When I ask my First Communion class to give examples of how to live as a child of God, I can always count on at least one of my students saying that we have to “be nice.”
“What do you mean by nice?” I ask.
That question is followed by sweet responses from lovely seven-year-olds: be nice to everybody, be good, be a friend.
Those are lovely school-age sentiments and no doubt adhering to them helps keep order in the schoolyard. The problem arises when we grow up hanging on to the “be nice” mantra.
Increasingly, the Catholic voice in the world is being drowned out, shouted down, and silenced by the secularist, politically correct mainstream crowd that values popular opinion over Truth.
If we live like nice people, then in our misguided notion that love means accepting anything and everything, we become moral relativists. Truth becomes whatever we want it to be, and then it stops being true.
No doubt, speaking the Truth will sometimes get us in trouble or at the very least, we will be accused of being intolerant and hateful. If you speak out against abortion, then you hate women. If you don’t keep your opinions to yourself, you may be called an Islamophobe or a homophobe. Defending Catholic beliefs labels you a self-righteous idolator.
But Jesus said “be not afraid,” so now is the time to speak the Truth in love and humility without condemnation or fear. To arm ourselves, we ought to constantly seek knowledge of the Faith. St. Josemaria Escriva said that “an hour of study, for a modern apostle, is an hour of prayer.” He urged us to “study, study, in earnest. If you are to be salt and light, you need knowledge, capability.” However, he warns us to be careful of our sources. “Books. Don’t buy them without advice from a Catholic who has real knowledge and discernment. It’s so easy to buy something useless or harmful. How often a man thinks he is carrying a book under his arm, and it turns out to be a load of trash!”
Church documents, writings of saints and holy people, Encyclicals and knowledge of church history are all at our fingertips. So are courses and seminars. We don’t have to become theologians but we should be able to explain the teachings of the Catholic Church.
All around us, our beliefs are misinterpreted and maligned from people outside the Catholic Church as well as from misinformed Catholics or those who do not agree with the Magisterium. While it is always necessary to be charitable, the time has come to stop being nice.
We are all called to be evangelists; that means speaking the Truth in love even when it’s not what people want to hear. Lumen Gentium tells us that we are called, by our lives, to “lead [others] to communion with Christ.” Sometimes we do this by our actions; sometimes with our words. In his Encyclical, Redemptoris Missio (In Mission of the Redeemer), Bl. Pope John-Paul II wrote that “no believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
God is Love. Love is Truth. This is our reason. This is our defense. As Catholic Christians and evangelists, using our words with love, this is what we witness to the world.