Those who have heard me preach over several years -- or who have read some of my columns would recognize that I often talk about Catherine Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House. Madonna House is a mostly lay community with headquarters in Canada and with ‘field houses’ in as many as 20 locations around the world. In the scheme of things, Madonna House is small and their staff is perhaps 250 men and women and a few priests and a bishop.
What is Madonna House? It’s a house of Gospel-activated love. I don’t know how else to describe it. They aren’t a publishing house but they do have a publishing group that produces a wonderful series of books, many with the original writings and teachings and biographical material of Catherine. They don’t act like a soup kitchen or a St. Vincent De Paul food bank. Yet they drop whatever they are doing to greet a ‘Brother Christopher’ who comes to their front door in need of a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of tea or water. I could go on and on about this wonderful organization -- but I want to use a quote from Catherine to get in to my main topic for this column.
Catherine Doherty said these words:
What you do matters.... but not much.
What you are matters tremendously.
I feel inclined to stop the column right here and let each of us meditate on these words. Many of us spend so much time concerned about ‘practice’ of the faith, and the ‘posture’ of the faith. One of my own oft-repeating themes in homilies and other areas of communication has to do with the errancy of the Catholic upbringing of most earlier generations or those we were a part of.
Families went to church. Families contributed to the church. Families baptized their children and helped them attain their first Holy Communions. But for so many -- it was an ethnic or cultural or historical or a familial way of doing things. It was ‘practice’ just as there was a Baptist practice... a Methodist practice and the like. We Catholics deferred to ‘reverend father’ and we may have invited him or the nuns over for dinner and drinks. Parents may have coached CYO athletic teams or cooked ham and scrambled egg breakfasts in the church hall. Some might even have said the rosary in the evening as family.
There is nothing wrong with ‘doing’ any of these sorts of Catholic things. But we’ve found out that it isn’t enough. Come the confluence of Vatican II and the sexual revolution -- and who knows how many tens or hundreds of thousands of Catholics stopped being.... stopped practicing. As did a pitiful number of priests and nuns.
I hope we are learning our lesson. What we need to do is to internalize our faith. Theologically said, we need to ‘eat’ Christ to ‘become’ Christ. We need to know our faith so we can teach it to others -- more often by example.
But once in a while by standing up to a school board that announces that it is going to distribute condoms or provide sex education classes. We need to know and believe at the level of every fiber of our being that God’s plan for marriage is ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN to be married for all of life and that they must be open to pro-creation (that’s co-creation with the Creator) of life. We need to know that so we will stand up to school administrations that teach "Heather has two mommies’ courses as if this is the new and most correct form of Christian faith. We need to put an end to the relativistic Christianity that was defined by Rodney King: "Can’t we all just get along?"
Well NO! Thank you school board -- but teaching that two people living together is the new marriage isn’t acceptable and I will fight you with ever Catholic and Scriptural bone in my body. And even if I lose that fight with the school board, my children will be firmly... FIRMLY taught the Scriptural and Church-based teachings concerned with marriage. They are spelled out quite clearly in the Catholic Catechism. You do have one in your home, don’t you?
One of the priest columnists that I enjoy so much is Fr. Lou Guntzelman. And in an article he wrote a few years ago entitled ‘What Can I Do to Be Somebody Special’ -- he concluded by writing: "What we give to the world, what we take from the world, and the attitude we take in the face of things we cannot change; A person who succeeds in these things is always a person of significance."
I believe Fr. G. is saying what Catherine was saying. What you do matters -- but not all that much. What you are matters tremendously.
You may go after the school board or the culture of abortion and death with a loving heart -- but as an internalized, activated, believing Catholic, you will matter tremendously.You will be a person of significance. It could be that in the final analysis, you will only have been of significance to your children. Aha! But that’s why God invited you to be a co-creator with Him.
Copyright 2010 Deacon Tom Fox
About the Author
Deacon Tom Fox and his wife Dee are co-hosts of the CATHOLIC VITAMINS Podcast for over 6 1/2 years. Tom has also been a member of the Catholic Mom columnists team for eight years, and was a regular contributor to the Catholic Moments Podcast for three years. Most recently, Deacon Tom has been leading a project to bring Catholic radio to the north central Arizona community where he and Dee reside. Blessings!