In the comments below, my good friend Lisa Schmidt (of the wonderful blog The Practicing Catholic) posed the following query:
Archbishop Chaput recently issued (in part) the following statement: “We should see ourselves as Catholic first — not white or black, or young or old, or Democrat or Republican, or labor militant or business owner, but Catholic first as the main way we identify ourselves. Our faith should shape our lives, including our political choices.” One of the many things I admire about you is your ability to take what could be and have been controversial issues within our Church and pose them in a respectful Catholic-first, Catholic-forward manner. Does the Archbishop’s statement resonate with you? Do you consciously attempt to approach your work in this manner?
I love Lisa’s question because it opens a conversation we can (and should) all ponder together. Lisa quotes from an interview Archbishop Chaput gave to the National Review in response to a question about what it means to “vote Catholic”. But as both you and Archbishop Chaput note, Lisa, this “Catholic-first” quality isn’t simply about our important actions in the voting box. I don’t mean to discount elections, but the truth is that our Catholicity happens every day of our lives, in even the smallest of decisions we make.
Some of my friends know that the origins of my CatholicMom.com website happened in late 1999 and early 2000, when we Catholics were being called to the New Evangelization. In my personal life, I was in love with the world’s most amazing husband and doing my very best to faith-parent my two sons. Since Greg (said husband) wasn’t Catholic at that time, the burden of being “domestic church” fell squarely on my shoulders and though I’d been a lifelong Catholic, I went looking for help online. The resultant growth of a site dedicated to helping families live out our faith all seven days of the week has been a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s also meant that people often think my last name is “from CatholicMom.com”. I don’t shy away from that moniker — I’ve worn it proudly through good times and bad in the last eleven years, and I’m fairly certain that when my “real world” friends see me, they immediately think, “There’s Lisa, my Catholic friend.” And it’s also likely that this perception of theirs colors the way they interact with me.
Lisa, your question has me pondering the life of St. Margaret Clitherow, one of the 40 English Martyrs whose lives we celebrate this week on their October 25th feast day. A Catholic wife and mother and a shrewd businesswoman, Margaret was “Catholic first” at a time when doing so meant grave danger. Married to a non-Catholic spouse, Margaret raised her children in the faith and so loved the Eucharist that she harbored priests and held secret masses in her home. Imprisoned for her crimes, she took the opportunity to study Latin and the gospels, never backing down from her commitment to her faith. She paid the ultimate price for her convictions — a death penalty which sentenced her to death by crushing. St. Margaret went to her death with the words, “I die for the love of my Lord Jesu” on her lips.
It’s unlikely that I’ll ever be called to stand up for my faith as St. Margaret Clitherow and her fellow martyrs were called to do. But every day, in big and little ways, you and I are called to be “Catholic first” in the context of our daily lives. In the voting box, but also in our living rooms, at the market, in the workplace and alongside sporting fields… I pray daily and often through the intercession of St. Margaret Clitherow for the grace and strength to live up to that responsibility.
Question for you: What does being “Catholic first” look like in your world? What challenges do you face in standing up for the faith?