FROM THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN TABLE
My sister once asked Fr. John Hardon how you know if you’re doing enough with regard to fighting for the faith. He responded with a question. How tired are you? Keep in mind that this came from a man who seldom got more than four hours of sleep a night, produced numerous books and articles on the faith, gave many retreats, spoke at conferences all over the country, and had a hand in founding many apostolates to evangelize and catechize. Whenever I’m tempted to whine about how tired I am, I think of Fr. Hardon and bow my head in shame. If I’d been in the garden with Jesus I have no doubt I’d be sleeping while He suffered. And I fear I’d have been first to run. I doubt I would have betrayed him in the courtyard of the high priest because I wouldn’t have been there. Rather, I see myself hunkered down somewhere far from the mob out of fear of sharing in Christ’s fate. I have no illusions about my own weakness and my capacity for cowardice, betrayal, and sin.
Which makes me marvel all the more over the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us. The Spirit turned eleven quaking mice shivering in the upper room into eleven fearless lions roaring the truth to the whole world. And all but one suffered a martyr’s death for proclaiming the truth that is Jesus Christ. He founded the Church to speak the truth and carry it to the ends of the earth. Pilate, the cynical materialist, asked, “What is truth?” not because he wanted an answer, but because he didn’t believe there was such a thing. Neo-Pilates surround us today proclaiming the anti-gospel of moral relativism. Truth is in the eye of the beholder they say. Truth is simply following one’s values whatever they might be.
But for the one who asks in good conscience, “What is truth?” there is an answer. Truth is the conformity between mind and reality. And nothing is more real than Jesus Christ, the truth Himself. Fr. Hardon says no one put it better than St. Augstine who wrote in his Confessions, “Because it was You who taught me, I believe; for You are the truth, and there is no other teacher of truth save You.” But why, in view of that, do so many reject him? If our hearts are “restless until they rest” in God, why do so few find him? Is it because so few seek the truth? Are the distractions of the world anesthetizing them into indifference? Are people’s lives too filled with noise and games and gadgets to hear him? Or is it because those who have the responsibility to evangelize don’t? Are those who profess to believe a stumbling block by bad example? I think the answer is probably all of the above.
The question is – how do we change it? How do we transform a secular culture too distracted by trivia and focused on pleasure to think about what really matters, to ask life’s central questions? Why am I here? Does life have a purpose? Where am I going? St. Augustine relentlessly questioned. The first book of his confessions is filled with questions and it was that deep longing for truth which led to his conversion.
And what a conversion it was! According to Frank Sheed, the famous Catholic apologist who, with his wife Maisie, founded Sheed and Ward publishers, Augustine saved civilization after the breakup of the Roman Empire. “The Western world started on its new career under the double threat that civilization would be cut off from the Classics, that the Church would be cut off from its intellectual sources. It did not happen so. It was Augustine who made the difference….With the social order crashing about his ears, he went to the fundamentals of soul and society. His reaction to the sack of Rome by Alaric in 410 was to write The City of God.” Before he died, Fr. Hardon urged all his followers to write – books and articles, letters to the editor, letters to our children, grandchildren, and friends. “Learn and live the faith,” he said. “Speak, write, and teach it; coordinate, cooperate and organize without competitiveness, and suffer and endure all the trials and tribulations that can be expected when spreading the truth in a pagan society,” one, in fact, very much like St. Augustine’s. And how did he respond? – By writing and teaching.
Sheed tells us Augustine had two passions: “a bodily passion for women…and his intellectual passion for truth.” In trying to resolve these two passions Augustine passed through heresy and finally into the light of faith. His struggle is a modern one Sheed says. Augustine came to recognize the “twin doctrine of matter’s sacredness but spirit’s primacy ….It brought the world out of chaos and could bring our world out of chaos too….Further, it gave Augustine the mental framework within which he could see the truth about sexual appetite and, by God’s grace, bring it under control. And in the matter of sex, our own age is as deadly sick as ever Augustine was.”
Indeed! But we have the prescription. Proclaim the truth. Know it first of all. Study the faith. Then teach it, preach it, write it, proclaim it. Or perhaps I should say teach Him, preach Him, write about Him, proclaim Him because Jesus is the truth! Most of us will not have the impact of a St. Augustine on our civilization, but we can have a profound impact in our families, in our parishes, and in our neighborhoods. If we place ourselves at the service of God, He will use our hands and hearts to teach the truth to others. Why not write a letter today. Someone needs your witness to the faith