Ask a Carmelite Sister…

Dear Sister,

I am starting to ask myself, “Why don’t I stand up for my Catholic religion when it is mocked or spoken of disrespectfully or when something wrong is being done?”  All things considered, it seems easiest just to be quiet. Even at home, my teenagers share some mighty strange ideas they have picked up somewhere, and I want a peaceful home, so I just listen. Am I doing the right thing?

Dear Friend,

Your letter touches such a deep chord.  Our faith comes from our deepest center; our soul. Our whole moral/ethical standards arise from it. Many of us have ancestors who have literally died for that faith. My own ancestors are from Northern Ireland, and I can recall my mom telling me, “Our family has suffered for our Catholic faith.” Our faith shapes who we are.

Well, I suppose if you would ask this question to several different people, they would answer in their own ways – for example – me. I’m a Catholic nun and I literally wear my religion. I wear a rosary almost as long as my legs. I wear a crucifix larger than my hand. My religious habit stands out in any crowd. So for me, I don’t have to say too much, really. My habit says it. People know who I am and what I stand for and sometimes they come up and ask me questions. Sometimes the opposite happens and some people can be antagonistic or even downright cruel. The wearing of my habit reminds me to behave, to live what I represent, to be what God has called me to be.

So, are you doing the right thing by keeping quiet? Let me answer with another question. May I use the Amish as an example?

When I was in Ohio and we went on a lovely Sunday outing and drove into Amish country, everything about it spoke of their faith – the horse and buggy; the simple farm; the beautiful carpentry; the CLOSED signs on Sunday; the way they comported themselves. Just by being there, we absorbed the “Amishness” of the place.  And delving deeper, I think I can say that we actually expected to encounter that “Amishness” once we entered Amish country. I think we would have been disappointed if the Amish ambiance wasn’t there. So, here’s the question, “Wouldn’t you say that the Amish teach by example?”

Let’s apply that idea to us Catholics in a like manner…

  • Our homes should have a “Catholic” identity. The very home atmosphere teaches.
  • As visitors and friends enter the front door, they should see a crucifix in a prominent place on the wall.
  • A Bible in a place of honor and treated with respect.
  • A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in one of the rooms and rosaries placed around it.
  • Grace before meals.
  • A television with programs of integrity.
  • Conversations and actions manifesting the dignity of all people interacting within that home.
  • Modesty in demeanor and in choice of clothes.

People should know we are Catholic once they enter through the doors of our home.

At work, our co-workers should see:

  • Ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday.
  • Meatless lunches on specified days.
  • Our conversation should reflect our Catholic values.
  • We should try as best we can to live the 10 Commandments while at work.  Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.
  • Speak of healthy and interesting topics,
  • Do not judge others with harsh words that never should have been said.
  • Treat all with respect.

And now to answer your original question as what to do:

  • Just quietly walk away, not in a judgmental manner.
  • Pick up your cell phone as if were ringing and simply excuse yourself.
  • The Holy Spirit will give you a nudge when it is time for you to speak.
  • Just live your Catholic religion.
  • Attend Mass each Sunday.
  • Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as you can. It brings great graces within it.

And regarding your children, they will just absorb the goodness around them.  One mom I know quietly lights a blessed candle when one of her teenagers goes out on a date and quietly blows it out when that teen has returned home. That action is powerful.

Actions speak louder than words. You may choose to be quiet in speech, but, believe me, those around you will know that you are Catholic and, if the truth be told, respect you all the more for it.

Thank you for your question and until next time,

Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.

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