We should proudly promote our Catholic identity to those who have adopted the prevailing cultural aversion to "organized" religion.
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God's grace (2 Cor. 1:12).
"I'm very spiritual. But I'm not comfortable with 'organized' religion."
Ever heard this gem? I've been listening to it for decades. It's pretty incoherent, but—inexplicably—it sends religious people into a hasty, blushing retreat. That should never be the case.
Here's my smiling response: "Yes, well, I like organized religion. I'm a Catholic. And the Catholic church is so organized that we advocate for, educate, clothe, house, rescue, and heal more people worldwide than any other single organization on earth. You have to be organized to do that."
I rarely get an argument and the listener is often silenced by the simple logic of my answer.
Here are a few of many possible examples.Catholic Relief Services is a global leader in disaster relief, hitting the ground at a moment's notice wherever they are needed. Think New Orleans, Haiti, Chile, and Japan. And our many missionary organizations serve the poor and sick all around the world, 24/7, 365 days a year. You've gotta be organized to do that. But that's not all.
About 80 percent of all immigrant and indigent people in the U.S. are cared for—free—in Catholic hospitals. We are second only to the United Way as a charitable institution in the U.S., with our hospitals, AIDS hospices, schools, affordable housing, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, homes for the aged and handicapped, and more. Our inner-city parochial schools educate huge numbers of non-Catholic minority students on scholarship, with no strings attached. We lead the public debate on social and moral issues, like immigration, abortion, and euthanasia and provide free, no-strings support to pregnant women and their families for as long as they need it. And the nearly 20,000 Catholic parishes in this country provide a host of free services, almost entirely staffed by volunteers, to cover many of the needs of their individual communities.
"Now, that's organized."
Unfortunately, we and our students live in a culture that denigrates faith, especially that of Catholics, because those who oppose the Church recognize the strength of her unwavering moral leadership—and they fear it. Let's be sure we gird our students with both the truths of our faith and of our history. They should be ready to stand up for Christ and proudly boast that they are Catholics!
- Bone up on Catholic history yourself, so you can teach it effectively. Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church: A 2,000-Year History by H.W. Crocker. For an enjoyable read, check out:
- Make sure you can refute the most common false charges against the Church. Last week I recommended a terrific read that will give you a great foundation: Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians," by Karl Keating.
Please share your favorite resources both in print and online, here in the comments section.
God bless you!