Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction." - Bishop Jenky

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

I thought we already were.

Bishop Jenky preached an excellent homily on April 14 at the Mass for  "A Call to Catholic Men of Faith" in Peoria.  The homily was on the need for Catholic witness in our times, which bear striking resemblance to the beginings of the totalitarian regimes of the early part of the 20th century.  The full text of his homily here.

When I returned to the Church in 1972 I did so by conviction, and though I have faltered over the years, that conviction remains indelibly marked upon my soul.  When I first returned, I thought everyone was Catholic by conviction - otherwise, why would they remain tied to a Church and fill certain prescriptions of the law if they weren't convinced.  By prescriptions of the law I mean Sunday observance, support of the Church and her ministers, raising children in the faith - as in Catholic schooling - the minimal requirements.  Soon I came to understand that the conviction of many may not have been all of that intense.  Nevertheless, I thought the obligation to be a Catholic of conviction remained.  Now we have a few strong bishops pointing out the fact that not everyone is on board with Catholic teaching, and these bishops, unlike their predecessors, are doing their job to see that faithful Catholics get on board.

I thought of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter in the light of Bishop Jenky's 'call to action'.  The great mandate today seems to be evangelization.  I've always thought of evangelization along the lines of the Opus Dei model, which for me is much like the little way of St. Therese.  Personally, I tend to be slightly repelled by the Bill Donohue/Michael Voris boisterous style of evangelization - although I respect what these types do.

However, I like the St. Thomas Moore/Bl. Jägerstätter approach better.  These men lived in fidelity to the Church and Catholic teaching, and when push came to shove, they submitted like sheep before the slaughter, in imitation of Christ crucified.  That was their witness.  Faithful to the duties of their state in life, to the very end, they were always Catholics by conviction.  

A friend sent me the following quote from another blog regarding being out of step with modern culture and the acceptance of contraception:
This is indeed a culture where promiscuity is branded as empowering and contraception is an assumed part of life. So this is not an attack on anyone standing up to the culture. I’ve sat through enough doctor’s visits and sipped my way through enough cocktail parties to know I am viewed as a cultural freak if I’m not on the pill. Speaking out against the pill? Even freakier.
His response to me was: "I think the same could be said of those with same sex attraction trying to talk about chastity etc. Talk about a cultural freak."

What I take from the bishop's homily, and these remarks in light of that, is this:  So unless your faith, your fidelity is challenged - very often your Catholic conviction doesn't show - and it maybe hasn't cost you anything so far.  Threaten, or take away something from our comfortable, self-sufficient selves, and we begin to figure out what being a Catholic by conviction means.  As the blogger and the commenter show - they too know what it means to be a Catholic of conviction in our times.

His bishop and priest tried to dissuade Bl. Jägerstätter from his refusal to fight in the war for the Third Reich.  After his death, Jägerstätter was criticized by his countrymen, especially Catholics who had served in the military, for failing in his duty as a husband and father.  The man had persevered - that's what conviction is.  When I returned to the Church in 1972 I began to run into opposition for my fidelity to Church teaching regarding sexuality, which in the 1980's included asking for a support group for men who desired to live according to Church teaching - only to be refused, although Dignity had its supporters in the local Church.  (I've written about this in the past, and how Fr. Harvey wrote letters to the Archbishop and so on.  It's no longer a problem today.)  At the time, bishops and priests refused me their support as well.  One learns, as Jägerstätter did, how to persevere and remain faithful even when others do not 'get it' or support you.

All I can say is, welcome to the Roman Catholic Church folks.  Troubles and persecution is good for the soul - it makes us stronger and is the stairway to heaven. 


  1. Anonymous1:54 PM

    I believe I've experienced and think quite often about a similar tension, assuming I've understood you correctly.

    I'm not sure what to make of the call to evangelize - the "New Evangelization." I don't wish to deny these realities or overlook them if they are obligatory. I do care about other souls and yearn that Christ be all in all.

    I suppose sometimes I don't know what to "do" in terms of evangelization. Not everyone has a formal apostolate and, presumably, not everyone will have to champion some kind of cause or be identified so thoroughly with a particular aspect of the Faith. So I think often, as you say, "along the lines of the Opus Dei model...much like the little way of St. Therese."

    Sometimes, I feel the "pressure" to evangelize in a more formal way. I think, "I must not be doing anything, or at least doing 'enough'." I have no doubt that I'm convicted. And I don't mean to rest upon that as if that in itself is 'enough'. I suppose the 'enough' as I see it is a subjective and personal thing in a sense that only I can really discern - I know when I'm falling away from where I've been able to be in terms of communion with Christ - all only thanks to His grace. Though, that subjective and personal aspect is simply my way of trying to integrate what I think is THE call in life: to love as the Gospel and the teachings of the Church explain love to be.

    Regarding conviction, I think often of the idea I sometimes hear - something along the lines of: "One of the great things about being Catholic is...this or that." I wish "conviction" would be stressed more in terms of what is the truth and, with that, something like what we can do for the Church and not what the Church can for us.

    Sometimes, people talk as if being Catholic (or belonging to any religious denomination) is an accidental thing - "If I wasn't Catholic, I'd...". To me, there is no "If I wasn't Catholic..." ; it's a matter of what is true and what is not.

    Perhaps that's what the Bishop was trying to stress in terms of conviction.

  2. Terry,

    Great post! I can't say that I ever thought there was any other way to be a Catholic than by conviction. This was true even in the days when I only darkened a pew of a Church to pray but wasn't receiving the sacraments. Even then I still knew that to be a Catholic meant to have conviction. Ever since my "reversion" I've become more and more aware of just what a "Cultural Freak" I really am! I mean I'm a "Cultural Freak" even among most Catholics I know among friends and family. I wouldn't have it any other way even though it comes at a very big cost: being constantly misunderstood, taken for a hypocrite, seen as crazy or simply as a 'religious nut'. I know it has really always been this way from the very beginning. I would die for my faith. It wouldn't be easy for me but I would be prepared to do so.

    I remember I was in the military when I was first introduced to Bl. Franz Jägerstätter in the late 1980s and was very inspired by his life.

    There is still a great amount of difficulty with with the Courage apostolate being established in dioceses throughout the country. Why? Because being involved with an apostolate like Courage (they don't call it that for nothing) will induct you into the world of 'Cultural Freaks' not to mention being viewed as such by fellow Catholics. But that's part of what being a follower of Jesus Christ is called to be: in the world but not of the world. Our lives should be reflections of that conviction of being Catholic. My mother talks about a time when being Catholic mean't you were different. You were automatically a 'Cultural Freak'. It was assumed you had a large family, didn't contracept, didn't have sex before marriage, didn't fool around, didn't divorce, wore modest clothing etc etc... How many Catholics today would be seen as 'Cultural Freaks' by those around them at work, in their families etc?

  3. I just had a conversation with my 73-year-old mother in which she told me that after all these years she finds it hard to believe that hell exists.

    I have been fixated on Matthew 7:13-14 lately and the "narrow gate". When I mention it in conversation I am immediately told that I am being judgmental. When I tell them I am simply quoting the God they claim to believe in they simply walk away or try to change the subject.

    "Slick" is clearly winning. When he can convince people that his lair does not exist he has nothing to worry about.

    It would be interesting to see a survey of how many Church-going Catholics would be willing to die for their faith today. I would set the over/under at 2%.

    Between the current trial continuing here in Philly, the Catholic schools merging or closing and the parishes that were just identified for closing the remnant is definitely forming. Those without "conviction" will be hard-pressed to stick around.

  4. Anonymous3:39 PM

    St. Therese is so beautiful and what God did through her is instantly encouraging and can be a source of real, theological hope.

    I believe, as others who've pondered her life have articulated, that she learned to let go
    of her own ideas of sanctity and then learned to receive the gift which God wanted to give to her - that she learned to 'abandon', in a sense, the way that “big souls” take, and instead accept with confidence and trust the Little Way.

  5. Conviction is a grace of the Holy Spirit - as the protestants say it, 'convicted'. It is the fruit of one's encounter with the Risen Jesus. I would not be in the Church if it had not happened to me one afternoon in 1972. The Pope talks about this all of the time - it is about a person - The Person of Jesus Christ.

  6. susan4:42 PM

    "I've always thought of evangelization along the lines of the Opus Dei model, which for me is much like the little way of St. Therese. Personally, I tend to be slightly repelled by the Bill Donohue/Michael Voris boisterous style of evangelization - although I respect what these types do.

    However, I like the St. Thomas Moore/Bl. Jägerstätter approach better. These men lived in fidelity to the Church and Catholic teaching, and when push came to shove, they submitted like sheep before the slaughter, in imitation of Christ crucified."

    I liked your post very much Terry, but I've gotta disagree with your quote above...St. Josemaria was WAAAAY more a Michael Voris than a St. Therese....WAAAAAAAAYYYYY more. I know you've read The Way; he doesn't pull any punches. And as to submitting as the only way to imitate Christ, I need only say that the same Christ who willingly and without resistence went to Calvary WHEN HIS HOUR HAD ARRIVED, had twice before methodically knotted the cords that his own hand used to whip the money-lenders and merchants with; was the same Christ that used tone and language-of-the-day with the pharisees that would have made Ann Barnhardt wince (Matt 23); was the same Christ who twice before purposely slipped out of the grasp of the throngs who wanted to kill Him, because His hour had not yet arrived.

    Seems we do indeed need both evengenlical temperaments to be in the imitation of Christ; better yet, for both temperaments to be found in an evangelizer...this was very evident in Bishop Sheen (a great story in this regard that Michael Voris witnessed up-close, first hand while assisting Sheen as an altar server), and I see it very clearly in both Donahue and Voris.

    Thanks for at least saying you respect what these guys do (even if their style doesn't reach your heart)...They are true treasure, and have been a BIG part of the movement back to orthodoxy.

    God bless you, and Happy Easter!

  7. Thanks Susan! Happy Easter to you too. I appreciate your noting St. JoseMaria's work - when I compare him to Therese however, I'm thinking of how he taught the greatness of ordinary life - our being Catholic in the midst of secular society, the office, the factory, and so on. Michael Voris is doing that according to his profession - he's a newsman/journalist - I didn't mean my comment to sound so negative in his regard.

  8. We're all called to evangelize in different ways; some of us are more active, and others more contemplative. It depends on one's temperament and desire, and we need both. I'm a secular discalced Carmelite novice, and deeply attracted to the contemplative life. I offer my prayers and sacrifices, however, for the "actives"--the priests and laymen who go out traveling and preaching the truth to the world.

    One prayer I always pray when I'm not quite sure how God wants to use me is this: "Lord, use me to save souls, in whatever way You wish." It's something I pray every morning first thing. It's a prayer God cannot fail to answer.

  9. By the way, great interview:


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