Holy People in Daily Life
Several rolling, rural counties of Northeastern Ohio are home to the largest Amish community in the world. Ohioans are very accustomed to passing by buggies, bicyclists, plain white houses with black and purple laundry on the line, and horses — hundreds of horses, who do the work in this idyllic area.
Stopping by a farm stand on the way to my mother’s home in Ashland, I am immediately in another world, where a fresh-faced girl with a bonnet, no buttons, and bare feet offers me fresh vegetables, cinnamon buns, pies, and a welcome in her clipped German-accented dialect. We talk about the weather, the fine-looking kale, and prices. She is a part of this world, but mostly apart from it. Her faith makes her holy in the true sense of the word, setting her and her people apart for God.
Driving home from Mass on a Saturday morning, I pass by a line of black-clad Orthodox Jews walking to the synagogue, with their tallit fringes swaying beneath their suit coats ,and the side curls of the younger boys bouncing with their steps. During the week, they are businessmen, professors, doctors — truly a part of this world. But on their Sabbath, they are holy and set apart for G-d.
Irish Catholics in 20th-Century Baltimore
During my great-grandfather’s life, he was prohibited from applying for jobs in Baltimore because he was Irish and Catholic. He and my great-grandmother lived with their fellow Irish-Catholics in a segregated section of Baltimore, where the center of their lives was their Irish Catholic church.
Their daughter, my grandmother, worked and lived in a less prejudiced environment, but voluntarily led a life which set her apart from the world. There was no meat on Fridays; the Sabbath, all day, was strictly observed; and a Rosary each night was prayed before bed. When walking in front of a Catholic church, she always performed a small Sign of the Cross: she was passing by Jesus.
My mother carried some of these traditions down, but by the time we children were being raised, the most popular President of my generation was one of us. We had become more a part of the world than apart from it.
Pope Francis spoke this week about “lukewarm” Catholics. I would say that most of us fit that description.
We have children in 6th grade Religious Education classes who do not know the Hail Mary. We have parents who only come to Mass when their child is dressed for an All Saints parade, First Holy Communion, or graduation from the Catholic school for which they have paid thousands of dollars over the past eight or nine years.
(Why, in Heaven’s name, do Catholic parents send their Catholic child to a Catholic school and not attend Mass on Sunday?)
Pope Francis aptly described many of us as standing at the threshold looking in, but never entering. We need to stop being Catholic in name only. We need to quit playing this “I am Catholic so my kid is eligible to play CYO football” or “I am Catholic this year so that my kid can get her First Communion (and the white dress).”
We need to go “all in”, to put all our chips into play. We Catholics need to set ourselves apart from the world again so that we can truly be who we are meant to be: holy. One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Making Our Own Lives Holy
So what does this look like, this “setting apart?” It means that our lives should be centered around our Church.
First and foremost, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, should be kept separate, for Mass and family. No work, no trips to the Mall, no non-family activities on Sunday, and absolutely, positively no CYO sporting events on the Sunday, all day. (Why can’t the USCCB mandate that CYO will not have any sporting events on Sunday?) Wouldn’t it be refreshing if a Catholic MLB baseball player said sorry, I won’t play today because it’s Sunday? Sandy Koufax did not violate his Sabbath; people admired him for that. He was a part of the world, but also apart from it, for his faith.
Second, let us truly recognize that our Lord is with us, in our Church, every moment of the day. If we receive the Eucharist and truly believe that Jesus is present, then why aren’t we stopping by to visit Him during Eucharistic Adoration — or at the very least, paying reverence to Him as we pass by a Catholic Church with a Sign of the Cross — and teaching our kids to do so, too? If we believe that Jesus is there, why aren’t we treating that Tabernacle as the most sacred spot in our city and our lives?
And if we truly believe that He lived on earth, suffered and died for us on Good Friday for our sins, why don’t we do just a little something in His memory on Fridays — give up meat, attend morning Mass, do Stations of the Cross?
Third, let’s make Advent and Lent truly something different from other seasons. Let’s use Advent as a time to clean and prepare our homes, our families, and our souls for Him. Let us truly sacrifice at Lent, just as He did, by giving up some electronics for 40 days, a meal every week, the car once a day.
Because We Are Catholic
Finally, let’s walk the walk in everyday life. Let’s put our God and supporting our Church ahead of being a part of the vulgar, the unholy, the gluttonous, and the hedonistic things of this world.
Let’s say no to the violent video games and sexy clothing for our kids, because we are Catholic.
Let’s say no to the base gossip and filthy movies, because we are Catholic.
Let’s say no to the too-big house, or too much food, or too many drinks, because we are Catholic.
Let’s be modest, chaste, generous, forgiving, and life-affirming, because we are Catholic.
Let us be holy, the way that God wants His children to be. Most of all, let the rest of the world know that we are not afraid to be set apart and different, because we are Catholic.
Last year, we took an overnight field trip with our students during Lent. When the event coordinator was discussing the breakfast menu for the next day, a Friday, it included sausage and bacon.
Suddenly she stopped herself and said, “Oh my goodness. I forgot. You are Catholic. You won’t be eating meat on Friday, will you?”
The kids all looked at one another, shook their heads, and the feeling of pride was evident in their faces. They were part of something bigger, something special, something apart from the world for their God. They were One, Holy, and Catholic, and they loved it.