Keep God’s command without blame or reproach. I Timothy 6:14
Many of us are familiar with the famous G. K. Chesterton quote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” Just as true, I believe, is that Catholicism has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.
I find it exasperating to hear minimal Catholics apologize for, and express public embarrassment because of, their Catholic faith. It is very annoying to hear them excuse themselves and blame others (especially dead nuns) for their own infidelity, with lame humor like “I am a recovering Catholic,” when the truth of the matter is that they were probably never really into the practice of the faith enough to appreciate it to begin with. It is a fact that many intelligent, serious spiritual seekers of every age have been, and are, attracted to the Catholic Church and its teaching, finding both beautiful.
They are certainly right about one thing. We have certainly made mistakes and our sins are obvious. However, I blame most of our bad reputation on extremists at both ends of the spectrum: the religious nut cases who keep trying to turn Catholicism into a cult by confusing their attachment to old religious forms with faith in God himself, as well as those who minimally claim the name but never making a serious effort themselves to walk the talk, while condemning others for not measuring up.
It is part of our culture to demand that the teachings of Jesus be adjusted to fit our behavior, rather than us adjusting our behavior to fit the teaching of Jesus. I dare people like that to actually study the Bible, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and open their eyes to what those values are doing to our society.
It is part of our culture to complain that it is other people’s responsibility to make us happy. Instead of blaming the priest that Mass is boring, I dare them to prepare by meditating on the Scriptures before Mass, coming with a list of things they want to thank God for and enthusiastically answering the prayers and singing the hymns.
It is part of our culture to expect “the church” be perfect while exempting ourselves from the responsibility of measuring up to such high standards. Never mind that Jesus said that we need to remove the timber from our own eyes before we attempt to remove the splinter from our brothers’ eyes. Never mind that Jesus said the church is always a field of weeds and wheat growing together, but that he would be with it till the end of time and even hell cannot prevail against it.
The validity of our message does not depend on my goodness. If I do not live up to the ideals of the gospel, blame me, but don’t abandon the path we are both called to walk.
Father J. Ronald Knott