Cheerful warriors

Two years ago I co-hosted a wonderful pilgrimage focusing on a Shroud of Turin exhibit. Our itinerary took three busloads of faithful Catholics to some of the most highly regarded sites in the Church. We began in Turin to view the shroud and then traveled south to San Giovanni Rotondo to learn more about St. Padre Pio. Loreto, Gargano, Assisi and Rome were also on the itinerary. 

Through the entire trip we heard wonderful daily inspirations from our spiritual director, a dynamic young priest, Father Scott Courtney, who currently serves in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. Father Courtney was constantly reminding us during his powerful homilies, as well as in his commentaries on the tour bus, of the cost of discipleship, starting, of course, with the suffering of our Lord so evident in the shroud on display, as well as sites dedicated to the sacrificial lives of St. Pio and St. Francis. Being a Christian is no cake walk, he would exclaim. However, Father Courtney’s approach to taking up our crosses and following Jesus was not one of gloom and doom. It was one of joy, gratitude and excitement at the opportunity to share the Gospel, even if it meant losing our heads in the process. At the end of each homily he would have the 150 pilgrims join him in a rousing “I love being Catholic” proclamation. 

Fast-forward to 2012 and the attacks on Christ and his Church, which, as of late, are simply too many to mention. Whether it’s the HHS mandate handed down by the Obama administration Jan. 20, the mafia style shakedown of the Susan G. Komen Foundation by the media and Planned Parenthood, or the assault on marriage in the courts, the Church, if you listen to the mainstream-media mouthpieces, is public enemy No. 1. To that we should all say “Amen” and “we love being Catholic.” 

It’s not that I am exactly looking forward to being persecuted. But we should be rejoicing in the fact that shots being fired at the Catholic Church are a reminder the Church still matters. Most of us have probably been subject to comments and criticisms from co-workers and even family and friends, who claim Catholicism is irrelevant, out of touch and archaic.  

If that were the case, then why are we the main target of so many political and legal attacks? If we didn’t matter and if we didn’t still have a great deal of influence on our culture, then why bother with an elderly man in Rome and the 70 million Catholics in the United States under his spiritual care? 

Maybe some of us haven’t quite stepped into the happy warrior mode that is supposed to be found in the Church militant on earth. Speaking of my own shortcomings, it is somewhat intimidating to think that we are now being asked by Jesus whether we are hot or cold. The days of fence sitting are long gone. That means this is also a time for prayer and soul searching. Do we really believe what we say in the Creed each week at Mass or are we still just going through the motions? 

We’re all only human, and it is OK to tremble a bit at first by what we see happening around us. Those of us who have come to truly understand and appreciate the teachings of the Church, are concerned because we know what the Church offers is the answer not only for Catholics, but for all of society. We need to remind ourselves God did not give us “a spirit of cowardice” as St. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7, but one “of power and love and of self-control.” 

So let’s shake off those shivers and hit the ground running the race for our faith. And before we head out the door, let’s all join in with one more clear, strong chorus of “I love being Catholic.” 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.