Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed in the face of the relentless assault on the Church, our beliefs and our families by the media and modern culture?  Is it difficult to stand up for what we believe?  Do you feel like you can’t make a difference?  Many Catholics I encounter are struggling through daily battles to live out their faith and protect their loved ones... all in the midst of very difficult economic climate.  It would be easy to throw in the towel and give up or remain silent, but that is not an option for us.  We are called to do more:  “All of us must be saints in this world. Holiness is a duty for you and me. So let’s be saints and so give glory to the Father.” – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Part of our challenge is getting past feeling overwhelmed.  We are not able to tackle everything at once, so let’s make it simple and focus on what we can do.  We need to work on ourselves and pursue lives of personal holiness.  Our ultimate destination is Heaven and we need to live our lives on earth in a way that will help us get there.  So, what can we do?

First of all, we can’t stand on the sidelines and watch.  We also must believe that one person can make a difference (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Paul to name a few)!  At times it seems we have lost our way and forgotten or ignored the teachings of the Church.  Archbishop Charles Chaput offers this insight which cuts to the heart of the matter in his excellent book, Render Unto Caesar (p.197): “What needs to be done by Catholics today for their country? The answer is: Don’t lie. If we say we’re Catholic, we need to prove it. America’s public life needs people willing to stand alone, without apologies, for the truth of the Catholic faith and the common human values it defends. One person can make a difference – if that individual has a faith he or she is willing to suffer for.”  Are we willing to suffer for our faith?  What sacrifices are we willing to make to follow the teachings of the Church?

5 Simple Ways to Make a Difference

I am involved with a group of Catholic business leaders who meet every month.  When we first started gathering together in 2007, we had dreams of taking on the world and making a real difference through our Catholic faith!  But, we soon realized that we had much work to do in getting our spiritual lives in order.  We understood after much prayer and reflection that we had to be humble and work on surrendering and conforming to Christ before we could make a positive difference in the lives of others.  Here are five simple ways we have learned to make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us:

  1. Prayer is the key. We will not grow in our faith without daily prayer.  But, we also must believe that prayers are answered.  "I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers to God make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those effects down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives." - Dr. Peter Kreeft
  2. Remember we are called to lead lives of holiness. As unpopular and out of step with our modern culture as this may be, we are all called to become saints.  “The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by his Spirit, they are ‘holy’. They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do. The apostle Paul never tires of admonishing all Christians to live ‘as is fitting among saints’ (Eph 5:3).  –Blessed John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 16
  3. Live as a Catholic, speak as a Catholic. We can’t be Cafeteria or Cultural Catholics.  We are called to live authentic Catholic lives and be true to our beautiful faith. "If each Christian were to speak in conformity with the Faith, we would surely change the world. We cannot sit silently in the face of such crimes as abortion and the degradation of marriage and the family. Nor can we surrender to those forces that would seek to remove God from the formation of the young."
    -Francis Fernandez (In Conversation with God)
  4. Don’t serve two masters. We can’t have it both ways.  There is no way to pursue a life of holiness andworry about chasing illusory pleasures and the things of this world that don’t matter.  "You cannot please both God and the world at the same time; they are utterly opposed to each other in their thoughts, their desires, and their actions."  - St. John Vianney
  5. Be a light for Christ. One of the most profound ways to affect others is to radiate joy and let people see Christ at work in you.  Your personal example can be the catalyst that helps lead someone into the Church.  “You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-14 and 16)

What are we being called to do?

The world needs Catholics to make a difference.  How?  Where have we been called to serve?  Some of us are prayer warriors, silently praying in earnest for Mother Church, the sick, an end to abortion and for the lost souls in Purgatory (among other things).  Some of us are called to the married or single life and still others are called to serve Christ in the public square.  Many are called to the priesthood and religious life.  Wherever we are called, we have countless opportunities each day to serve Him in our words and deeds.  We are challenged to know our moral non-negotiables and not cross ethical boundaries.  We are asked to let others see Jesus within us and to share our joy with others.  Our humble and virtuous example to others throughout the day will positively influence their behavior and individual faith journeys.  An active prayer life-one which turns our day into a conversation with God and firmly places His desires before our own, will open us up to receive boundless grace.

Catholics are meant to stand out, not blend in.  Blending in speaks to conforming and making concessions so our faith becomes part of the mainstream…and we need to fight it!  We live in difficult, trying times.  Traditional marriage is under attack, our children are at risk, many people are blind to the need to respect and value all life and atheists are one of the fastest growing groups in the world.  We have opportunities every day to be beacons of light and good examples of Christ’s redeeming love.  We will be judged one day on the fruits of our apostolate and hope to hear our Lord say the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I would like to end with a quote from one of my favorite writers, Francis Fernandez and his wonderful series of books, In Conversation With God:

“We have to show everyone that Christ is still alive by living heroically the events of our daily lives.  The apostolic vocation which we all received at Baptism means giving witness in word and deed to the life and teaching of Christ.  People said of the early Christians; See how they love one another! The pagans were really edified by this behavior and those who conducted themselves in this way had favor with all the people, as the Acts of the Apostles tell us.

Normally Our Lord asks us to give a Christian witness through our ordinary lives, engaged in the same ways of earning a living, tackling the same concerns as other folk.  We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us:  ‘This man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is ready to understand, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love.’

We make our Lord known through the example of our life, looking for occasions to speak out, not missing a single opportunity.  Our task consists to a large extent in making the way to Christ cheerful and attractive.  If we behave like that, many will be encouraged to follow it and to bring the joy and peace of the Lord to other men and women."

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  But, I sincerely hope that somewhere in this brief article you have found encouragement or perhaps a challenge to make a positive difference in the world today.  It may be listening to a lonely and depressed co-worker, saying a prayer for a friend seeking employment or spending quality time with your family.  Maybe now is the time to volunteer for a parish ministry.  Whatever you do, do it to glorify Christ and to truly serve Him.  Think about the possibilities if we all made a sincere daily commitment, no matter how small, to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us.  The world would be transformed.

Randy Hain is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Workwhich will be published by Liguori Publications at the end of this year.  The Catholic Briefcase is available for pre-order on Amazon.