Many years ago, my husband and I heard a wonderful homily concerning the importance of Catholics and daily Scripture reading. The priest walked up and down the main aisle of our parish with a Bible in his hand. He lifted up the Good Book and said loudly and very clearly: “Think of the word Bible as an acronym; Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”
He went on to remind us that the Bible is God’s love letter to us, and when someone loves us they want what is best for us and want to help show us the way. I never forgot his homily, and it was one of the catalysts for my husband and me to take our Scripture reading seriously.
The words of that wonderful priest who has since passed away came to mind as I came across two beautiful letters concerning core teachings of the Faith: “The Language of Love” by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., and “Bought with a Price” by Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va.
Bishop Conley’s letter is a beautiful, gentle-but-direct message informing and instructing the faithful concerning marital love and fidelity with a strong emphasis on Church teaching regarding artificial contraception. Bishop Loverde’s document is a follow-up to his previous and very poignant letters on the illness of pornography plaguing the nation and ravaging families.
It’s never easy addressing these issues in our over-sexualized culture; a culture that has strongly influenced Catholics and other Christians into accepting what God has held as unacceptable and harmful. Just look at what happened in North Carolina when Sister Jane Dominic of the Nashville Dominicans spoke at a Catholic high school in Charlotte. She had given her talk regarding the Church teaching on human sexuality dozens of times at other Catholic schools or events, but some students took offense at her preaching the truth regarding the fallout from divorce, sexual promiscuity and attempts to redefine marriage.
Despite support from the local diocese, which affirmed her doctrinal accuracy, a firestorm of criticism and controversy ensued with some parents even writing letters to the Vatican to complain. And this is at a Catholic high school, proving that the message of God’s love letter regarding his perfect plan for us does not often sit well even among many of those sitting next to us in the pews.
The truth, however, still needs to be spoken. That doesn’t mean we go around hitting people over the head with the Bible and the catechism, but if we love someone, we want them to know what is best for them.
Most parents will discipline their children. While little Johnny or Susie might want to ride their bikes without a helmet in the middle of a busy street, a concerned parent is going to say “no.” Why? Because they love them and want them to live healthy and productive lives.
And yet when it comes to those below-the-belt issues and our Faith, we often react like little children wanting what we want — now! — with little or no restriction, with no warning or discipline from our Father (God) or mother (the Church). We take the love letters and tear them to shreds or pretend they don’t exist.
Certainly some will be like those who verbally attacked the sister speaking in Charlotte. They will throw temper tantrums to try and get their way. But acting as loving shepherds or guardians, Bishop Conley and Bishop Loverde did what they had to do by passing on God’s love letter, hoping and praying we will be willing to take another look at those basic instructions before it is our time to leave this earth.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ava Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.