“Think about the possibilities if we all made a sincere daily commitment, no matter how small, to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us.”
Do we sometimes feel overwhelmed in the face of the relentless assault on the Church, our beliefs, and our families by the media and modern culture? Is it difficult to stand up for what we believe? Do we ever feel like we can’t make a difference? Many Catholics I encounter are struggling through daily battles to live out their faith and protect their loved ones…all in the midst of a very difficult economic climate. It would be easy to throw in the towel and give up or remain silent, but that is not an option for us. We are called to do more. We are called to be holy: “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 39).
Part of our challenge is getting past feeling overwhelmed. We are not able to tackle everything at once, so let’s make it simple and focus on what we can do. We need to work on ourselves and pursue lives of personal holiness. Our ultimate destination is heaven, and we need to live our lives on earth in a way that will help us get there. So what can we do?
First of all, we can’t stand on the sidelines and watch. We also must believe that one person can make a difference. Consider the examples of Blessed John Paul II, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Josemaria Escriva, and St. Paul, to name a few. Our brave acts, no matter how small or large, can have a profound influence on others if we are simply willing to make the effort.
At times it seems we have lost our way and forgotten or ignored the teachings of the Church. Maybe we have forgotten to put our trust in God and rely on Him. “Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground” (Ephesians 6:10–13). I love the thought of putting on the “armor of God” as we fight the battles ahead!
Five Ways Catholics Can Make a Difference
I am involved with a group of Catholic business leaders that meets every month. When we first started gathering in 2007, we had dreams of taking on the world and making a real difference through our Catholic faith! But we soon realized that we had much work to do in getting our spiritual lives in order. We understood after much prayer and reflection that we had to be humble and work on surrendering and conforming to Christ before we could make a positive difference in the lives of others. Here are five simple ways we have learned to make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us:
- Knowing what is necessary for spiritual growth. We will not grow in our faith without daily prayer. We have to make prayer time a priority and stop making excuses. “The first rule for prayer, the most important first step, is not about how to do it, but to just do it; not to perfect and complete it but to begin it. Once the car is moving, it’s easy to steer it in the right direction, but it’s much harder to start it up when it’s stalled. And prayer is stalled in our world.” (Dr. Peter Kreeft, from the essay Time)
- Remember we are called to lead lives of holiness. As unpopular and out of step with our modern culture as this may be, we are all called to become saints. “The call to holiness is rooted in baptism and proposed anew in the other sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by His spirit, they are ‘holy.’ They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do. The Apostle Paul never tires of admonishing all Christians to live ‘as is fitting among saints’ (Ephesians 5:3).” (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici, 16)
- Live as a Catholic; speak as a Catholic. We can’t be cafeteria or cultural Catholics. We are called to live authentic Catholic lives and be true to our beautiful faith. “To acknowledge God before men is to be a living witness to His life and to His words. We want to fulfill our daily tasks, to carry out everything we do, according to the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and we should be disposed to make our faith transparent in every one of our family and professional obligations. Let us stop and think for a moment of our work, of our colleagues, of our friendships: are we seen as people whose lives are totally consistent with our faith?” (Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Vol. 1, p.44)
- We can’t serve God AND the world. We can’t have it both ways. There is no way to pursue a life of holiness and worry about chasing illusory pleasures and the things of this world that don’t matter. We can’t serve God and the world at the same time.
- Be a light for Christ to others. One of the most profound ways to affect others is to radiate joy and let people see Christ at work in us. Our personal example can be the catalyst that helps lead someone into the Church. “Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Philippians 2:14–16).
Where Catholics are Called to Serve
The world needs Catholics to make a difference. How? Where have we been called to serve? Some of us are prayer warriors, silently praying in earnest for Mother Church, the sick, an end to abortion, and for the souls in purgatory (among other things). Some of us are called to the married or single life and still others are called to serve Christ in the public square. Many are called to the priesthood and religious life. Some are missionaries serving the poor and unwanted of the world. Wherever we are called, we have countless opportunities each day to serve Him in our words and deeds. We should live out our calling with joy and know that our positive example will have an impact on the behavior and faith of others who are silently watching us.
As much as I try to give up my anxiety and fear in prayer, I am worried about the future of our country, the world, and the Church. I am inclined toward action and getting involved to make a difference, but I struggle sometimes to know how to apply my efforts. I have come to realize that I can best serve our Lord and His Church by being devoted in the practice of my Catholic faith and setting a good example. I need to be diligent about my prayer life as well as speaking up for what I believe. I have to be humble, loving, and remind myself that all of my efforts are for His greater glory and not my own.
Consider the wisdom in this quote from one of my favorite writers, Francis Fernandez, and his wonderful series of books In Conversation with God: “However, God does not ask the majority of Christians to shed their blood in testimony of the faith they profess. But He does ask of everyone an heroic steadfastness in proclaiming the truth through his life and words in environments which may be difficult and hostile to the teachings of Christ. He asks them to live fully the Christian virtues in the middle of the world, in whatever circumstances life has placed them. This is the path that the majority of Christians will have to tread—Christians who have to sanctify themselves through living heroism in the duties and circumstances of each day. Today’s Christian needs the virtue of fortitude in a special way. This virtue, as well as being humanly so attractive, is indispensable given the materialistic mentality of so many people today; it is a mentality that prizes comfort and has a horror of anything that smacks of mortification, renunciation or sacrifice. So every act of virtue contains within it an act of courage, of fortitude; without it we cannot remain faithful to God.” (Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Vol.3, p.208)
I find myself just as challenged as most people to live an authentic Catholic life in the world today. But I know we are called to try and make a sincere effort. I also know we are not alone and Christ stands ready to help us if we go to Him in prayer with our desires. The key is to leave the sidelines and get started. Our efforts may be listening to a lonely and depressed coworker, saying a prayer for a friend seeking employment, or spending quality time with our family. Maybe now is the time to volunteer for a parish ministry. Whatever we do, let’s do it to glorify Christ, put our fears aside, and truly serve Him. Think about the possibilities if we all made a sincere daily commitment, no matter how small, to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us. The world would be transformed.
*Adapted from Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith with permission from Liguori Publications and Randy Hain.
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 voted Runner-Up in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012. 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.
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