Thursday, June 27, 2013

Young Catholics Bearing Witness

Ignatius of Antioch Thrown to the Lions
When I was a young boy, I heard a man in his twenties whom I admired use a racial slur.  It's difficult to explain because at the time, I don't think I had ever heard that word.  Somehow though (maybe because of the context), I knew it was a bad word and I had a sense of who the word was intended to describe.  In that moment, I remember feeling somewhat crushed because this hero said something that made him sound hateful and mean.  Even still, when I think about that moment, it causes an unsettled feeling in me.

It strikes me that one of the reasons that particular incident stands out in my memory is not only because it changed how I looked at that person, but also because it was such a rare occasion in my life.  When I think about the people I hang out with, the friends that I've made over the years, the families, priests, seminarians, young people, older people etc, I can't recall any of them ever saying something hateful about a group of people.  Granted, I travel in a somewhat homogeneous circle of friends insofar as almost all of them are Christians.  But, they are from all walks of life, social strata, and varieties of countries and nationalities.  In their company, it just would never happen that any of us would say something hateful about an entire group of people.  And on the rare occasion that I've met somebody who has spoken like that, everyone else in earshot was visibly uncomfortable and offended.  (I, of course, need to make one exception here: With the exception of the New York Yankees, none of us would ever say anything hateful about an entire group of people).

Recently, I became a college chaplain and have suddenly become Facebook "friends" with scores of college students.  Yesterday, one of them posted a reasonable and respectful objection to the Supreme Court's rulings on same-sex marriage.  The vitriolic and ad hominem attacks against this person from his peers were astonishing.  There is apparently no place for any reasoned discussion on this issue.  This young person was labeled a bigot and a hater and was pummeled with an array of pornographic insults.  The view that he holds--a view that virtually every human being in the course of human history held until ten years ago--is now so toxic that it is permissible to treat him with zero dignity and to threaten him into silence.  And all of this comes at him from those who profess "tolerance."  

This post is not about same-sex marriage.  But, it is about what clearly is the persecution that is underway against the Christian in our culture.  If the discussions that I witnessed are any indicator of the path we are on, then there is little doubt that the toleration afforded Christian believers in our culture will be short lived.  Christians will be permitted to hold their views, but they certainly will not be permitted to express them without serious repercussions.  

When the Christian speaks on moral issues--be they same-sex marriage, the dignity of immigrants, or capital punishment--he does so out of a profound love and respect for the human person.  When the Christian speaks about the moral life--the virtuous life--he does so because he desires the happiness of his brothers and sisters.  When he speaks against, for instance, changing the definition of marriage, he does so out of love for the good that marriage is, the good of families, and the good of all individuals.  But, the Christian is now characterized as one who hates.

In the name of love, Christians are being demonized, mocked, threatened, and silenced.  Certainly, there are those who profess to be Christians who say horrible things.  But, they are uniformly condemned by their own number.  When, however, Christians dare to profess the Gospel or appeal to Natural Law, they are devoured with no remorse.

If what I saw this week is any indication of what it is like for Christians publicly to profess their beliefs, then get ready. The fact that they did so knowing what was going to be unleashed upon them is very encouraging. Their willingness to be treated harshly and accused falsely, all the while speaking respectfully, lovingly, joyfully, and reasonably is a true testimony to the power of the Truth.  Young Catholics don't have it easy these days.  They are living on the front lines and are outnumbered.

These young men and women deserve our support and encouragement.  They are not out picking fights with people, but they are able to present the Christian Faith with joy and with clarity.  And, when they are subjected to an onslaught of vitriol, they are calm, joyful, and loving.  Only grace can produce this.  When you are praying, pray for these young people.  They are in the thick of it.


  1. A great piece Father. Keep up the good work and I'll keep praying.

  2. I will pray for them, Fr. Barnes, and that God will give you the strength and wisdom to mentor them in His name.