If you look at the declining number of Catholics in the Western world, you’d realize how our world is quickly turning into a godless one. The word “secular” no longer seems to be enough to describe how the future could look like. It could very well be like living in Babylon where proclaiming your faith risks being thrown into the lion’s den!
How do you live your faith in a world that doesn’t believe in God?
How do you raise your children in a culture that teaches them to believe only in the material world that they see?
In Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, we can find a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf that could be similar to our current struggle with secularism.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” says Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
But what do we do as we live in these times of unbelief?
Let us explore the various areas in life where our faith as Catholics could be tested by the secular world:
1. Work and Career Life
As the culture becomes more and more secular, the effect on one’s career and source of income would become even more prevalent.
If you are a doctor, the time may come when you could risk losing your job for refusing to perform an abortion or euthanasia. If you are a businessman, you could lose a significant portion of your income if you don’t cater to markets that seem in conflict with your Catholic faith.
These may not seem so alarming at the moment, but we can start by looking at the case of the baker who got fined for refusing to bake a cake for a transgender woman. While we can listen to various sides of the issue, it just shows what conflict is possible when one tries to live as a Catholic in a secular world.
What if you’re an events organizer and you’re asked to handle an LGBTQ parade? Or what if you’re a freelance writer and you’re asked to write about New Age spirituality? What do you do if you’re a graphics designer and your client asked for illustrations about witchcraft?
How do you uphold your faith while continuing to show love and respect for your neighbor?
You have to discern more deeply so that you can distinguish between scrupulosity and standing up for your faith. You also have to pray for the strength and courage you need so that you will not compromise your beliefs.
2. Social Life
As no man is an island, you will continue to feel the need for friendship and social interaction. You would want to have a group of people to spend time with, travel with and pursue your hobbies and other activities with.
But if most of your friends are atheists or agnostics, you may feel like an outcast for being the only one who believes in God.
You may realize how you often disagree with their views on current issues. You may also feel alone when you want to discuss your deeper realizations about the faith. Even praying would seem out of place whenever you’re with them.
Considering all these, you may want to seek the support of like-minded people. Perhaps you can find some people in your parish who could support you spiritually. You may even find some people in groups online with whom to share your faith.
You may not see yourself totally abstaining from secular friendship, especially when they’re part of the people you study or work with. But you should have clear expectations about your relationships.
As secular thinking becomes more influential, education may lean more against your Catholic beliefs. It may convey the idea that only science is the bearer of truth and that people who believe in the spiritual world are illogical. Science and religion may then seem incompatible with each other.
It may also give a history that depicts the Church in a bad light, focusing on the errors and sins of its members and forgetting the good that the Catholic faith has brought to the world.
Even education within Catholic schools may be affected by the powerful influence of the culture beyond its walls. This is not to mention the number of Catholic schools that may close as the world becomes more atheistic in its beliefs.
How do you raise your children knowing the many errors they could learn along the way? How do you give them quality education without putting their very souls at risk?
There are those who have already decided to home-school their children. While this would mean allotting more time on the part of parents, this would help them give the kind of education that does not destroy their faith in God.
You must also remember that the first and most significant part of a child’s education would be the one they acquire at home. Children learn not only by books but by example. Before they go out to the world they must have seen through their families what a life of faith is like.
4. The Internet and Mass Media
Movies and TV shows are becoming more and more filled with violence, sexual scenes and profanity. You may find it harder and harder to find ones that you can watch at home with your children. Even cartoons and children’s shows seem to be filled with ideas contrary to the Catholic faith.
Do we live our lives as virtual hermits to keep our Catholic beliefs intact?
While you can lessen the time you and your family usually spend watching movies and TV shows, you can also filter the ones that are safe even for children. You can also select some that could be a starting point for your family discussion about the faith.
We need not be totally ignorant about what is going on. But we have to be steadfast in our beliefs so that instead of being influenced, we can be the ones to influence the world for the better.
This is the same with the internet and the use of social media. The time has come when we can’t be totally absent from the virtual world. But before reading and absorbing information presented online, we must be equipped with the wisdom to discern what is true and beneficial for our lives.
Living Our Catholic Faith
We are called to live our Catholic beliefs not only in times of comfort but also in times of great difficulty. Were we not commanded to be like Jesus in carrying our cross? We were warned that a time like this would come when many would prefer darkness to light.
This is our opportunity to grow in our love for God and our neighbor. Even when we suffer, let us not forget the hope that has been given to us.
We may grow few, but we can grow stronger. We may find more darkness around us, but we can be the light that can draw other people to God.
“Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.” – Pope Benedict XVI
“God wants you to be in the world, but so different from the world that you will change it. Get cracking.” – Mother Angelica
You may also want to read “Why Must the Church Become Small?”
Jocelyn Soriano is a freelance writer and the author of Defending My Catholic Faith. “You and I have been called to live at this very hour.” Do you have questions or doubts about the Catholic faith?