“There cannot be two parallel lives in [the Christian’s] existence on the one hand, the so-called “spiritual” life, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called “secular” life that is life in a family, at work, in social relationships, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture… Therefore, I have maintained that a faith that does not affect a person’s culture is a faith “not fully embraced, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived” – Blessed John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 59.
When we look at recent decisions regarding the redefinition of marriage, we tend to want to place blame. Many would like to blame certain politicians or certain Supreme Court Justices or the misinformed electorate for our current situation. If we truly want to be honest, we are why we are where we are. We are the problem. We are also the solution.
Blessed John Paul II challenges me. He challenges you. He challenges every one of us to recognize that, in the end, our lives, our faith will be measured by the impact, the effect that they have on the culture. Have I personally affected the culture in which I live through my words and actions? If so, how? And, if not, why? Have I done enough?
We cannot fix the Supreme Court. Nor can we fix the politicians. But we can, with God’s help, with His grace, “fix” ourselves. And, if we do accept this challenge, we can, particularly through setting our families ablaze, begin to affect our culture for the better.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council honed in on the issue, the error that has led us to where we find ourselves today. They pointed out that one of the “gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives” (Guadium et Spes, 43). They and, subsequently, Blessed John Paul II both point us to the problem and to its correction – Christians daring to live integrated lives where there is no separation between the Gospel and life. The late Pope lays down our charge as husbands, as wives, as children, as bankers, as policemen, as ordinary people living ordinary lives:
The responsibility of the lay faithful, in particular, is “to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response …. to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society. This will be possible if the lay faithful will know how to overcome in themselves the separation of the Gospel from life, to again take up in their daily activities in family, work, and society, an integrated approach to life that is fully brought about by the inspiration and strength of the Gospel. (Christifideles Laici, 34)
The outcome depends on our ability to integrate our faith into our lives, into our families, into our everyday. We cannot live one way on Sunday, another way at the office, and yet another on the practice field with our son’s all-star team. We are meant to be the answer to every individual’s and every society’s problems and hopes. We are that answer when we testify with our lives that our faith is the only fully valid response to our current situation. How radical is that? Do we really believe it? If we do, where do we start?
Blessed John Paul II’s provides us with plan. We must embrace. We must think. We must live. Here are some thoughts on this plan:
Embrace. To live this radical, fully integrated life, we must embrace the entirety of the fullness of the Gospel. In order to do that, we must invest time to discover the fullness of the Truth found in Jesus Christ. All it takes is an hour a day. For the future of this country and its culture, set aside 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes before bed (1 hour, less than 5% of the day) and do the following.
- Pray – begin each day with a daily offering, uniting all your thoughts, words and deeds, your joys and sufferings, your successes and your failures with Christ’s perfect sacrifice on Calvary made present again in every Mass. Here is a great link for the daily offering – (http://www.apostleshipofprayer.org/morningofferingprayers.html)
- Pray Again – make an Act of Faith, of Hope, and of Love (http://www.wf-f.org/ActFaithHopeLove.html) and ask for the eyes of faith to recognize the fact that reality consists of both the visible and the invisible. Matter matters, but it is not the only thing that matters.
- Read the Bible daily. We use this one Abide in My Word (http://www.amazon.com/Abide-My-Word-Readings-Fingertips/dp/1593252021).
- Study the content of the Faith so that you know what you are fully embracing. For me, reading the Catechism from cover to cover has never worked. If you are like me, use it as a reference on a particular topic. If you have a question, look the topic up in the index and read the Church’s teaching on that topic. For a shorter overview of the content of the faith, you could read Frank Sheed’s Theology for Beginners (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0892831243) or Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Think. As you embrace the faith, becoming more aware of the richness and fullness of that faith, engage your minds and think about why the faith matters. Once we understand that the Church teaches that the invisible God is Three Persons in One God, we must carry it a step further and ask why does that teaching matter at all. What does it mean for me when I’m making breakfast or a bed, when I’m changing a diaper or a light bulb? The Church teaches that the Trinity is the first in the hierarchy of revealed truths. Jesus, the 2nd Person of this Holy Trinity, came to reveal to us that God is a Trinity. Why? Furthermore, the second in that hierarchy of truths is that second Person of that invisible God became man – like us in every way except for sin. Jesus came to let us know what we’re capable of, what we’re made for, and what we’re called to. What does that mean? Why does it matter? We need to ask questions about the faith and think!
Live. Our prayer, our study, our thinking, our faith must be translated into concrete actions. Live what you believe! The invisible God revealed Himself to us in and through a human body. He asks us as His adopted children to do the same. Through the bodies He has given us, He asks us to make Him visible to others. In fact, according to Blessed John Paul II, our bodies, and them alone, are “capable of making the invisible, visible – the spiritual and the divine”.
If we will follow this plan to embrace fully, to think out entirely, and to live faithfully our faith, our families will be set ablaze, and we will begin to affect our culture for the good.
If you’d like to hear the two of us discuss this integration in more detail, download our most recent podcast from our website – www.mysteryofparenthood.com.