For the past several decades American Catholics have immersed themselves into American culture. We look and act just like everyone else. And increasingly this has meant that we can’t be distinguished from a Protestant or an atheist. To be “like everyone else” you can’t be praying in public or talking about morals that have been largely dismissed by the popular culture.
In this immersion, we now have vast numbers of people who are Catholic “in name only”—they don’t subscribe to the morals and doctrine taught by the Church and they only come to Mass for Christmas and Easter. Since many churches don’t have Adult Faith Formation programs, and it would be hard to insist on attendance anyway, many of today’s Catholics have no idea what Catholicism means.
To truly take up the mission of Christ, we must “take every career captive” for Him. We need to be visible in the world. Our faith should be clearly seen in all aspects of life–in marriage, jobs, friendships and service. We are called to shine a bright light for the world. For too long, the light of our faith has been hidden under a basket.
To turn around our identity as American Catholics, our young people will need to be prepared, supported and “enlightened.” That’s what a good Catholic education should be about.
As Peter begins the process of applying to colleges, we decided to visit Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio to see what it has to offer. Franciscan is literally and figuratively “a light on the hill”! Overlooking a small town, the large cross on campus can be seen from a distance. We were met at the information desk by Fr. Gregory in his Franciscan robes. When Peter asked about the Cross Country team, a student told us, “Fr. Gregory takes a cross and stands along the hardest path for the runners. As they go by him, he calls out, ‘Run for Him. Do it for Jesus.’”
At the end of our campus visit we went to see the latest production of the college’s theatre department. In a small intimate setting, three departments on campus joined to produce something special. The Visual Arts program created exquisite stained glass windows representing virtues. The Music Department contributed an unseen choir singing a cappella. And the Theatre program presented a Medieval Morality Play called Everyman.
The play is about a man (wonderfully portrayed by Gabe Velazquez) who had lived immersed in the world, with little thought for faith. He is suddenly confronted by Death and given a short time to prepare for the journey to judgment. The man turns to his friends and companions, thinking they will stand up for his character. But he is laughed at and abandoned. The man thinks his wealth and treasures should somehow help him…afterall, he has given himself totally to their accumulation. But, of course, his worldly treasures mean nothing in the life that comes after death.
He turns to virtues and discovers that “Good Deeds” can accompany him on the final journey. But his few deeds have made this Virtue unable to stand. “Knowledge” helps the man see. He eventually turns to Confession and Repentance. He turns to Christ. Only then is mercy opened for his soul.
The visit to the campus of Franciscan was a wonderful reminder that we need to be a Light for the world. To do this, we must begin by giving our young people the opportunity to be en-light-ened. Then the future will be brighter for all.
Copyright 2013 Judith Costello