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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Church Militant

What does it mean to be a member of the "Church Militant"? Have you ever considered it?


As soon as you're Confirmed, though...you're a member. You're in the Army. You're a Marine. You're in the Navy, and you're doing flyovers in the Air Force. Or maybe you're National Guard, filling all roles, or perhaps the Coast Guard, focusing not on combat, but on rescue and reparation. (I think I'm a Coastie...)

Congratuations, Catholic...you're a Militant now. And it's true.

But have you accepted your role, and do you have ANY IDEA what it means? Do you understand your commission? Do you realize that this is war?

We are all given different charisms; each according to God's terms. It is HE who calls us to service. It is He who assigns, it is He who commandeers our battles. And it is He who suffers the most (unlike the military found in humanity).

Are you aware that we are all OBLIGATED to defend our faith? It is a requirement of BAPTISM, further emphasized by CONFIRMATION.

But fear not..."defending" your faith means a lot of things.

Some interpret it to mean that we must fight tooth and nail against dissenters by declaring heresies, and in general hurl insults at people who simply don't understand our beliefs. Others think that it means harsh debate that denigrates into name-calling. Neither of the above models "defends" anything other than Pride.

Seek the fruits...follow the truth. What is true defense?

There are some who are gifted debaters. The Early Church was FULL of such souls; St. Justin Martyr was one of them. He wrote the first Apology (defense), Apologia, explaining what it meant to partake in the flesh of Christ (among other things). St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyprian, St. Cyril....all were wonderful debators. And in their debate, they did not denegrate the other who opposed them; rather, they upheld the One who sustained them.

The great art of debate has been lost in our culture, and we should not understand the term according to what plays out before us on the national stage, edited by the media.

Even today, there are those who are gifted in debate in defense of our faith. They key to defense in this regard is charity (divine love), for we are all called to defend our faith in LOVE.

Not out of animosity. Not out of anger. Not out of self-serving righteousness. Not out of the "I'm-right-and-you're-a-twit" Syndrome. Pride has no place in the defense of the Faith, in defense of Christ.

Yet some are called to a certain form of debate, for they have, for the most part, often found the balance: Apologists. Not all "apologists" provide a good example, however, those who are the most effective are coherent, intelligent, well grounded, well formed, and even-tempered. Religion is a topic that often gets heated very quickly; those who are truly called to defend the Faith in this way are those who can deflect the arrows of a hot-tempered opponent or cohort, and thus maintain a calm spirit in the face of inflammatory attacks. In short, they hold fast to reason and their own passions.

WHAT NOT TO DO

I used to frequent a Catholic website with a forum for Apologetics, and in fact, I learned a great deal there. However, once I found my place in the Church, the forum become tiresome because simple, innnocent questions often were denigrated into flame wars...even among the friendly! I still remember asking a question in a "Miscellaneous" forum, and the self-appointed "apologists" who jumped all over what I'd said, making accusations, leaping to amazingly weird conclusions, claiming all sorts of knowledge which had not been alluded to or needed. I ended up defending a friend implied but not named in my original question, as all sorts of weird heresies were attributed to him.

Those people may style themselves as apologists...they were, in fact, twits in the faith. (Sorry, that's just how it is.) So prideful they couldn't bother to read the actual question and answer it. It was more important to some to appear to know all, to quote all documents to refute questions that had not been asked.

I really no longer frequent that forum...it's too draining to defend and define, word by word, the simplest of questions when the original post has been deconstructed repeatedly by these strange people.

TRUE DEFENSE

The best defense is a good offense.

We've all heard it. We know...but to the above-described set, their missives on blogs and in forums is the offense: Put it out there, just DARE someone to refute it! And many don't even realize that the stuff they put out there is in error. Or just angry ranting. (I have engaged in this very thing myself.)

Anger doesn't beget conversions, people. You might be doing well in riling up the already-angry crowd, but really, how is our Lord going to see that as you go to your Judgment?

We all have to remember...even though we CAN rile people up, should we? What is the ultimate consequence? If we are angry, should we beget anger? What is the good in that?

Let us remember that Christ was reviled, and we should all have cause to be completely, fully outraged. Yet he accepted His cross and invited us to do the same. Anger has no place when we consider the cross of Christ in the defense of the Faith. The two simply contradict one another.

Yes, there ARE times for righteous anger...but that needs to be carefully discerned and not used in the service of Pride.

CONVERSION

Those of you who have left the Church and returned...what was it that evangelized you? Those of you who have come into the Church...what was it that called you Home?

Was it harsh debate, name-calling, or so-called righteous anger?

Or was it a personal connection, a friend willing to listen, someone willing to answer your questions, with honesty but without judgment directed at you?

The defense of the Faith to which we are all called does not ASK for Charity; it DEMANDS it. It DEMANDS that we put aside our own issues in order to serve what is needed in the other. It does not demand compromise; it only demands a willingness to listen, a willigness to explain, to teach, to find what is common...to synthesize, and encourage another to come to their OWN conclusion. For the only conclusion is Truth...but truth is found through reason, not force.

Yup. True evangelization appeals to reason. We must allow those who come to us to be themselves, to believe what they believe, and through honest dialogue, help direct them to what is good. We do not change what we believe or sugar-coat, however, we cannot preach fire-and-brimstone to someone sincerely seeking redemption; they are not necessarily ready for that message. That is a message for the converted...at least in our society. Yet there are those who would be terrified of that, and frightened away forever. There are others who do need that message in order to come back to the faith...and it leads to a fuller understanding. Each soul has different needs, but NONE needs vitriol.

We must discern...which message, for which person?

On a blog, we don't know. We are all given different gifts, and sometimes the harsh messages are necessary, for they are truthful. Yet we must take care for our delivery.


SO WHAT IS A TRUE DEFENSE?


Love. Real, honest love. Charity. It is a weapon that cannot be defeated.

We must SHINE. We aren't Saints; we can't even pretend to be so. Yet even through that oily sheen of sin that clings to us, staining us, others can see our attempts, our desires to be holy, our hope in Jesus Christ. And that attracts them.

The best defense is a good witness; the best defense is an honest witness; the best defense is a witness willing to suffer. Because it's often the witnesses who take the fall. It was true in the time of Christ, and it is true in our current times.

We are called to defend our Faith and give reason for our hope; it is synonymous to say we are called to love Christ and exemplify Christ to the world.

We don't all have to be geniuses, or eloquent debators, or angelic doctors; we only have to live our faith. That's it. Because a life well lived is the best reference; our relationship with Jesus means more than all the books of the Bible memorized and catalogued. Do you realize why Catholic Churches have stained glass, etched stones, and statues? Because not everyone could read; not everyone was educated. Cathedrals contain our faith summarized in pictures. It educates the poor. And it glorifies God; every color, every panel, every inch of decoration points to the Lord and gives definition to our Faith. It is Scripture and Tradition in pictures.

All we have to do is love God, let Him shine through us, consciously...and He will do the rest.

Are you ready? Are you willing to accept this mission? You have already been called...now it's time to serve.

20 comments:

Anne Marie said...

"Those of you who have left the Church and returned...what was it that evangelized you? Those of you who have come into the Church...what was it that called you Home?

Was it harsh debate, name-calling, or so-called righteous anger?"

I'm a revert and for me it was harsh debate, name-calling, and so-called righteious anger that brought me home. All of these things in Protestant circles made me curious about the bruhaha and got me researching the Church I was raised in. The protesting seamed a bit shrill and I figured if so many people are shouting down the Church there must be someting there mighty important.

Turns out the Truth is mighty important.

adoro said...

Anna Marie ~ So...it was the name-calling, harshness, and anger of the Protestant religion that drove you into the Church? Or was it the shrillness of people in the Church shouting down the Protestants? From what you say, I'm guessing the former?

Yup, the Truth IS important...and it doesn't need shrill hysterical debate in order to remain true.

Melody said...

To quote 1 Corinthians: 13; "If I should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, yet do not have love, I am nothing."
I don't think anyone has ever been converted by self-righteousness and scorn. I stay away from sites such as you were talking about because they sort of seem to miss the whole point in their zeal to score points. It isn't supposed to be a debate match. There is such a thing as telling the truth in love; but that can only be done through the grace of God. Most of the people I know who have converted, or returned to the Church, have done so because of the silent witness of people "walking the walk".

Theocoid said...

I think I've been to that forum, Adoro. There are good ones and not-so-good ones, for sure.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Excellent post. I linked to it.

Angela M. said...

"Neither of the above models "defends" anything other than Pride."

Wow! Many bloggers need to read that!! (myself included)

"...have left the Church and returned...what was it that evangelized you?"

It started with my stepson's then-girlfriend. She went to Mass and invited him. I think he was trying to impress her. In fact, neither of them has any grasp on the faith at all but they went anyway.

So, even though I had announced I was DONE with the Church in April 2002 partly because of an issue of Time mag's take on the Pope's supposed take on the sex scandals, I returned to Mass on Dec. 1, 2002. It was pride and jealousy that got me there. My pride, my jealousy that I "knew more" than my poorly catechized stepson and jealousy that he was able to receive Holy Commuion and that I could not.

After a month I stopped going. Then 2 months later when Father phoned me and said, "I still have that letter you sent me on my desk where you ask about being reconciled with the Church. I would like to meet with you."

He hadn't forgotten me - Father or God! I just needed an invitation, some affirmation that I was wanted even by only one person. Someone, even one person, who felt that the Church IS a good place to be. Someone who felt that my soul was worth saving. Of course I couldn't articulate that at the time but my broken soul wanted to heal and was open to the invitation.

Our priest learned affirmation of the people from his mentor, the bishop of our diocese about 30 years ago. Father learned the lesson well because if he hadn't I wouldn't be sitting here writing this on an orthodox Catholic blog.

Ma Beck said...

Adoro,

That was one of the finest posts I've ever read on any blog.

ABSOLUTELY beautiful, and spot-on.

Thank you.

Rebecca said...

Thank you for this post. I just came into the Church at Easter and recently received a very hostile letter from my parents. I have been struggling with how to respond, and I needed to hear much of what you wrote in this post.

Adoro te Devote said...

Melody ~ Yeah...those sites and blogs drive me away, too. And I almost quoted Corintians..one of my favorite passages, and I think I've taken it to heart. And I agree...people convert because of those who walk the walk, not those who talk the talk. When I taught RCIA, at the end of the year our most skeptical candidate told me that it wasn't what we said, but that we were willing to admit if we didn't know something, and that he could see that we were in love with Jesus. And in the end, that was enough. It was all he needed. So his year wasn't about knowledge; it was about witness. He knew where to go for information, but what he was really seeking was someone to show him the love of Christ. And I didn't know we were doing that, but we did...somehow.

Adoro te Devote said...

Theocoid ~ Yeah, there are many. And they're all the same. But there are good people there, too, and I still find them occasionally useful. But overall...yeah.

Cathy ~ Thanks! I commented there.

Angela ~ Thanks for that story...it does take the simplest request, doesn't it?


Ma Beck ~ High praise from you, indeed.


Rebecca ~ Welcome home, and please, let us here know if there is any way we can help (prayers, etc.) It must be awful, but I can't imageine what you must be going through. Be strong, be loving, and be Christ to your family. (And yeah...I know what I'm saying...) God bless you!

Angela M. said...

Adoro, the simplest request in Scripture was extended to the Apostles - "Follow me."

I am sure glad I did!

P said...

"Those of you who have left the Church and returned...what was it that evangelized you? Those of you who have come into the Church...what was it that called you Home?

Was it harsh debate, name-calling, or so-called righteous anger?"

Just for a contrary point of view, I have converted someone to the Faith by name-calling. The exact words were, "If you believe that, than you are a monkey with pants."

I wouldn't be so quick to assume that everyone is motivated by the same things that you are. There is a proper place for scorn and contempt for ridiculous ideas in Evangelization. And yes, for "so-called" (i.e. correctly called) righteous anger. It just depends on who you are dealing with.

Adoro te Devote said...

p: ROFL! A monkey with pants!

From that context, it sounds like the person who called you that was not a random stranger, but a friend who knew you well enough to hurl such an absurd insult.

You know....in philosophy, sometimes absurdity is needed and must be held as a premise in order to bring one to logic. That's a different thing entirely than shrill mean-spirited attacks. I'd love to hear the rest of your story!

In any case, yes, there is a place for that kind of thing, but what I was trying to focus on was the more common aspects, and the snark we often see by people online or, perhaps in our own lives.

Certainly, it depends on who you are dealing with. And I did address that in my post, but perhaps not clearly enough, and I apologize for that. And I agree with you in that regard. However, the rest of what I'd said still stands as the norm; if you read some of the books by experienced apologists, or even their short lists on what not to do, they'll basically say the same thing, but better.

This post has been from my own observations and musings...I'd be interested in hearing more of yours, via way of your conversion story perhaps?

uncle jim said...

Poetry and prose are supposed to elicit mental and affective responses from the reader.- some almost automatically, and some after some due consideration of the text.

I believe our creator wrote the most beautiful poem ever.

It is entitled:
- - - - -
'I AM' [by God]
. . .

Y O U !


- - - - -
automatic and with consideration, it says it all.

Fr. V said...

WELL SAID! WELL SAID!

Sometimes the bravest, most noble, most heroic and effective thing to do is NOT pick up the club and hit someone over the head.

Mark said...

excellent post for the feast of St. Vincent Ferrer!

Bear the light of Christ to those in darkness, and some will attack the bearer because they prefer darkness to light, but it is for those in darkness that He came, and the attack on the bearer of the light is only the attack on the light, but in this, we do as St Paul said, "filling up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ."

In other words, live and give an account for your faith, so that the attack you receive is not the attack you deserve, but is for the sake of His Holy Name. Then you will be blessed indeed. and if you have deserved it, then implore St. Dismas' assistance to accept with humility, and turn again to the Light.

Tara said...

You mean I can't use the "I'm-right-and-you're-a-twit" Syndrome?" Drat! Just kidding. Good post adoro. Whenever I speak to anyone of the faith I try to determine if they truly want real information or if they just want to argue, aor convince you of their lies--usually I don't waste my time with them.

Father Erik one time told me, "just let God do the heavy lifting." Good advice. The wind blows where it wills, there is Grace enough for everyone to accept God's truth--they just have to open their hearts and be sensitive to God's calling.

Anonymous said...

This post struck a chord with me--I was very recently castigated for forwarding a message regarding the opening of the movie "Bella" to a homeschool newsgroup.

One of the two ladies who strongly objected (incidentally I received the support of the moderator and many others), openly admitted on the site to being a member of "Catholics for Free Choice", as well as being a Catholic. What is the virtuous thing to do in this circumstance??? Ignore this or defend the Faith???? Or is it just my pride wanting to take them on???

I decided to email friends to ask for prayer and advice, and prayed that Jesus would speak through me. Otherwise, being twittishly arrogant and easily annoyed by what I perceive as inexcusable stupidity, I would say something calculated to offend and aggravate.

Whether Jesus succeeded in getting myself out of the way I don't know. But my dilemma was whether I should stay out of it, or whether it was a duty to stand up and point out (as gently as possible without dumbing down) what it is to be Catholic.

Poor lady was a convert with deficient RCIA, and brought the Protestant thought in, instead of leaving it at the door--the idea that we are all our own judge of what's right and wrong, and what to believe. The old authority issue. She's homeschooling 4 kids no less! So prayers, prayers, prayers are needed.

Thanks for a good post, Adoro!

Embattled Catholic

uncle jim said...

i've been through this post several times, now.

it has a lot of meat.

there are 3 Catholic parishes in our county. two of them regularly try to work together on special projects ... like confirmation, which then saves the bishop at least one trip to our side of the world.

the current combined class [mostly high school 10th graders] from the two parishes is having an overnight retreat this weekend at a facility with which i'm not familiar about 40 minutes away in the next county.
they'll go up of this coming friday eve and stay through saturday dinner / supper ... probably about 45 of them i'm told.

i've been asked by the coordinators of this event to be the saturday morning speaker - first thing after breakfast and immediately before a late morning Mass.

i can imagine they won't have gotten much sleep friday eve. I'll drive up saturday morn and see if i can get them off to a rousing start.

point of this comment?

you have reminded me of some things i didn't have it in mind to talk about - now i do ... and will.

thanks!

Adoro te Devote said...

Fr. V. ~ I agree. I can't tell you how many times I'd have preferred to pick up a club. But every time I did, I was the one who got hit with it, one way or another.

Mark ~ Thanks, great comment...I always forget to pray to St. Dismas, although really, I think he's one who has often been beside me.

Tara ~ I personally am a fan of the "I'm right and you're a twit" syndrome...or maybe a sufferer? In any case, whenever that sickness comes into play I find myself in Confession1 LOL! Fr. Erik is right...listen to him.
:-)

Embattled Catholic ~ What a terrible experience! I'm sorry you had to go through it, but then again, maybe what you and others said in your defense had an impact on those who attacked you. One never knows. Many years ago I was in an online debate contest at a website I frequented, and the topic was abortion. I wasn't a practicing Catholic at the time, but in researching my pro-life position, I looked at the Catechism. And quoted it. One woman who claimed to be Christian jumped in and demanded: "Stop shoving your Catholic dogma down our throats! I have the armor of God on and I will take you out!"

I was so taken aback that I barely knew what to say, and in fact, it terrified me. I wasn't strong in my position anyway, but found the CCC argument to be very strong...and no matter the logic, this woman was attacking me. But...when I checked back, people who opposed the pro-life position came to my defense because although they disagreed with what I'd posted, they greatly disagreed with the woman's fully irrational attack and felt that she'd just made their position weaker.

So...you never know how attacks may be regarded by others who think that their position is the true one. Like "P" above, it's possible that the shrillness of my opposition drove others to consider the Truth. And in your case, same thing.

And sadly, a lot of "Catholics" today are not just deficient in RCIA catechesis, but in cradle catechesis. And that problem doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.

God bless you, and keep up the good fight!

Uncle Jim ~ Glad I can help! I'd love to hear your talk.