"Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary."
(Often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)
A few days ago I wrote about fraternal correction. One of the comments asked for guidance about how to go about offering such correction. This offering from Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula, HLI Interim President, offers a solid approach. The crux of the advice is in his last two paragraphs:
We teach most by our example. Great heroics make for inspiring stories that are told over and over. However, more hearts are quietly softened and converted to the Gospel message by the demonstration of simple, faithful, living. Clothe yourself in your Catholic identity. Then remember, that once you have identified yourself as a Catholic, the Church will be judged by everything you do.
As we discuss how we can overcome this growing decay in our societies, the primary solution must be to return to a living faith. We have to live our Faith with total coherence; living by example is far stronger and more convincing than a flood of words. Living of the faith leads to a deep love of its saving truths, and moves us to share them with others.And as we share these truths: we must be certain that the Lord will be with us, and will give us all the graces that we need to fulfill our mission.
Charity in word and deed is paramount. Be a joyful Catholic. It is easy to wrap ourselves into knots over the moral decay so aptly described by Monsignor Barreiro-Carámbula. We cannot condone or ignore sin. We must be clear and forthright in promoting goodness. However, rather than relentlessly wailing about the sin around us, we should model the joy of virtue. Have you noticed how complicated and unhappy lives become when the straight and narrow way is abandoned for promises of a shortcut to happiness? Be living proof that the road to Heaven is challenging but filled with authentic happiness.
Be faithful in the little things. For example, make it to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. You don't need to make a show of it. Just do it. All four of my children played soccer. We never missed Mass for soccer games. We found Mass wherever we were or found a Mass time to fit the soccer schedule. Sometimes it meant driving a long distance. Sometimes it meant missing a team meal on Saturday night.
A couple of years ago my husband and I were invited to an elegant ball. It was on a Friday during Lent. The meal choices were steak, chicken, or vegetarian. The others at our table were intrigued when our vegetarian entrees arrived. "Oh, how long have you been vegetarians?" I think some were disappointed to learn that we were not an exotic progressive-minded couple. We were just faithful Catholics. Still, humble obedience to the disciplines of our faith was a form of evangelization. As it happened, there was another Catholic at our table. He expressed disappointment that he had not also kept the meatless Friday directive. I think he will next time.
We must not be afraid to lovingly offer fraternal correction. Live the faith always. If necessary, use words.