A conversation in the not too distant future…
“Who was the man in the black suit sitting behind Father Miguel during Mass this morning?” Chris asked his father as they drove away from the parish.
He caught his wife’s worried look and quick nod before he answered his 13 year old son. “Well Chris, the National Department of Religion – you may have heard mom and I discussing this – has declared that effective immediately all religious groups must have one of their officials present during any kind of religious service. They are supposed to make sure nothing is said which will offend other groups or go against the new national laws on marriage, restricted worship and discussing God in public. We have been protecting you from the worst of the news, but…we think it is time you know the truth.”
“Dad, I don’t understand. How can anyone think our Catholic faith is breaking the law? I mean, we are the ones who are always defending life, upholding the sanctity of marriage and serving the poor. Aren’t those good things?”
“I know this is tough. I have difficulty even saying it. But, over the last few years the attacks on the Catholic Church by the government and anti-religious groups began to escalate and grow worse. Other faiths have suffered too during this very difficult time.
Chris, every Catholic I know is in a state of shock these days, but this didn’t happen overnight. Several years ago the government imposed a new universal health care law on the U.S. which included something called the HHS Mandate. This mandate forced all Catholic employers, including Catholic hospitals, Catholic non-profits and businesses run by faithful Catholics to offer contraception and abortion coverage to their employees in direct conflict with the teachings of our faith. There was a significant fight to prevent this from happening, but ultimately the Supreme Court upheld this new law.
In the years which followed, emboldened by their victory with the HHS Mandate, the government began pursuing an increasingly anti-religion agenda and pushed to remove faith from the public square. The next big blow to fall was against faith-based charities as their tax exemption status was removed and the government has now become the source of almost all charitable assistance in this country. Predictably, they usually favor the groups who support their political agenda. All faiths have suffered persecution, but because of the Church’s longstanding opposition to the government’s attempts to redefine marriage, promote unrestricted access to contraception and abortion and countless other issues, we have been singled out and seem to be receiving the worst of the attacks.”
The look of shock on Chris’s face telegraphed clearly how he was receiving this news from his father. “Is that why we have the National Department of Religion? What will happen next?”
“We’re not exactly sure Chris, but the NDR is increasingly removing the last vestiges of religious freedom in our country. It would appear that what some of us feared years ago is coming true: The government is determined to replace God in our lives. There are still voices speaking up. Our bishops and priests are trying to fight back and many have been arrested. The Holy Father has called for prayer and active resistance from American Catholics, but I worry that we have gone too far down this path to turn back.”
Chris’s mother grabbed her son’s hand and asked him to look into her eyes. “Chris, we love you and Christ loves you. You know that, right? We are going to face difficult times ahead of us and we have to stay strong and have faith in Christ and His Church. The government would be happy if everyone abandoned their churches, synagogues and mosques and looked to them for all the answers, but this is something we will never do. Do you understand?”
“Mom, I do understand. I guess I am just wondering how we got into this situation.”
“Chris, your father and I often talk about the same thing. We can look back over these last decades and see how we got so badly off course in this country. Slowly but surely the traditional family began to disintegrate as marriage was redefined and devalued at every turn. Easy access to contraception and unrestricted access to abortion and unrestrained materialism have had a profound effect on our generation. People have become increasingly self-involved, greedy and selfish as we have made false idols out of the things of this world versus focusing on the good things promised us in Heaven. As a consequence, we have grown increasingly distant from God and apathetic about faith. Our apathy and lukewarmness have led us to be silent in the face of this growing tyranny and injustice when we should have been speaking up and taking action to prevent it.
The answer is not easy and we have to pray for courage, humility and strength. We will remain committed to Christ and His Church and that will involve hardship…even suffering. We have a pretty clear choice: We can choose Hell or Heaven. Hell is the easy path and it only requires us to turn our backs on Christ and all that we know to be good and true. It means giving the government what it wants which is devotion and loyalty to them instead of God. Or, we can choose Heaven. We can love and serve our Lord and remember the incredible sacrifice He made for us on the Cross. People who have chosen evil over good will make fun of us and our lives will be challenging, but there is no doubt our family will pursue Heaven with the strength of the Holy Spirit to help us.”
Chris looked at his parents for what seemed like an eternity before saying in a low voice, “Can we pray right now for strength and courage? We need all the help we can get if we are going to make it through the tough times ahead and help the Church survive. I don’t know anything else to do…except pray.”
Chris’s father quickly pulled over into a shopping center, parked the car and pulled out his Rosary. His wife and son pulled out theirs as well and they all made the sign of the cross. “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth…”
The End…or maybe a future not yet written in stone
Questions for Self-Reflection:
- Does this scenario seem possible? Why or why not?
- Am I apathetic or lukewarm at times in the practice of my Catholic faith?
- Have I, through my actions or inaction, contributed to a possible future like the one in this story?
- Are there things I need to do (or stop doing) in order to protect our Catholic identity?
- Am I willing to suffer for Christ and my faith?
Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.
Randy Hain’s exciting new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012. Along the Way was recently named Runner-Up in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012. Learn more here. His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released in February, 2013. All of Randy Hain’s books can also be purchased at your local Catholic bookstore, Amazon or www.liguori.org.
Looking for a Catholic Speaker? Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.
Please post your comments and questions below.
If you appreciate our writing, please use both the Share and Recommend buttons to tell your family and friends about this article. Help us help others to integrate their faith throughout their daily life.
Thank you! – The Editors