The world and society constantly relay the message that the Christian truth has been found wanting, that our truth is not THE truth.
The new movie "Paul, Apostle of Christ" shatters that statement's lie in a resounding way. By reinforcing both the great difficulty in keeping faith and the great peace it brings.
Luke (Jim Cavizel) has come to Rome in the days of Nero to try and help the Christian community and to write down the life and wisdom of Paul (James Faulkner).
Luke and the others in the Christian community look out on Rome and see darkness. There is doubt, questioning and even violence for past crimes. And yet Luke and Paul both echo the truth engraved on our Catholic hearts.
"Love is the only way."
And that love is found in Jesus Christ and in the Catholic Church. And just like those early Christians, we find ourselves persecuted, ridiculed and mocked. People question how we can still believe when priests around the world have been accused and even convicted of molesting children.
And sometimes we're even afraid to speak out for fear of losing a job or being seen as intolerant. When people speak of immigrants, pro-life issues or even how the Church needs to "get with the times" we hold our tongues.
We are afraid. We are afraid just as Luke is afraid in "Paul, Apostle of Christ."
Our way is hard but it is still the only way. Love, and the Love of the Catholic Church, remain constant. We continue to believe because truth is non-negotiable. Sometimes people may try to bend it, but still the truth cannot, and will not, ever break.
The faith is hard. The Catholic Church asks much of us. As someone discerning priesthood right now, and feeling a strong pull each day, I know how hard it can be. But we must remember that love and grace continue to abound.
When Catholic pro-life rallies are shut down, we will stand up.
When Catholics march side-by-side with our brothers in sisters for civil rights and for the protection of our children, we will stand up.
When society says the Church much change her teaching on any number of issues which their relativistic vision says are correct, we must stand up.
We must stand up and be authentically Catholic in the world today. No matter or nationality, ethnicity or race. We are united along The Way.
And that Way is Jesus Christ.
What does an Albanian-Indian woman, an anarchist and a rich American heiress all have in common? On first glance, not a whole lot, but each of those people had a special love for the poor, the hurt and those in need.
Two of those people are saints and the third is on the way to beatification and canonization if all goes well. St. Mother Teresa, St Katharine Drexel and Dorothy Day.
I bring these three wonderful souls up because I just recently finished a Day of Reflection involving social justice and the teaching of the Catholic Church on the issue. Aka, how we are supposed to treat people and create change in the world.
And while I was one of the absolute youngest people there, it was incredible to take an indepth look at the concrete teaching the Church has created. Due in no small part to the examples of these three souls.
So let's break those examples down.
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
If there is a person who hasn't heard about Mother Teresa I would be shocked and appalled. This is the habited nun famous for her work founding the Missionaries of Charity and caring for the poor and the dying across dozens of countries.
From hospices and homes for those affected by HIV or AIDS, to soup kitchens, orphanages and schools her care for the poor was apparent.
Her name is synonymous with mercy for many millions around the world. She exemplifies the social teaching of the Catholic Church and the dignity of the human person (CCC 1700).
"By blood, I am Albanian," Mother Teresa said in one interview. "By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."
Mother Teresa's identity was rooted in Christ and in the need to satisfy the cry of Christ on the Cross. "I thirst" (John 19:28). She worked in the poorest places of the world and brought the light of Christ and the comfort of support wherever she went.
In each and every person she saw dignity. In each and every person she saw the image of God.
St. Katharine Drexel
I honestly didn't know much about Saint Katharine before today when my priest spent his homily praising her.
Wow, I've been missing out on this saint.
Katharine was born into a wealthy family. Like obnoxiously wealthy. Her family fortune, in contemporary terms, came in at about $400 million.
She was born into a life of privilege but decided to live in a radically different way, ministering to Native American and people of color who were neglected and mistreated.
Imagine that. Standing in solidarity with the poor, giving up a fortune and a life of ease for what?
For faith and for love of her brother and sisters in Christ.
"If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well, we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them,Let us open wide our hearts. It is joy which invites us. Press forward and fear nothing."-Katharine Drexel
Last, but most certainly not least, we have the still unsainted Dorothy Day, the founder of the the Catholic Worker Movement and a social activist/anarchist like you wouldn't believe.
Day is a fascinating example to me of a social activist combined with a faithful and traditional Catholic faith. She was Catholic in the fullest sense of the term. Her faith in Christ and His Church informed her actions to help the working poor.
For Dorothy Day the Church's words of fairness, justice and equality weren't just empty words. They were a mandate she couldn't avoid.
“Everything a baptized person does every day should be directly or indirectly related to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy,” Day said once.
Every day we go about our daily lives and our own comfort blinds us to the cry that is welling up from the poor, the dying and the simply lonely.
Our faith begins at the Mass and ends holding the hands of the dying. Let's live that out this Lent. Let our words sing the truth that unites us: God loves us and just as He does so must we love each other.
So I'm writing this at about 3:49 a.m. on a Friday morning. For what earthly reason could I be up at this unholy hour?
Journalism. But that's not what I'm writing about today.
Instead, I want to write about love. Why? Because that's what came into my mind. That's what I think people need to hear and read about.
So love. What could a 22 year-old college student possibly know about love?
Not a whole lot when compared to the couples who have been together 15, 30, 45 years. But I do know what love isn't.
Love isn't selfish. Love gets that glass of water, makes that call or checks on the kids in the middle of the night.
Love doesn't question. It doesn't matter why you're not feeling well or why tonight the demons are worse. Love answers and comforts.
And love is most definitely not cruel. Love does not spit out cruel words unthinkingly in order to get the better of someone. Love smiles.
Love is all about this desire, this need to empty ourselves out, to lose ourselves in the good of another person. There's this great Greek word called "kenosis" which means "self-emptying."
It's this great concept and only when we empty ourselves, are we truly free to act and to love. The culture we live in keeps us caught up in the individual wants and desires we face daily. But that will never make you happy, it will never fill you.
You have to empty yourself for someone else. And that is one of the hardest, most courageous things you could possibly do.
I've loved romantically once. But I was afraid to give it all away, to let myself go out of the picture. And now that's exactly where I am. Out of the picture. Now before you get all sad for me, read on.
That love taught me how to love better, to love more deeply and to love more freely.
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta has this beautiful quote where she says, "Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self."
And she is so right. Love even when it hurts. Actually, I take that back. Love ESPECIALLY when it hurts. That's the kind of love worth having.
If it hurts, you know it's real. So be real. Be raw and aching. Be a lover and a fighter. Feel every ache, every pain and then...let it go. Empty yourself out. Because you can't just be a well, greedily storing love.
You have to give it and give it freely. Love is never divided, it never fades and if it's real love it never leaves us.
So give, and give and give until you think you can't keep doing it. And like a miracle you'll realize you still can give love to everyone you meet.
Why? Because someone or some event taught you how to love better.