Archbishop Chaput on the 'Nature of the State, our Christian Faith and the Lay Vocation'
for the Church's being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity."
Christians are in the world, but not of the world. We belong to God, and our home is heaven. But we're here for a reason: to change the world, for the sake of the world, in the name of Jesus Christ. That work belongs to each of us. Nobody else will do it for us. And the idea that we can somehow accomplish that work of changing the world without engaging -- in a hands-on way -- the laws, the structures, the public policies, the habits of mind and the root causes that sustain injustice in our nation, is a delusion.
Laypeople are not second-class disciples in this task. There's no such creature as a "second-class" Christian. Baptism is a sacrament of redemption; but also of equality in God's love. Laypeople have exactly the same dignity as clergy and religious -- and this moment in history cries out for mature, intelligent, zealous and faithful lay leaders like Patrick Madrid and all of the rest of you in this audience tonight in an urgent way. Every Christian life, and every choice in every Christian life, matters eternally. Laypeople, not clergy, have the primary task of struggling for the soul of the secular world. And only you can do it as God intended. The good news is that you're not alone -- and you're also not the first. A Catholic layman once wrote that: "Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure ... are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."
That layman was Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, the first Catholic US. Senator, and a cousin to the first Catholic bishop in the United States, John Carroll. As a Catholic attorney in then-Protestant America, Charles Carroll knew the sting of professional discrimination and religious prejudice firsthand. But he believed in the soul of this country. He served its best principles. And he demanded and worked tirelessly for his freedom to live and worship as a Catholic.
Today the bigots we face are different. Caesar wears a different suit. He has great media handlers. He bullies religion while he claims to respect it. He talks piously about the law and equality and tolerance and fairness. But he still confuses himself with God -- and he still violates the rights of Catholic believers and institutions by intruding himself where he has no right to be. It's one of the great ironies of the moment that tiny Belmont Abbey would have the courage to challenge Caesar over its right to be faithfully Catholic in its policies, while so many other American Catholics seem eager to give Caesar honors. But God is a God of ironies, as the Philistines discovered, among others.
One of the deepest truths of the human predicament is this: If you stand up to evil, you may lose. But if you don't stand up, you will lose. Belmont Abbey, to its very great credit, has the character to stand up and defend its right to be Catholic. The Becket Fund stands with it. Patrick Madrid and the Envoy Institute have been standing up for the Catholic faith for many years. We have the duty to support all of them with our prayers, our financial resources and pressure on our public officials to stop today's government interference with the identity and policies of faithful Catholic institutions.
I want to close with one of my favorite stories from history. It's about an emperor -- a good Christian emperor -- just to show I have no ill will toward Caesar. In the early Fifth Century the Huns had a very lucrative blackmail operation going against both the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. Every year a Hunnic delegation would show up in Constantinople threatening to invade. And every year -- out of Roman weakness and cowardice -- they'd leave with a big payoff. Then a new man came to the throne. His name was Marcian. He was a former general. And when the Huns showed up the next year for their tribute, he gave them a simple lesson in economics. He said, "I have gold for my friends, and steel for my enemies." Then he threw them out. The Huns thought about it for awhile. Then they turned west for easier targets.
Of course today we live in different times, don't we. But there's a lesson here, even today, for Catholics and all religious believers. If we stand up to evil, we may lose. But if we don't stand up we will lose. Our God is a God of justice; a God who does not abandon his people and who rewards courage in the face of evil. So have courage, serve the truth, love the Church, take confidence in the Lord, and stand up to witness for your faith. We've got nothing to lose. We have everything to gain. Thanks, and God bless you.”
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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