BE THE EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS TO FOLLOW
Saint Matthew 5:16
Brothers and Sisters,
When I was a kid in school, I remember non-Catholics making fun of me and other Catholics for the sign of the Cross before and after prayer as well as for our habit of kneeling during prayer. Here are a few memories that stand out above the rest:
- In elementary school, I was staying the night at a friend’s home with a number of other kids from the school; most of us being Catholic, we knelt down at a bed for bedtime prayers. One of the guys was not Catholic and interrupted both the Our Father and the Hail Mary to tell us how stupid we were being
- In middle school, I had a number of friends who were not embarrassed to pray at lunch before eating – some even prayed before our tests and classroom presentations. Middle school being what it is, these students were often teased and even bullied, but that didn’t stop them praying
- In high school, a number of us planned on going to the evening Mass at the Cathedral and then going to a dinner and a movie; a number of our non-Catholics joined us but did not stop loudly complaining about the kneeling during the consecration – as it was happening
Now, I will be the first one to admit that kids will be kids and that the young are understandably prone to being unintentionally rude. I don’t hold up these examples to tell you of decades-old grudges or anything of the sort. Rather, I tell you they were formative. Here’s how:
I was formed by my very Catholic grandparents, the example and persistence of my own parents, and VERY IMPORTANTLY by the strong examples of my Catholic friends at school. That first story – it wasn’t me who led the others to prayer time; it was a friend of mine at the party who reminded us all that we need to pray before going to sleep. Through Divine Providence, I got very, very lucky; I had amazing Catholic friends were, for whatever reason, were not at all ashamed to be Catholic in any setting – public or private. I often think and wonder how I would have turned out had I not had a significant number of strongly Catholic friends.
Whether or not you can relate to my experience, we still each have the same job moving forward from here: be the example for others to follow. It was the example of my friends (and family, too) that gave me the courage to be faithful to the Church and that is precisely what Saint Paul tells us in his very inspiring letter to the Romans. So, I will leave you with his best words that I could not possibly improve: Saint Paul writes “I am not ashamed of the Gospel” (Romans 1:16).
God be near,