Saturday, July 30, 2011


I am at a conference at Franciscan University, in Steubenville Ohio, this weekend --- Defending the Faith. I drove 5 hours to hear, among others, Steve Ray, who was from my parish back in Michigan (go figure, :-) ). In his talk, Steve mentioned the situation in ancient Rome, where many gods were worshiped, but to the frustration of Romans, none answered their prayers. Then Roman citizens began to take notice of Christians; they were willing to die for their belief in Jesus Christ. They had a God, not one among many, but ONE in whom they had confidence to answer their prayers, a confidence even to death.

While the Romans despaired in what was happening all around them in their society, and their gods were of no help, Christians they saw had something better. It was not only the bright light, the joy, of Christianity that attracted the Romans, it was the darkness of their own despair.

It was like the darkness we see in our society, today.

Despair and fear are all around us. Everyone knows the truth, but anyone who says someone else is wrong is chastised: “Who are you to say you know the truth; this is MY truth.” And we despair that we cannot agree upon anything, even the truth, whether in Washington or in our cities --- or often, in our homes.

Steve spoke today about how we might prepare to live in our neo-pagan society. He said that the first decision we face is: Do we get involved, or not. Much talk followed that, but it stopped there for me.

If we want to change our culture, if we even want to be able to live in our culture --- without despair --- we must become involved. We can rail one political party against another, one church against another, or we can get out, ourselves, and do something to change, even one person.

Many of the speakers at this conference spoke of their witness of their Catholic faith. Whether by wearing a cross, or a collar, or just by their actions, many of the speakers noted that their witness was both noticed and questioned: “Why do you wear that cross? Are you a priest? Why did you donate to that beggar?” While many in our culture despair (while still proclaiming their “wonderful” culture of diversity), there are still many others who want to know the truth, the one real truth, not a relative one. They will give you opportunities to help them understand that truth, if you will first stand up in witness.

Love of your neighbor doesn’t start with a political party or a church, it starts with you. All change, all happiness, starts with you and one other person --- your neighbor, your spouse, or your child. The early Christians believed the words of Jesus, and ACTED as if they did in the treatment of their neighbor, and in their public witness. They proclaimed their joy in knowing that eternal life awaited them, and so they wanted to act in ways to get there. Helping their neighbor in his despair, they didn’t fix all his problems, but they weren’t afraid to stand up and help anyway, even a little. And to tell and witness by their actions the truth as they knew it.

One nation under God was our declaration, but now it seems one nation in despair. How does it get better? It starts with you, not Washington. The Roman Empire was converted from the despair of paganism, one person at a time. That is how we’ll change America.


  1. Amen - one at a time. Great post.

    Alas, it's so easy to try too hard, to be too aggressive in trying that you can turn the person off. I know I have to struggle with the fact that my actions can be more effective than any words and arguments (and I like to argue!).

    We had hoped to make the conference this year - but an ill father-in-law (and the cost) prevented us. I hope it is a wonderful experience for you!

  2. Ah, Lee, you inadvertently said it just right: "words and arguments". So often my witness seems to be in words (from my point of view), but they are received as arguments. I'd like to think I speak the truth, but many others do not see it that way. And when we can't agree on what is true and what is false, what can we agree upon?

    I guess sometimes it is just as well we shut up, and let our actions be our truth.

    Re the conference, it was great, as always. Next year I likely will go again; if you are interested let me know. Don't worry about finances, I can always fit one or two more in the car and/or in the room --- and I like company.