If someone was to write a list of all the ways to get the most people to like you, being a practicing Catholic would not be on that list. As Catholics, we are part of a Church that faces much opposition. You may have heard of the mockery made of our religious observations with “Glitter Ash Wednesday”. You may just hear someone professing the Catholic belief of the immorality of abortion being labeled “misogynistic” or a “bigot” at school. Your friends may make fun of you or call you a prude for adhering to the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. Or you may have been bullied just for speaking up in class for the Church. You know this. You’ve probably experienced it firsthand.
When we are faced with opposition and persecution for our faith we need to remember and take joy in one thing: The Catholic Church is not defined by the trials we face. Here are some reasons why:
In every age, there’s always been opposition and trials for the people of the Church. The struggles in this time, therefore, are nothing new. Opposition to the Church is not new.
The serpent tempted Adam and Eve to sin. People spat on Jesus and his disciples. Romans intentionally killed early Christians. During the middle ages, Christians were massacred. In the French Revolution, an intentional and strategic dismantling took place in the form of banishing clergy members, desecrating sacred spaces and Churches, burning iconography and outlawing private worship and religious education. The Catholic Church has faced trials throughout the ages.
We can’t let those struggles and trials and people hating on the Church discourage us, but rather motivate us. When we are mocked or put down for our beliefs, we should not feel discouraged. Rather, we should feel motivated. We should feel motivated to persist on throughout the persecution because it’s what our older brothers and sisters in the faith have done for centuries. It can be hard to not feel discouraged, as it is only human to feel down when others do not treat us well. Here are some practical tips for dealing with the discouragement of opposition:
- Have a community of friends who can cheer you on
It is imperative to have some solid Catholics in your life whom you can text, tweet, email, snapchat, whatever–whom you can tell about the trials and hardships you’re facing for the sake of the faith. It feels so good to be able to openly discuss these matters with people who understand and can pray with you and encourage you to persist.
- Pick a lion-hearted Saint to pray for you
There are some saints who have faced some serious hardship and trials during their life on earth. Many of them handled the situations in ways we can only aspire to. Like, St. Nicholas who punched a heretic in the face. Or St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe who volunteered as tribute. Or St. Lawrence who was burned at the stake and told his executioners to flip him over because he was done on that side.
Having a saint interceding for you can help you remain focused on the goal–to love as Christ as loved, even when you’re met with hate. Reading about your saint’s story can inspire you to be unabashedly holy and unashamedly Catholic.
- Pray for those who oppose you
Nothing will bring you greater peace than to love as Christ loved; and that of course includes loving your enemies. Loving people can seem impossible when they are hurtful to you. But praying for them is a great way to ask God to help you love them. And bringing the situation at hand to God to ask for wisdom, guidance, and fortitude is important, too. If you commit to praying for them every day, will you be surprised at how differently your interactions may leave you feeling.
If facing opposition for the faith, know that you are not alone. Know that I, and the whole Life Teen family are praying for you daily, and have joy! You are partaking in a small bit of what Jesus, His disciples and the saints throughout the ages have experienced. What a gift!
If you follow our faith, you will face persecution. You will probably not be liked by many. You might even be hated by some. If our faith were about being likes, Jesus wouldn’t have died on the cross. So take solace, He has overcome every trial we will face!