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Monday, September 01, 2008

Martyrs for the Faith

Back when I started my blog, and even up to about a year ago, I had a lot of snarky posts, and I made a lot of comments on other blogs and in forums about "speaking up" and "telling the Truth". With others, I lamented that priests seem unwilling to tackle the difficult topics such as contraception, abortion, and objective truth in the face of our politicians that claim to be Catholic.

Since then, I have met some priests who are willing to speak up, and I've also gotten a job in a church, which likewise meant that it was time for me to have a spine, too. It's one thing to "preach" on a blog, where the consequences are limited to flaming (which can be deleted), or even debate. But it's something else entirely where simply presenting the teachings of Christ means that people have meetings with the Pastor about me, slander me, lie about what I actually said, and anonymously send me "surveys" declaring that I have no right to tell them what to do.

I have a WHOLE LOT MORE respect and appreciation for priests now than I did before I started this job. And I know now why so many priests have stayed away from difficult issues; the backlash is agonizing. And it's not even limited to the actual backlash; one wonders if their Pastor will back them up or sell them out. In the case of a priest, he wonders if his Bishop will come to call and suggest he focus on smoothing the waters as opposed to speaking the Truth.

And of course, the Bishop has the authority to move the priest, too.

No, the Church isn't perfect...unfortunately and fortunately both, she is made up of human beings.

My regular readers know that in July I visited some wonderful fellow Catholics in Ohio, and Fr. Schnippel was one of those friends I met that weekend. Just this very weekend, he was called upon to speak out, and has suffered for it. He said nothing contrary to Catholic teaching, but as we all know...too many "Catholics" don't know the teachings, or outright reject the teachings, instead finding it more comforting to attack the messenger.

There are a lot of people out there, a lot of good Catholics, that lament the failure of their clergy to speak clearly about our beliefs, especially the difficult ones such as life issues. And it's a legitimate concern. Yet, these same people often fail to understand how difficult it really is to tackle these topics in a way that is both pastoral (the true sense of the term) and fully truthful. Many of these people crying for these types of homilies and talks are not public speakers themselves. They don't know what it means to stand in a room or church full of people and say something that others don't like.

I've been there. It's hard to explain, but hostility can be FELT. Even if it's only one or two people, there is suddenly a tension that materializes; it's unsettling not only to the speaker, but as I've understood from those who were present in my case, they felt it, too. It's a tension that seeks to push the words back down my throat, leaving them unspoken. It's a tension that makes us, as speakers, want to be conciliatory, and it would be SO EASY to give in to that temptation! To be nice and just "get along". Why upset the status quo and make people upset when they are so convinced of the rightness of contracepting and voting for pro-abortion "Catholics"?

And never mind the backlash. I tend to be a VERY sensitive person; I wear my heart on my sleeve, for better or worse, and like everyone, I want people to like me. Normally, I get along with EVERYONE, even people with whom I may disagree; it's easy to find common ground somewhere within our humanity. And I learned that those who were unhappy with what I said tended to personalize their objections; they were angry and disliked ME even though their anger was at the Church. And so their attacks were personal when they went to my superiors. Thankfully, I had support from over my head, but I don't know how long that will continue if I continue to advance the same messages. And it's really difficult to know that you're walking into a lion's den that is SUPPOSED to be filled with friends. It is actually physically painful to be in that kind of hostile environment. I can't speak for priests here, but I can certainly speak for myself and how this experience has changed the way I look at things. And I'll admit I'm nervous about my next talk; because I have to remember my entire job on this earth is to please God, not the mob.

Can you IMAGINE, then, what your Priest must go through? We DO need to hear these difficult teachings, we need to hear them and be changed by them. And we look to our clergy to do this, rightly. But we have to place ourselves in their shoes and realize how difficult it really is...and pray for them.

The Priests who are willing to speak up always suffer for it, to one degree or another. And it's very wearing. I'm absolutely convinced that those priests who consistently provide Catholic moral teaching are martyrs for the Faith.

What's so sad is that they are being martyred by their own flock.

Pray for priests. I can tell you that it encourages me in a major way when our clergy speaks out and leads the charge. It gives me strength, knowing, that Father is willing to tackle this topic, and it's also my job to do the same thing. And he's taking a LOT more abuse than I am. In turn, I pray that those of us who blog, who work in churches, who live our lives and lose our friends because we refuse to cave into the status quo, in turn give strength and are a sign of hope to our priests. I'm certain THEY need to see that their words don't fall on deaf ears and that they're not speaking in a vacuum.

If you want hard-hitting homilies, if you want your priest to speak about the moral issues that so affect our society and life itself...pray for him. Support him. Compliment him when he speaks up. Let him know you're praying for him...and make sure you do!
And be prepared to be a martyr yourself. It's not enough to listen, pray, and encourage; we all have to be willing to live out the Truth, and we're all going to take a beating for it, one way or another. Might as well make it worth it.


uncle jim said...

to die...

yes, to leave this mortal body behind...

hard to do i suspect...

yet harder still is to die
while still camping out in this tent of flesh...

to bear the slings and arrows of wrongful and mindless assaults...

to die...

can be to live...

thanks be to God for faithful priests and all who speak out the truth ... in love ... and with big targets on their back...

Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S. said...

A most excellent post; thank you!

Father Schnippel said...

Thanks for the props, Adoro; and it is easier to preach a homily like that when you know most of the faithful will support you.

Banshee said...

Yes. Even someone as un-empathic as I am, can tell whether the audience is happy, bored, or angry. Musicians and public speakers both get this. You don't have to look at people, even. It's more like you're hearing the way they breathe, or sensing the kind of attention they're giving you.

The annoying thing is that you can so easily offend people without ever meaning to. But when you know they're not going to like it... brrr.

I can do it when I'm angry enough, but anger's not persuasive. I can also do it when I think I've found a clever angle, but sometimes people don't even get what you mean if you get too clever.

I mean, sure it's good to promote good things and the culture of life in general, but sometimes you wonder if you were too general. (Though sometimes, of course, people are being willfully blind to implications. I've heard some readings of my songs -- my very plain songs with plain meanings -- that just made me want to go into a corner and bang my head against the wall. Slowly.)

Rob said...

Check out the Crescat for a different take on martyrdom.

Unknown said...

We loved our priest this summer because he spoke out on Morality. He told me in confidence that there were many in his parish who really would rather that he not speak on that particular topic (hits a little too close to home perhaps, who knows).

He was saddened by their comments because he felt it was his duty to preach as he felt called by God to do, and as you say suffered a martyrdom by his own flock.

I think the best thing any of us can do (after daily prayers of course) is to praise our priest every time we hear a homily that reaches us. I have begun this practice.

Adoro said...

Uncle Jim ~ I absolutely thank God for those people! It's a difficult world we live in, and without them, none of us would have any direction.

Fr. Zehnle ~ I meant every word! (And hope you remember it whenever you preach on a difficult topic!)

Fr. Schnippel ~ I got your back, BlogFather, always!

Maureen ~ Good point on sensing the audience...made me think of something. And yeah, it's easy to offend people; we live in such a culture of victimhood, people are primed to be offended...and react!

RJW ~ Went...hilarious!

Angelmeg ~ One of the Associates at my parish (not there anymore) told us in his first year after he was ordained not to compliment him on his homilies. He wanted to always remember that someone else was better, and it wasn't about his was about Christ. And he was right. So I had to find creative ways to tell him I appreciated what he said, always withthe caveat: but this isn't a compliment! Nope! Keep doing this, but better next time! LOL!