Thursday, 12 July 2012

When It's Hard to Be Visibly Catholic



We always make the sign of the cross and say grace before we eat. One comes before the other, and we wouldn’t think of not thanking God for our food, before we begin our meal… But if we are out in public... then saying grace can get a little tricky. Why is it so difficult to make that sign of the cross in full view of others?  Why do we find it so hard to be visibly Catholic?

A priest once suggested we make a tiny cross on our foreheads with our thumb, when saying grace in public. In this way we can do what is right but be inconspicuous.

Another priest said we should be openly proud of our Faith and declare it to the world. He took a family to MacDonald’s for dinner. Before anyone could tuck in, he stood up, and in his loud and booming voice said, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” accompanying his words with a huge sweeping sign of the cross, which was not only beautiful, but positively attention grabbing. How did the family cope? Wonderfully. They grinned, felt good and enjoyed their food, not caring at all whether anyone thought they were strange.

Our family doesn’t use the inconspicuous forehead method or the attention grabbing method of making the sign of the cross when in public. We try to say grace quietly but properly. At least Andy and I do. The children are different. They shout it out like normal. Why do adults worry about what others are thinking, while children don’t?

The other day we took our four youngest girls to the zoo. It was a very special outing, a once-every-few-years visit. Of course, we’d packed a delicious picnic to eat half-way through the day.


At lunch time we found a picnic table under a spreading tree, where we could look out over Sydney Harbour and enjoy the spectacular view. The girls unpacked the food: fresh rolls, salads, cold meats… Soon our mouths were watering and we couldn’t wait to devour all that tempting food. We were starving. But first we had to say grace… we had to make the sign of the cross.

I looked at my family sitting around the wooden picnic table. I thought about the beautiful day we were enjoying together: the excitement as we arrived at the zoo entrance, the smiles on the girls’ faces as they ran this way and that looking for the animals, the stunning scenery, a husband who didn’t mind driving two hours each way through city traffic so we could have this day out…  

And then all of a sudden, something remarkable happened. A unexpected warm powerful feeling spread through me and bubbled over. I made the sign of the cross with great care. I didn’t say grace quietly but joined the girls in proclaiming it to whoever was listening. Who was listening? I didn’t even look to see. I didn’t care. All that mattered was that joyful moment when I felt full of gratitude to God for everything He’d given us.

What did our fellow zoo visitors think of us?

Look at those religious nuts.
Oh look! They’re Catholics too!

Or perhaps no one was even interested in what we were doing.

I wonder why we worry so much about what other people think. It seems especially absurd when these are people we don’t know and will probably never see again. Are they more important than God?

The memory of that warm and joyous feeling, I experienced at the zoo, remains to give me strength. In my imagination, I’m in our local shopping mall with our girls. We have a tray filled with rolls and drinks and we are looking for somewhere to sit. We spot a table in the centre of the food hall and quickly slide into the seats, and then with all the shoppers around us, I say, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” We all make beautiful signs of the cross and I smile.

I’m a Catholic. I’m not afraid. I belong to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

And I am truly grateful.

22 comments:

  1. Just this morning in my little daily prayer book based on the words of Blessed St John Cardinal Newman, I read:

    " My brethren, so many of you as are sensitive of the laughter or contempt of the world, this is your cross; you must wear it, you must endure it patiently; it is the mark of your conformity to Christ; He despised the shame: you must learn to endure it, from the example and by the aid of your Savior. You must love the praise of God more than the praise of men. It is the very trial suited to you, appointed for you, to establish you in the faith. You are not tempted with gain or ambition, but with ridicule. And be sure, that unless you withstand it, you can not endure hardships as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, you will not endure other temptations which are to follow."

    Blessings,

    Faith

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    1. Faith,

      Thank you for taking the time to type out these words.

      "And be sure, that unless you withstand it, you can not endure hardships as good soldiers of Jesus Christ," Really, making the sign of the cross in public is such a little thing to do for God. Yes, we might have greater hardships to endure at some point.

      There is so much to think about in this quote. I have a couple of books of the writings of Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman. I must read them.

      God bless!

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  2. Lots to think about in this post and, also, in Faith's comment which is so affirming. It's such a temptation to lie low and resist challenges to our comfort zone, isn't it? I'm glad you felt joy and strength, Sue - it sounds as though it was a very special moment.

    God bless:-)

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    1. Vicky,

      Yes, it is very tempting to lie low! But I think we need to show we are proud to be visibly Catholic, and also think more of how God looks at us, than of how the world does.

      It was a special moment! In that moment, I felt that there was nothing more important than doing God's will and loving Him with all my heart. Everything and everyone else seemed so remote and unimportant. A true moment of joy!

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  3. Hi Sue,
    I could relate to your words here. The area of the US I live in is very secular - and I mean VERY! More so than other areas though I don't know why. The temptation to shout out, "Jesus Christ is Lord and King" overcomes me once in a while just to see what folks will do :) Good thing they don't stone people these days...lol.

    I was touched by your post because I understand how difficult it is to be Catholic in today's society. Children have less pride so it's easier for them to say grace in public and talk about God freely I think.

    As for McDonalds? I make the sign of the cross on the burgers themselves! I have no clue what is in that fast food and I'm not sure I want to...

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    1. Mary,

      I have never seen anyone here making the sign of the cross in public, apart from homeschooling gatherings where we are all mutually like-minded and supportive. To be visibly Catholic then in our society is unusual, just like where you live!

      I'd love to see people's reactions if you shouted out those words! Everyone would probably think you were a religious fanatic though which is very sad.

      "Good thing they don't stone people these days...lol." I was thinking about that as I wrote the post. Will there come a time when it will be forbidden to perform religious practices in public? The world is so intent on being inclusive and not making people feel different... a humdrum level of life where no one can do anything because it might upset someone. If such a time arrives, making the sign of the cross in public will be an act of real bravery. But for now, it really shouldn't be so difficult, a little thing to do for God.

      Children are a great example for us older people! They just don't understand why we worry about such things. I agree totally with you about fast food. I will admit we occasionally go to McDonald's but we only buy coffee and sometimes a cake.

      God bless!

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  4. This is yet another wonderful post Sue and you make a great valid point.

    People don't often (if ever) make the sign of the Cross before meals. Time was when people made the sign of the Cross whenever they passed a church. Time was when people believed in God and respected Him.

    I stood waiting in a long corridor in hospital not so long ago. There were many doors on the left and right of the corridor; all looking exactly the same with door numbers on them or inscriptions such as - Radiology, Orthodontics and so on. One had the inscription Chapel.

    An ordinary door. When you opened it there was a small room serving as a Chapel.

    I waited in the corridor as many visitors and hospital staff passed by backwards and forwards. I was amazed that at least three or four people (all women) made the sign of the Cross as they passed the door. One actually opened the door, made the sign of the Cross, and then shut it again and left. Now there's something one does not often see these days.

    Sue you are a great Christian example and the Lord blesses you and your family for it.

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    1. Victor,

      That is a wonderful story about the hospital chapel. Yes, previous generations were much better at showing respect to God through visible religious practices. Maybe customs haven't been passed on from generation to generation. Or do people just care less about God and more about the world these days? Or don't they love God enough because they don't know God and our Faith properly? I don't know.

      I guess we must all have the courage to be a good Christian example and when we think about how much God loves us, it really shouldn't be too difficult.

      I appreciate your comment. Thank you!

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  5. http://communityofcatholicbloggers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/quick-opinion-poll.html

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    1. Victor,

      It was very kind of you to link my post on the Community of Catholic Bloggers site. Thank you!

      God bless.

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  6. This post gives me a warm and joyous feeling! And I like the new header too!

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    1. Pam,

      "This post gives me a warm and joyous feeling!" I am so glad I managed to share a bit of that joyous moment with you. Your comment made me smile with pleasure.

      I did some experimenting with photos and headers. I'm so pleased you like the new one!

      God bless you!

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  7. Great post, Sue. If we worry about what others think, we won't every do the risky things necessary to witness to Christ and get to heaven.

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    1. Barb,

      Thank you for visiting my blog! I appreciate you following Victor's link and sharing my story.

      Yes, getting to heaven does involve opening ourselves up to comment and possible criticism. But I agree that we shouldn't worry about what others think. Their opinions really are unimportant.

      God bless!

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  8. We have always said grace in public. And made the sign of the cross. I look at it as evangelizing. And setting a good example for my children and grandchildren.
    I don't worry about what others think. I am who I am. :)

    Great post.

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    1. Colleen,

      "setting a good example for my children and grandchildren." Yes, that is a very good reason for overcoming our reluctance to stand out. We have to do what is right and give proper thanks to God.

      I guess that by praying in public, we might give courage to others who might want to do the same thing. I always find it amazing how a good example can result in a lot of unexpected good.

      "I am who I am." I shall remember that!

      God bless!

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  9. Hi Sue,

    The children have always wanted to say grace when we were out. It was what they were used to doing at home for each meal. We have, on occasion, had people come up to us afterwards and say how nice it was to see a family praying. As yet no one one has been negative to our face. As for being Catholic in public; family size and Miraculous Medals worn 'outside' by the youger ones are usually a dead giveaway.

    God Bless.

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    1. Gerard,

      Yes, children are so straightforward and simple. Ours are the same. We say grace at home so why should it be any different when in public?

      How lovely you have had positive comments from people! No one has been negative to us either so I don't really know where that hesitant feeling comes from.

      We have also been recognised as being Catholic by the number of children and medals on display!! Somehow that doesn't bother me. Maybe it is just the act of praying in public that is difficult.

      Your family is always such a beautiful example of what it is to be Catholic. Thank you for sharing!

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  10. "We probably wouldn''t worry about what people think of us if we could know how seldom they do.

    Olin Miller"

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    1. Sararose,

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing the quote!

      God bless!

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  11. Just beautiful Sue! :)

    We 'downplay' making the sign of the cross in public..., dipping our heads.. THOUGH there are times I have been tempted, (out of annoyance) to stand to my feet and be LOOOOOUD! But since I'm a coward, I haven't. LOL

    I think I will start.. not only myself, but encouraging my family as well to do the same. :) I admit I am "very" guilty about worrying what everyone thinks. I ought not be.

    Wonderful blog entry as always!! ♥ ♥

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    1. Susan,

      When I was writing this story I was a bit hesitant about admitting I am shy about making the sign of the cross in public, before saying grace. What if no one else feels like me? What if I am the only nervous person out there? What will people think of me? But I did write about it, and it is nice to find most of us have the same kind of worries.

      Now... if we went out to dinner TOGETHER we'd take courage from each other, and make beautiful sweeping signs of the cross, say grace LOUDLY, and not care two hoots what anyone thinks of us. There is strength in supportive friendship. We certainly need our friends!

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