“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
The Christian is called to heroism wherever and whenever he lives, at least what we would call heroism today. Its real name is simply Christian duty.
This duty calls for an active response to grace, a transformation of self by lay people as well as priests. It calls for renewed forms of service and the total gift of self—in other words, dying to oneself.
It makes charity and love in daily life the greatest of virtues, that all Catholics can let their works shine before men that they may see the good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.
There is no heroism for those looking for an easy Christianity. The life of the Christian is epitomized by self-sacrifice. This life of giving accords the Christian a greater sense of joy and peace and a great experience of human spiritual richness.
This choice of lifestyle and direction is the complete opposite of that worse form of idolatry, self-idolatry, the prideful worship of self, the elevation of a creature above God.
The moral and religious deterioration of our time does not brighten the meanings of life. The heroic Christian, on the other hand, reveals eternal values and shows man his potential through the joyous life of living ones Christian duty as an adult striving for perfection.
If the knowledge taught to Catholic youth does not brighten the meanings of life and reveal its values and at the same time show man in his potential greatness, then it has failed. Man, despite his weakness and sin, must be taught the ways of God and how to pray for the grace of perseverance.
And education and knowledge must always be in the service of love. Catholics are people of not just thought but action, motivated for service in a spirit of charity. The human will carries out the mandates of love. Catholics should strive to rise above their lower selves, rising on the stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things.
Amidst persecutions and humiliations, the Christian soul feels astonishingly free. He feels a secret flame within him, a liberty he can never lose, even if locked up and tortured to cry out with pain. But persecutors can never touch the sanctuary where the soul watches, alone with the Master.
The human will is to be a living epistle of Christ’s Gospel. Despite the deterioration of the culture around us, this is also done through the creating of living Christian communities. In whatever groups we live in, we can seek out and live in a solid Catholic community of homeschool or traditional Catholic life, an island refuge, however large or small, surrounded by families who share our values and seek to raise their children sheltered from the wiles of the world.
Amid the deterioration of the world, exclusive “distance learning” (homeschooling) also presents itself as an important solution for those families who are able. Much education in the school system today can be described as words, words, words. The education is merely verbal. Education is by textbooks issued by the government with examinations as the regurgitation of predigested materials.
The transmission of true knowledge is a philosophy of life and a way of survival. Christian youth must be taught how to think, not what to think. They must meet issues not as compromises or appeasement of the spirit of the world. Catholic families will only maintain their identity and survive this storm if they keep themselves unspotted from the world. Catholics must face the issues of the hour and deal with them on the basis of principle.
Heroism today is unspectacular. In fact, it is sometimes overlooked because it is so commonplace. Heroism can be recognized as the sacrifices the Catholic family makes to survive in the tempest of the world: the sacrifice of having only one car, of mom staying at tome to educate the children in the safety of home and heart. It is the father who works extra hard to sacrifice for his family so mom does not have to work.
Without drums, without accolades and crowds and applause, and even without the appreciation always deserved, Catholic moms and dads are making enormous sacrifices to preserve their Catholic identity in response to a tidal wave of moral and religious degradation. Sometimes these parents are called out by friends and family as “insane” or “judgmental” or even “fanatical.” These same people sometimes deny that human problems are both material and spiritual.
Cardinal Ratizinger’s homily at the funeral of Pope John Paul II sums up the dilemma: “Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine,’ seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”
The Catholic family then keeps alive the flame of human hope despite the storm, encouraging human aspiration and virtue-based education and saintly living, influencing a world growing darker by the minute. The flame of education is preserved. The Faith then becomes a stimulating condition of individual growth in the family, which is the first school of virtue.
Dear Catholics, responding to the world today, you are a builder of your own Christian community. This is the solution that will allow you to weather the storm: everything starts with your home. First, you must save your own soul, and then assist your spouse and children in the context of your family to get to heaven. Then the broader community is thereby influenced by you and your children, who are sent out as leaven once they are adults.
There are immense possibilities for social reconstruction in the world as God preserves the flame of learning and life through the Catholic family. Individual spiritual growth flourishes because of Christ’s promise that “where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
Then will the empowered and faithful Catholic parent be sent out with a spirit of courage: be not afraid! Miss no opportunity to change the drift of American life in its societal chaos and spiritual dilution and family disunity. Dedicate yourself with all your heart and mind and soul, loving and striving only for the highest Being. You will have power in this dark land to bring light to it and make it live.
This is how Christianity has always renewed the earth. Be prepared to make great sacrifices and suffer worldly scorn. Renounce selfishness, serve worthily, for only the great can serve. Go forth to make the world a better place and happier because you passed by this way.
Alas, there is hope in God’s grace. The Christian knows how the story ends. Anyone who has read the last page of Bible knows that it ends well for those who abide in Christ the Lord amidst the tubulations of the world, which are fleeting and passing. The Kingdom of God is at hand, our home, His Holy Church. Come, Lord Jesus!
John Paul Sonnen is an author and history docent. He is also Director of Content at TAN Books and is Managing Editor of TAN Direction. His subjects of interest include Catholic Studies, Christian culture and civilization. His graduate degrees are from the Angelicum in Rome.