Best or Worst of Times?

Someone the other day was talking with me about how bad it is getting for the Church in the U.S. as the cultural tide is turning against more and more of the Church’s teachings. They said to me, “Do you agree?”

Spontaneously, that quintessentially Catholic response to most questions came to mind: sic et non, yes and no. But, as most often happens when someone asks me a question I did not expect, I thought of four great quotes after our brief subsequent exchange. SO I will share with you a bit of what I would have said to him had I had these quotes at my immediate command:

“Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world.” — St. Ignatius of Antioch, d. 108 A.D. from his Letter to the Romans 3.3

Why? It gives us an opportunity to give voice to the Gospel while we have the attention of those who care enough to reject our message:

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. — 1 Peter 3:15

It gives us the privileged opportunity to demonstrate the character of divine love. Indeed, Jesus’ most persuasive proclamation came as He spoke what St. Paul entitled, “The word of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18):

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. — Matthew 5:43-48

And finally, as people who believe in Divine Providence, and especially in God’s proclivity to draw the greatest goods out of the greatest evils, it’s always important to find the hopeful opportunity — the hidden grace — that is always present in the midst of threat:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

A gentleman I met in Tallahassee, Florida, had a great way of phrasing what I’m getting at: Times of adversity always show of what mettle you’re made, and without adversity you’re always an unknown quantity.

7 comments on “Best or Worst of Times?

  1. Mr. Patton says:

    It has been a long time since I have read anything from a Catholic blog that resembled Christ. I can only hope that your are part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

  2. hart1959 says:

    Psalm 146:3 “Put not your trust in princes, Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help”

    • Amen! And therefore place your trust in the God who promises to be with us as we choose to love with the same Spirit-breathed love of “princes and sons of men” that was in the crucified Son of Man; a love worthy of His scar-bearing Resurrection! Great quote. Thank you.

  3. Boy Tom, with today’s news from Rome, your question takes on a new poignancy! Let us pray for the Holy Father and the Church. Happy Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes to a great Mountie! In the famous words of Fr. Anthony Manocchio…”go to the Grotto!!”

  4. […] Are these the best or worst of times for the Church? ( […]

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