“You have eight kids?” the man exclaimed, his eyes nearly bulging out of his head. “So, do you really like kids or are you just a good Catholic?” he added with a smirk.
I hesitated for a moment before answering. We were taking a break during a business meeting when the topic of children came up. I had just closed a deal that was a good move for my small business and was feeling pretty happy. When he asked the question, I admit I paused a little and thought, “How do I answer this?”
My hesitation was not a result of the reaction to the number of children I have. In truth, I am so used to comments about family size that I wonder why no one has anything original to say when they find out I am the mom of eight children. My reaction was because of the thinly veiled sarcasm in his second question: are you just a good Catholic?
It is never a good idea to bring up religion during a business meeting in a secular setting, and the subject of Catholicism is a particularly loaded topic. In my experience, which I suspect is the same for most practicing Catholics, questions and comments such as the one posed to me are often a prelude to a symphony of negative opinions.
Sending up a quick, silent prayer, I answered, “I try to be a good Catholic,” while looking him squarely in the eye. And with that, he quickly changed the subject.
Wherever we go in life, whatever we do, and whenever we are called upon, we have to be true to what we profess to believe. And so, if I say I am Catholic, then I have to be a Catholic without compromise. My Catholicism isn’t just saved for one hour on Sunday at Mass. My Catholic beliefs must define who I am and how I act twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And if that means responding to a sarcastic question during a business meeting, then so be it.
“Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” That quote is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi but there is some question as to whether he actually said it (Where did St. Francis say that?) Sometimes I think we hide behind these words that St. Francis may or may not have said since at times making a very public, vocal declaration of our beliefs is uncomfortable and perhaps a little intimidating. But there comes a time when actions are not enough and only words will do.
In his general audience of 22 May 2013, Pope Francis exhorted us. “We must be open to the action of the Spirit of God, without fear of what He asks us or where He leads us. Let us entrust ourselves to Him! He enables us to live and bear witness to our faith, and enlighten the hearts of those we meet.” There are occasions when the Holy Spirit wants us to open our mouths and speak so that is what we do despite possible criticism.
“Are you a good Catholic?” When we find ourselves in a situation that calls for a clear, public declaration of who we are and what we believe, the only answer is: “Yes. I try to be a good Catholic.”
Graphic used with permission from St. Peter’s List