During my senior year of high school, I had an experience that struck me (even at the time) as worthy of reflection. I was taking two college classes at a local university, one of which was a course on acting. There were perhaps 20 of us in this class, and I sat near a student who, for the sake of my story, I’ll call Greg. We exchanged a few words from class to class, but I wouldn’t say I really knew him. Halfway through the semester, I went to a Mass that was being offered through the campus’s Newman club. Imagine my surprise when Greg showed up a few minutes before Mass began! It turned out that he was a Catholic too, and had even gone to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ conference the year before.
I had never suspected Greg of being Catholic, or even Christian. Sure, he was a nice guy, but nothing about him particularly suggested God was the center of his life. The fact that his faith wasn’t immediately apparent to me brought up some uncomfortable questions: I couldn’t tell Greg was Catholic. Could anyone tell that I was? Was there anything about the way I spoke, behaved, and dressed that could hint at the faith I strived to build my life around? Would others be surprised to find out I was Catholic?
These are questions that each one of us should ask ourselves. Our Catholic faith is meant to permeate our entire being. It should be a factor in even our most seemingly insignificant decisions. We are meant to be Christ’s witnesses “throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), and that starts with being authentic witnesses to the people we interact with on a daily basis. Living with charity and goodness is essential, but we must go beyond simply being a kind person. We must live our lives in accordance with the truth. In an age that is often at odds with the teachings of Christ, that truth can make us uncomfortable. Even small things like praying before meals or wearing a scapular or medal can help point those around us toward the source of our joy and love.
There are several Catholic companies that sell tastefully made Catholic apparel that can serve both as a silent witness and an invitation to conversation. As a boy, I read stories of the martyrs and my imagination was stirred by the idea of sacrificing my life for Christ. But can we expect to stay true to Christ in the midst of physical persecution when we cannot even handle the slight discomforts that living out an authentic Catholic witness in the modern world inevitably brings?
Throughout the centuries, martyrs have died rather than apostatize. Is it so hard for us to refrain from taking the Lord’s name in vain, or even to breathe a quiet prayer when those around us do? In our modern day and age, Christians in many parts of the world are killed for their faith. Is it so hard for us American Catholics to pray over our food in public? Even in America, anti-Catholic sentiment ran rampant for decades, and in many ways is the last socially acceptable prejudice. Is that a good reason for us to not wear our faith on our sleeves?
We must witness to the Good News of Christ through all of our words and actions. He must be at the forefront of our minds, impacting our every decision. In whatever small ways we can, we must lead others to him for the salvation of their souls and our own sanctification. And we must trust that Christ will give us the courage to live out our faith even in the midst of the little trials that come our way. To God be the glory!
Aidan Jones is a young Catholic writer and filmmaker currently residing in the north woods of Wisconsin. He is a parishioner of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior.