· Contact our bishops. We may want to ask them to support a nationwide day of prayer or Rosary for our nation—it worked at the battle of LePanto, didn’t it? The current head of the USCCB, Abp. Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
· Contact our senators and representatives. We should encourage them to sponsor and pass legislation that protects religious liberty.
· Evangelize by our actions. We can show others charity in our interactions with them and let them see God’s merciful love in our interactions with them and with other people.
· Don’t be afraid to speak the truth. At the very least, we all need to pray for the fortitude to speak up when positions are raised by others that run counter to our Catholic Christian beliefs. It may be uncomfortable, but who would we rather offend—our Creator in eternity, by not speaking out, or other created beings in this short life here on earth?
As Christians, we face an increasingly likely future of religious persecution, given the legislative and judicial temperament of the country. Consider as just one example the bakers fined $135,000 recently. Yet it seems that many Catholics and other Christians are oblivious to this possibility. Either that, or they believe it’s something that someone else will address—no need for them personally to get involved. But there is a very real need for each and every one of us to get involved, and there is no time like the present to begin doing so.
And something else to remember is that despair and discouragement don’t come from God—they’re from the evil one. He wants us to think that it doesn’t matter what we do, that all hope is lost and that the secular, relativist, atheistic agenda is winning. That’s why we must heed St. Paul’s advice: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22).
What kind of legacy do we want to leave our children and grandchildren? We CAN and must make a difference.