The hardest part of any religious retreat is when you leave the protection of the cloistered environment and must return to the real world. This weekend Father Jack presented a talk on living your faith in the real world, and not turning a faith community into a faith ghetto. He said this at the beginning of the retreat. It gave us each plenty of time to meditate, pray and plan for the afternoon exit.
For Catholics practicing the magisterium, we face many challenges in the current political and economic climate. In just a single keystroke any one of us can, and eventually will, experience a portion of the sufferings of Christ for our faith. If we are lucky we will not face the physical harm being put on christians around the world, but this is also not guaranteed even inside the once secure United States. The daily newscast is enough to prove these two problems a dozen fold.
Despite these threats, traditional Catholics and christians cannot retreat from society. We must continue demonstrating, even to those who hate us, we respect the image of God embodied in each person. We hope and pray one day, all will celebrate in full communion with our faith as children of God. We must in word and deed demonstrate the faith Christ taught us through the apostles. This is the daily witness of the faith required by all, and the most effective means to evangelize one person and moment at a time.
As a father I often find myself challenged when faced with worldly threats and my calling as a Catholic man. Instinctively I possess a built in desire to protect my family from all evil. I also have a desire to remove threats at their origin. (I've had St Michael the Archangel as my working patron for 25 years, so yes I do mean protect from and root out all evil! ) Despite this, I am a practical man. I recognize one day my number will get called, and I'll be walking with St. Joseph towards Jesus for a little talk. If I do not prepare my children to assume the mantle of defense of the faith and evangelization, I failed my grandchildren's grandchildren a hundred fold.
The solution is easier to conceive than walk. We must maintain the protection of children and families to permit evangelization of our successors in some type of safe environment. As adults we must continue to engage the world as Christ-bearers everyday, no matter the cost to ourselves. This is our cross to bear as we evangelize in word and deed. As the generals of our households, we also must do what all great combat generals do. Be willing to sacrifice the things we love most in this spiritual war. This means slowly introducing our children into the conflict. As their intellect and faith allow, our children must replace our tired bodies standing watch at the gates of the city of God.
In the spiritual war, can we offer no surrender and no retreat. For this is simply how it is in the real world.