And on the side of the angels at the same time
Come on, we know better than the Church, don’t we? After all, this is the 21st Century and times have changed. Modern man is fully capable of deciding what is moral on his own, right? All the really smart people in the media, government and academia who encourage us to embrace abortion, contraception, euthanasia and gay marriage can’t be wrong, can they? After all, everyone knows that new and fresh ideas must clearly trump over two millennia of Church teaching. Right?
Unfortunately, my facetious opening paragraph represents how many Catholics view the Church’s teaching these days. Many have bought into the lies the world is feeding us that we should rebel against the authority of the Church and the Pope while instead deciding on our own which teachings we will and will not follow. Our increasing apathy and moral relativism, heavily influenced by a culture drunk on materialism with no moral compass, is putting the Church and the world in grave danger. The Catholic Church is one of the last lines of defense against evil and we must not allow a misguided rebellion to destroy it from the inside. The Church must never conform to or be assimilated into the world. We are in the world, but not of the world and we must keep our eyes firmly on our heavenly home.
True Catholic Rebels
If we feel the need to be rebellious, why not send this energy in a more positive direction, a direction that leads to Heaven? It is easy to criticize the Church and conform to the world’s various influences, but perhaps today’s true Catholic rebel can stand out by embracing Church teaching, not rejecting it and following the Pope’s leadership, not undermining it. If we want to truly follow Christ’s teachings, shouldn’t we do so through the very Church He founded? If we are going to be rebels, let’s rebel against the world and embrace the path to Heaven that leads through the Catholic Church.
Five Positive Ways for Catholics to Rebel against the World
1. Avoid Cafeteria Catholicism: We can’t pick and choose what we believe and still be authentically Catholic. Follow the Magisterium and authentically practice our faith, trusting that two millennia of Church history and teaching are far superior to what we may come up with on our own. ”Be Catholic, really, faithfully, unapologetically Catholic, and the future will have the kind of articulate and morally mature leaders it needs.” (Archbishop Charles Chaput)
2. Put our Pride Aside and Surrender: Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola) It must take a pretty big ego to say no to Christ and His Church! What we need is more humility, total surrender and a sincere commitment to put Christ’s will before our own. I know from personal experience that doing it my way has never really worked out well.
3.Practice Personal Holiness: The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by his Spirit, they are ‘holy’. They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do. The apostle Paul never tires of admonishing all Christians to live ‘as is fitting among saints’ (Eph 5:3). (Blessed John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 16)
4.Be Joyful!: It is so easy to get lost in our problems and forget to be joyful-it happens to me and just about everyone else I know. But, remember that we are surrounded by people who are watching us. They may be seeking Him and looking for someone, anyone, to show them the way to Christ. They could learn from our good example, be inspired by our joy and be encouraged by our faith journey if we will only remember that we are called to share the Good News. If we are gloomy, frustrated, inward-focused and critical of the Church we will never be able to help anyone and may put our own salvation at risk.
5. Pursue Heaven, Reject the World: Heaven is our ultimate destination and not this place called Earth. Will our critics help us get to heaven? Will they stand up for us during tough times? No, they will pull us into a secular way of life which has little room for God and where materialism and popularity are the fashionable idols of the day. Doing what is right is not always easy, but in the long run it is clearly the most beneficial. Why would we not choose Heaven?
There is still another way to be a true Catholic rebel in today’s world that is the thread which runs through all the other acts I mentioned: pray faithfully every day.
Start the day with a prayer of thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. Pray for help and courage to face the trials the world throws at us. Make the sign of the cross and pray over every meal, public or private. Pray a daily Rosary and ask for the help and intercession of our Blessed Mother and pray with our families every night. I can’t envision anyone seriously rebelling against the Church if they are faithfully committed to daily prayer.
It would be easy to read this post and decide that it doesn’t apply to you, but I would suggest we are all guilty of some degree of negative rebellion each day. We may take the easy way out in the practice of our faith when a little extra effort is required or we ignore what is required by our God-given vocations. We may push back against doing what we know to be right because we fear the negative opinions of others or lack the courage to confront difficult situations.
One of the things I found most attractive about the Catholic Church when I converted was that it is not easy to be Catholic. I grew up with “easy faith” in the Baptist church as a young man, left as a teenager and had no faith at all for 23 years until coming home to the Truth of Catholicism in 2005. I am incredibly grateful for my Catholic faith and don’t see why I should waste my time arguing against the teachings of the Church. I already spent over two decades saying “no” to God and my pride-filled rebellion was exhausting. When I surrendered to His will in 2005, I started saying “yes” and that has made all the difference in my life.
Reflect on the picture of St. Michael the Archangel standing over a defeated Lucifer. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Lucifer declared his rebellion in Heaven against God with the cry, “Non Serviam!” (Latin, “I will not serve!”).
The Archangel Michael loyally defended God with his cry of “Serviam” and vanquished Lucifer to Hell with all his demons. So, what will it be for us – Serviam or non serviam?
Randy Hainis senior editor of The Integrated Catholic Life, where this article was originally published. Pre-order Randy Hain¹s soon to be released book: Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput) at Amazon or Emmaus Road.