Are We Undercover Catholics?
Henry R Sylvester, President: Catholic Witness Apostolate – One gets the impression that secular attractions and hedonism with their subjective “feelings” have overrun the message of Christ and Church teachings when we observe how many laity and ministerial priests have withdrawn from the public square.
A silent acquiescence has descended over us and many have become comfortable undercover or cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose Church teachings and disciplines.
We have become silent about our Catholic faith on topical issues of faith and morals, perhaps out of fear. In a few words we have become ashamed of Christ, his Church, her teachings and the truths that she proclaims at home, our places of work and the public square.
For too long, we, the laity, have allowed our bibles to become door stoppers or show pieces in our homes. Our Protestant separated brethren have picked up on this tardiness and have confused so many with a few well-rehearsed scriptures and caused many to leave the faith.
St Peter encourages us to “always be prepared to make a defence for anyone who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us]” (1Pet 3:15).
Adding to this malaise are many “undercover” priests and religious who avoid wearing clerical garb or “suitable clerical clothing according to the norms issued by the episcopal conference and according to legitimate local customs” (Canon 284) as legislated by their respective orders on their “on or off” days.
To be sure, clothes don’t “maketh the man”, however, does not a military or police office bearer or foot soldier go to battle in uniform to fight the enemy and to be a visible presence of public safety and security?
Casual attitudes and the neglect of wearing clerical garb when “on duty” is a sign of disobedience to the calling of servanthood and discipleship as mandated by the magisterium.
St Paul found it important to remind Timothy to bring the tools of his trade — his cloak, books and parchments (which he obviously treasured) — that he had left at Troas (2 Tim 4:13). Being undercover, invisible and “silent” disciples, whether priests or laity, diminishes our calling of true discipleship.
Living in the shadows of the Gospel strengthens our fallen nature and can contribute to being tempted or become part of scandalous situations and lead to a lukewarm relationship with Christ. A true disciple of Christ cannot have a public face; a Sunday face; a work face, and a home face!
Jesus foresaw our possible fears and timidity. He encourages, and also warns, us: “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before angels of God; but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9).
Indeed, there will be those who will pour scorn on us for our public and living witness, but despite these attacks we should never be ashamed of carrying our cross of the timeless Gospel truth even unto suffering and death.