These are scandalous times. Christians know they are sinners in need of a savior — this is why they go to Church. But those deadly sins don’t disappear, and they don’t cease to be temptations. There is a daily — hourly, second-by-second — choice to live the Christian life or not, to repent or not, to begin again or not. And public hostility to robust Christian witness is made worse by our frequent inability to or refusal to live out the Beatitudes so that civil society and virtuous living can flourish.
In a book called Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic popular author and Catholic radio talk-show host Teresa Tomeo tries to help readers live the Christian life more completely. And certainly not just on Sundays. She talks about the book in an interview.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s latest nominee for Supreme Court, talked about the “vibrant Catholic community” that he is part of in Washington, D.C. The buzz before his nomination was that Seventh Circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett might be selected — someone who was questioned about her Catholic faith during her Senate confirmation hearing. How might they be examples of living as Catholics Beyond Sunday?
Teresa Tomeo: The best evidence that someone is taking his or her faith seriously, or beyond Sunday, is the pushback one receives outside of church. Both Kavanaugh and Barrett are very involved in their faith beyond Sunday, and it’s obviously important to them. In part as a result of his faith, it seems, Kavanaugh has already been labeled a conservative by the secular press, and Barrett has been accused of being in a cult. Kavanaugh ministers to the poor at soup kitchens and is involved heavily with the Catholic Youth Organization.Barrett was labeled extreme because she prayed with and for other married couples (oh the shock of it all) and was vocally pro-life.
Lopez: You write, “This book is for Catholic Christians who want to discover the fullness of the Faith and truly make it a part of their daily lives. More than that, it’s for Catholics who want to ensure their lives have deep meaning and who want to help make the world a better place in some way.” Is that really doable? It sounds so pie-in-the-sky idealistic when you look around and see the anger and complexities out there. It seems to be everywhere, drowning bodies and souls, hearts and minds!
Tomeo: If I can do it, anyone can. If a fallen-away Catholic and radical feminist can make her way back to the Church — and try to do something that makes a difference rather than concentrating on me, myself, and I — then anyone can. I would never that say something is attainable if I hadn’t been there and tried it myself. I am also brutally honest in admitting that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about building a relationship with God first and then with others. One quick example would be the healing that took place in my marriage. It took us several years to rebuild, but once we both made that commitment, things changed for the better, and now we’re trying to help other married couples that are struggling. That’s just one way to spark change one step at a time.
Lopez: You open the book with an invitation to “Living a Truly Abundant Life” with “long-lasting joy.” How can you be so sure that God wills us to live this way, and that it’s possible in the world today? If He wills it, why doesn’t he make it seem more plausible? You know how frustrated we get with suffering and evil, and how irrelevant people think “thoughts and prayers” are in the face of that suffering! What is “Chronic Catholic Curmudgeonitis,” and how can we cure it?
Tomeo: Again, I’m sure because it happened in my life. But for a long time, I fought true joy and happiness because I was unwilling (no pun intended) to discover what God’s will was for my life. I had to surrender to Him and say, “Okay. You’re God, and I’m not.” Or as the great Saint Teresa of Avila said, “I am yours and born of you. What do you want of me?”
Regarding suffering, no one gets out of this life unscathed, regardless of his or her beliefs. EWTN foundress Mother Angelica used to say, “The cross is not negotiable, sweetheart.” We’re all going to suffer. It is what we do with it, and how we learn from that suffering that can have a truly positive and fulfilling impact on our life, leading to deeper and long-lasting joy. But we’re not puppets on a string. God wants to be in relationship with us. He doesn’t go around zapping us and forcing things on us. We have to have an open heart and mind.
“Chronic Catholic Curmidgeonitis” is a term I came up with based on some of the frustration I felt after returning to the Church. My husband and I read our way back into the Church, and along the way we wondered why didn’t learn about many of the beautiful teachings growing up. I doubt whether I would have been open to them, given my stubbornness in my younger years. Nonetheless, we both found ourselves doing a lot of whining about what we thought needed to change. As I say in the book, I’m not suggesting that we don’t address issues in the Church, because that certainly needs to be done. But focusing only on the negative doesn’t help anyone, and it makes matters worse, because misery loves company. We should do what we can about the issues we see, while still evangelizing.
Lopez: What kind of damage did feminism do in your life? As we mark the anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, in the wake of the onslaught of Me Too revelations, is there an opportunity for the Church to enact some kind of rescue mission in people’s lives?
Tomeo: Well I’ve written entire books — in addition to what I discussed in Beyond Sunday — about what feminism did to me and to so many of my friends and family members. It blinded me to the truth of the dignity of the human person. It took more than one crisis in my life, starting with the near crumbling of my marriage, for me to finally wake up and give the Church a second thought. I was so focused on my career — that’s what feminism taught us in college, that everything is worth sacrificing for your own personal gain.
I wish the Me Too movement could see that the Church gets it. This is so clear in Humanae Vitae. One of the most profound revelations in the encyclical was how women would be mistreated by men, the culture, and even by those in authority, if we were to go down the road of contraception and abortion. When we treat sex as a mere object for pleasure, those involved become objects, with women receiving the brunt of that treatment. All we have to do is look at how women are objectified in the media, in films, in music videos, in advertising, etc. and it most often relates to sexuality or viewing and using women as objects.
Lopez: Why would anyone want to be Catholic and listen to anything bishops or any other men of the cloth have to say while the news of abuse scandals continues to come out — most recently with Cardinal McCarrick, and likely with more news to come from Pennsylvania?
Tomeo: The abuse scandal can and is a real challenge for the Catholic faithful. It helps me to remember that my faith is in God and the teachings handed down by Jesus, teachings that — despite the sins of those in the Church — are timeless and that still have been proven true over and over again. Saint Paul reminds us that we are all sinners and we all fall short. We just have to make sure that we keep addressing this issue.
Lopez: You reference your own Archbishop Vigneron’s “Unleash the Gospel.” What is there for us to consider in this work?
Tomeo: “Unleash the Gospel” is a real, honest look at the issues in the Archdiocese of Detroit, along with and what needs to happen for the success of the “new evangelization,” as Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us. The assessment is followed by what is truly a road map for discipleship and for positive change. His ideas are so practical and include all sorts of instructions and tools for a stronger parish life, school life, and family life. I would highly encourage folks to check it out.
Lopez: “To keep on going beyond Sunday, we need to take silence back,” you write. “Make time for silence every day if you can, even if it’s just in the car on your way home from work. Turn off the noise, tune out, and you’ll be amazed at the change.” Again, is that possible? We need to stay informed and catch up with people, and if we don’t spend time alone or commuting, there always seems to be noise of some sort going on.
Tomeo: Certainly, this can be a challenge, especially for someone like me who hosts a daily national radio show. I have to stay informed so I can provide listeners with the latest information that affects their lives. But we all need a break now and then. If we don’t take time for silence and reflection, we can easily lose our way. What’s so great about being Catholic is that the Church is all about balance.
The Church doesn’t tell folks that media are intrinsically evil, but it does have a lot to say about the importance of silence and being still. I would suggest taking a closer look at the World Communication Day Statements written by the popes. One of my favorites is the 2004 statement from John Paul II, “Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness.” It’s filled with ideas for families on how to balance media usage, and, even though it came out 14 years ago, it’s timeless and very helpful.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review.