For what it’s worth, Michael, Cardinal Hughes — who died 150 years ago today — wasn’t living in a country that Catholics had given quite the prominent mixed — sometimes gravely scandalous – bag of witness to already. The rising tide of secularism is a tremendous threat to life and family. It’s evermore so because professed believers have not only contributed to it, but in many cases, been its leaders.
A cardinal can stand on the steps of a cathedral all he wants. But if the world isn’t seeing real Catholics, it’s not going to have the impact it once would — including on people who call themselves Catholic. These women of the Little Sisters, they’re doing the work of witnessing on all kinds of fronts. And everyone who calls himself a believer has an obligation here. Laity all too often act as though bishops are the Church when a political issue they want them to take care of or are annoyed they’ve taken a position on comes up. If you’re Catholic, you believe we’re all part of the body of Christ. Do we act like it, live like it? That’s so often the message of Pope Francis. Because it’s Gospel mandate.
Just this morning Pope Francis said, celebrating Mass with fellow Jesuits at their mother church in Rome:
An authentic faith always implies a deep desire to change the world. And this is the question we should pose ourselves: do we too have great visions and zeal? Are we bold too? Do our dreams fly high? Are we consumed by zeal? Or are we mediocre. . . . Let us always remember that the strength of the Church does not reside in herself or in her organizational capacity, but is instead concealed in the deep waters of God. And these waters agitate our desires, and our desires expand our hearts. It is as St. Augustine said: pray to desire and desire to expand your heart. It was precisely in his desires that Favre was able to discern the voice of God. Without desires, one cannot go forth, and this is why we must offer our desires to the Lord.
One whose heart has been expanded to receive the graces of God, can’t comply with a mandate that has him shrugging and green-lighting that which is a moral affront to human life. That’s what the Little Sisters are witnessing to. That’s why a businessman would care about such things as he runs his company. It’s about being for real. Compartmentalized religion, where faith is merely a private affair not meant for the public square doesn’t cut it. And it’s not just a job for pastors to be authentic Christian leaders – and pastors, by the way, are just that, not politicians. There’s a fight that has been forced on them here, but the political leadership needs to come from the laity.