Authentic Witnesses

One of the most admirable aspects of the relationship between St. Ambrose and St. Augustine during the time that St. Augustine was taking instruction from St. Ambrose was the willingness of St. Ambrose to let St. Augustine leave and return to North Africa without being received into the Church. St. Augustine understood everything that St. Ambrose had taught him and thought all of it made perfect sense. He just couldn't believe it. Instead of telling St. Augustine that he didn't have to believe all of it or that he could decide for himself what he believed, St. Ambrose respected the truth of the Catholic faith and St. Augustine's dignity and did not receive St. Augustine on a kind of "conditional" basis. For both St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, everything the Church taught was vital to and necessary for salvation and, therefore, had to be believed.

The reason St. Augustine had not become a devoted follower of any other religion or philosophy at the time was this very problem of selective faith or adherence. Only the Catholic Church required its adherents to believe and hold everything the Church taught. Every other group allowed or even encouraged its members to decide what teachings they wanted to believe and to mix in beliefs from other groups. St. Augustine was searching for the truth and such inconstancy was a sign to him of the falseness of these other doctrines and philosophies and his search for the truth led him to the Catholic Church.

Today, it is just as important as ever that we Catholics know our faith and believe all of it. There are parts of the faith we will never understand, like the Trinity, but we believe them anyway knowing that we will never understand these mysteries about God. There are other parts of the faith we don't want to believe, because they condemn or challenge the way we are choosing to live our lives at the moment.  These parts of the faith are the ones many Catholics are choosing to ignore and disobey, while continuing to identify themselves as Catholics. Beyond the damage such ignorance and arrogance is doing to the souls and salvation of these individuals, those who are not Catholic see such examples as proof that the truth is not to be found in the Catholic Church. What St. Augustine encountered in his day is still true today: the truth is not found within a religion or a philosophy that allows or encourages its members to decide what they will believe. While the truth is found within the Catholic Church, those who are not Catholic see only the way those who identify as Catholics are living their lives. We do not want to make our lives lies that push away those who are sincerely looking for the truth.

It seems any more that the Catholic Church is one organization where many of the members are actively working to make the Church into something entirely different. No one joins the National Rifle Association, for example, and works hard to turn it into the National Realtors Association. People join the National Rifle Association precisely because the NRA champions and defends Second Amendment rights. They pay their dues and support the cause. If they do not support the NRA, they do not join. Or, more importantly, if they come to disagree with the NRA, they leave.

The Catholic Church is significantly more important in the world and in the lives of people than the NRA and her importance requires a serious and sober commitment on the part of those who want to call themselves Catholic.  If you currently call yourself Catholic, then it might be time to make a decision to believe or to leave.  If you choose to believe, then bring your life in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church and begin working in the New Evangelization by evangelizing yourself.  If you do not or cannot believe what the Church teaches, then show respect to the Church, to yourself, and to those who are looking for the truth, and leave the Church. Take the time you need to pray and study and come to fully believe everything the Church teaches.

You are free to believe anything you want, but being Catholic means something very specific. If you cannot be an authentic example of the Catholic faith, then find the place that best suits you until you can.

The authentic witness of Catholics led St. Augustine to study the faith and, in time, to embrace it. Our authentic witness to the Catholic faith can achieve the same results today, if we only have the courage to live it.


Popular posts from this blog

The Problem of Evil

Temptations To Love More

Gracefully Obedient