Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Martyria: On bearing credible witness

When done responsibly blogging is a communal enterprise. For the most part, I like the existence of and belonging to what is called "the Catholic blogosphere." By sphere, I think we mean space, even if cyberspace. I have made many wonderful friends through blogging. I am inspired, awed, humbled, informed, and corrected by other Catholic bloggers. Indeed, the expansion of communications technology makes it possible for many of us to express thoughts and opinions on various events and subjects and disseminate them via the worldwide web, or, to quote the poster I put up on my previous Lenten reflection on blogging that I found by means of employing a Google image search: "Now you can show the whole world why no one listens to you."

God is active in our lives. God almost always works through our experiences, the ordinary and everyday, through the people we encounter. So, the question becomes, Am I paying attention? I have no doubt that the two books that were set on my desk with a very kind note by a parishioner a few weeks ago were providential. I read them and I have written about both: Joe Eszterhas' book, Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith and Justin Catanoso's book, My Cousin the Saint: A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles. Apart from the experiences shared by the authors in these very personal books, I did not learn anything I didn't already know, but I was powerfully reminded about what is fundamental. Is this not the purpose of this season we observe year-after-year? It's not about knowing, about intellection or cognition, just as faith is so much more than mere belief. Both authors reminded me that God is not limited by our ideas, our expectations, and certainly not by our opinions. God is a God of surprises, of exceeding our expectations, expanding our opinions, and exposing the limited nature of our ideas, especially our ideas about Him.

Vietnamese martyrs

All of this has been a big wind up to draw attention to something posted by Deacon Greg Kandra, who is one of the cherished friends I have made through blogging, who writes The Deacon's Bench. It is a column by Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, D.C. The title of the article is Casting the First Stone. I encourage all of us who engage in any sort of on-line apostolate, punditry, and/or public reflection on matters of faith from a Christian point-of-view to take some time and read this column and reflect on it. We need to take to heart his reminder that "[t]he intensity of one's opinion is not the same as the truth." If you read his entire article, you will see that His Excellency is not trying soft-pedal our need to bear witness to the truth. Quoting Ephesians 4:15, he reminds us that the best way to bear witness to the truth is by how we live. As Fr. Carrón reminded us at the Communion & Liberation National Diaconia for the U.S. in January, it doesn't matter that we have the perfect doctrine of marriage if we fail to live it as Christian wives and husbands. To employ a tired but relevant cliché, if we talk the talk but fail to walk the walk, then our witness is only words, empty and lifeless, not to mention joyless. If we do not have joy, then our witness, no matter deeply felt, loses credibility. Joy can only come to us through living, that is, through experience. All of this reminds me of something I have heard Archbishop Niederauer say time and again: "We can disagree without being disagreeable." We can certainly disagree without trying to excommunicate each other! After all, what did the mutual excommunications issued by the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople in AD 1054 accomplish apart from dividing the Body of Christ?

Yesterday, I was looking up some information that led me to visit the website of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. I lingered there long enough to read two items. The first article was The honeymoon is over, by George Wesolek, who serves as the director of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In this piece he captures very well the ambivalence I felt over last November's election. Before moving to his criticism, Wesolek takes the time to point out that many of the initiatives and policies the president is seeking to implement are good and laudable. Of course, his criticism is that, despite promises made to the contrary by Catholic Obama supporters, like Doug Kmeic, the president has done nothing to date "that would indicate a 'pro-life' openness or even a small move in that general direction." It is a good example of addressing something that is wrong, but doing it in a way that remains true to our commitment to follow Christ, by expressing what we believe in a charitable and straightforward manner.

The second article, written by the Archbishop, The faith witnesses, is about a recent trip he took to Vietnam. In it he writes about the kind of witness to which Archbishop Wuerl alludes. At the end of the article he writes: "From time to time witness to the Catholic faith is given through the shedding of blood, but always we witness by sharing out our lives day by day."

As Hans Urs Von Balthasar observed, Love Alone is Credible.

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