A few weeks ago I was having lunch at Bruno’s Bar-Be-Que Restaurant in Scotts Valley on my day off. I was in civvies, not clericals.When the food arrived, I said “Grace”, but did not bless myself as is my custom when eating with my fellow priests in the Rectory.
Presently, three twenty-something men sat at a table near mine. When their food was served, one of the young men blessed himself before starting his meal. The other two did not bless themselves but didn’t seem startled that their companion did so. His actions made me rethink my behavior, for I suddenly realized I was a “raft” Catholic on my day off and had succumbed to the “I want to blend-in” mentality.
The Jesuit theologian, Fr. Mark Links, in one of his homilies, tells the story of a young man drafted into the military in England. On his first night in the barracks, he had to make the decision to be usual in his practice of kneeling while praying before getting into bed. His decision: He was not going to let what other may think dictate how he was going to pray. After kneeling for ten minutes of prayer, he blessed himself, got into bed while noticing that many of the 30 other men in the barracks had been watching him. He later learned that he was the only Catholic.
He continued kneeling and praying each night during the weeks of basic training. Rather than offending others, his actions were a visible presence of his Catholicism, and sparked the curiosity of some of the other men who, in time, came to consider him the best “Christian they had ever seen”. His actions led people to Christ. Those ten minutes on his knees often led to discussions about his Catholicism that lasted for hours.
It is easy for us Catholics to forget that our actions can be Christ’s presence to others. It is easier to blend-in with our materialistic, hedonistic society by following the crowd. We then are one of the faceless American Christians, even though we are the Christian majority and are called by our baptism to be examples of Christ’s presence—those having heard the Good News and responded to it by the way we lead our lives. We are called to be visible signs of Christ’s love to people who are searching for something to stand for, someone to follow, rather than the lines to the cash registers at the malls.
Boats for the journey—Someone said that there are three kinds of Catholics: tug boat Catholics, sail boat Catholics, and raft Catholics. Tug boat Catholics follow Jesus in sunny and stormy weather and can be counted upon to live the Gospel no matter what. In good and bad times, they are steadfast in their faith knowing that what they do truly matters. Tug boat Catholics nurture the Spirit’s gift of wisdom with their children every Sunday at Mass. They are the ones who learn as they go along what pleases the Lord. They give Christianity a good name. Sail Boat Catholics follow Jesus with bursts of visibility when the wind and the tide serve them. Sail boaters are the Catholics who follow the crowd more often than they follow the Gospel. Since they go in the directions in which they are blown, they provide no direction for others. When sail boat Catholics become parents, they do not do their duty to do all in their power to see to the moral and religious upbringing of their children. Instead they force feed their off-spring the pabulum of materialism, rather than Catholicism. They justify it to themselves, “They can decide if they want to be a Catholic when they are older and able to make that decision for themselves.” Raft Catholics are Christians in name only. These are the blend- in Catholics. When they do Christian things, it is not because they love God, rather because they have to—mostly for fear of what people may think of them if they don’t. When raft Catholics become parents, they send their children to Catholic Schools or Religious Education Classes. “What will _(blank)_ say if we don’t.” (Fill in the blank—mother, grandmother, neighbors, etc.) Rafters, too, fail to set good examples for their children by reflecting right reason and Christian moral values. The good news is we still have time to decide what mode of transportation we take in our Christian journey. The bad news is that we are going be judged at journey’s end— so choose wisely and learn to please the Lord .
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