By Kate Walsh Soucheray
Choosing to live a virtuous life must be taught in our current culture. We cannot simply expect people to understand or to know what a virtuous life is or how to live a virtuous life. We may have taken for granted that people knew and understood this idea in previous generations.
However, we have moved so far from anything resembling decorum, manners, and virtuous living that it may seem as if we are living in exile from the expectations of treating others respectfully.
The Hebrew people were taken into exile by the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C., and the parents were told by the prophet Jeremiah, “Build your houses, plant your gardens.” Scholars tell us that passage meant that the people were going to be there for a while, so settle in and teach the children what they need to know.
And what was the teaching these parents were to pass on to their children? They were to teach them the Law.
In the times in which they were living, they, too, had become so far from all they learned as they traveled through the desert on their way home to the Promised Land from slavery in Egypt. When they arrived in the land promised to their ancestors, they were clear about what God was asking of them and they lived according to those teachings.
Over a period of four hundred years, however, they became distanced from the Commandments and began to live in harmony with the Gentile cultures around them as they lost touch with the fundamental principles of their faith.
We are no different from these Hebrew people who lost their way, except that it did not take us four hundred years. No, it took five decades!
How could we have lost touch with the fundamental principles of our faith and all that they intended to teach us in a mere fifty years? How much did the teachings mean to us if we lost them that quickly? How well did we understand them and how well integrated were they into our lives if we lost touch with them between the 1960s to today?
It would not take much for us to look back at all that has transpired over the past five decades to understand how this could have happened.
With the changes our Church instituted due to Vatican II, the laity was handed the responsibility to integrate holiness and to teach the faith to their children. They were expected to live according to a well-formed conscience, but they had little knowledge of what that was or how to live it for themselves, let alone how to teach it to their children.
It wouldn’t take much for the intrusion of the Internet and all the misguidance it provided in our lives to see how quickly we could lose our way.
We must return to our faith roots and, just like the Hebrew people held in exile in Babylon, we too must settle into this time, as we realign with our faith. We must re-discover what is essential to us and begin to live it each day, as well as teach our children the precepts of our faith through the example we set.
God always leaves a remnant. We are that remnant, and we cannot ignore for one more minute the responsibility that rests on us to live our faith in simple, clear ways each day, as we set a good example for our children and others.
What can you do today to live your faith in simple ways?
Could you make a commitment to attend Mass this weekend? Could you be sure to visit sites on the Internet that enhance your humanity and the humanity and dignity of others? Could you be honest in every way today? Could you be attentive to turning away from gossip and tamp it down any time you hear it?
What is described here is simply that we must align our lives with the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments. This is expected of us, and when we do not live according to the guidance these principles set before us, we should not be surprised that we feel so lost and imprudent.
Be a person who provides an example of virtuous living today. Commit yourself to understand what it is to be salt and light for others today.
Spread the good news of Jesus Christ alive and well in our presence through the example you set of living a virtuous life in the right relationship with everyone you meet today. Accept that we may be in exile from all that has made sense in previous generations, but we need not be in exile from the fundamental principles of our faith.
As Catholic Christians, we are expected to understand these principles and live them each day in simple, clear ways.