On the Catholic Priesthood

Friday August 30, 2019

Our Duty to non-Catholics

 It may be readily assumed that every sincere Christian is zealous for the spread of the Gospel and desirous to communicate its light and peace to others. Christ sent His followers to announce the good news throughout the world and to bear testimony to the truth, as He did, by their words and their lives. He who is not with Him is against Him; and the individual or congregation that becomes self-centered, that does not earnestly wish "all men to come to the knowledge of the truth," that in no way strives to enlarge God's kingdom, such an individual or such a community is weak in faith, stagnant in charity, and already in the early stages of decay. 

 It is true that the Church is indefectible, that the terrific forces arrayed against her can never prevail. But the extent of her victory from year to year, the number of those who submit to her, will in the last resort depend upon the militant spirit of all her members, laity and clergy alike, upon their energy in making known the truth, upon their skill in combating error, and upon their zeal in kindling in men's hearts the fire the charity which Christ brought down from Heaven. The practical question, therefore, arises, What is our duty to our separated brethren and non Christians? How are we to remove their prejudices and convince them of the truth? Is it by sermons and instructions directed at them? By controversy? By satire? By ridicule? By a self-satisfied superior attitude of aloofness? No, not by these methods, but quietly and wisely, by prayer, by grace, by good example, and by the character of our own lives and the lives of our people. By our fruits shall we be known.

What benefits does Catholicity bring to to individual or to society? that is the test question of outsiders.

Are Catholics no better than others - perhaps not even as good?  that is often their greatest difficulty.

If, on the contrary, Catholics are good citizens, upright and honorable, if their home-life is pure and peaceful, if they are reverent and rich in faith, then the Church will be respected, hungry and thirsty souls will be satisfied, and the true religion will need none of the "slings and arrows" of theological controversy.

The divine lineaments of Catholicity, if not lost or obscured in its local presence, are sufficient to convince any thoughtful enquirer. "The Church herself," says the Vatican Council "...is an enduring motive of credibility, an irrefragable proof of her own divine mission, like unto a standard unfurled to the nations, calling on those who have not yet believed, and giving certainty to those who have." Her marvelous unity and symmetry, her under caying vigor and buoyancy, her broad human sympathies, her manifold methods of satisfying the restless human heart; above all, the peace, the purity, the steadfast of her children - those are the features, the well marked outlines, that proclaim the divinity of our creed and its title to be not merely the truth but also "the way and the life." "If we do our duty," that is, if by our lives, by our sympathy, and by the intelligent exposition of our doctrine we keep alive the Christian ideal of manhood, "truth will make progress among our non-Catholic fellow-citizens, and once made Catholic, they will by their zeal and activity rank amongst the most loyal and most devoted of the children of the Church." " It is not controversy, above all not biting controversy, not even argumentative discussion, that will bring souls to the Church, but rather exposition touched with piety, explanation warmed with devotion; the presentation of faith, not a system to be accepted, but as the holding lovingly fast to what God has taught." It is not a syllogism that touches and converts men - it is virtue, it is God's grace. Augustine was captivated, not by the reasoning and learning of Ambrose, but by this kindness and courtesy.

"Faith of our Fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach thee, too, as love knows how,
By kindly words and virtuous life."

Source: The Priest of Today, His Ideals and Duties by Rev. Thomas O'Donnell. 1910

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