We are at war. That’s not news. As Christians we recognize that we have been at war with the world, the flesh and the devil ever since the fall of man in the garden. The battles take different forms in different times.
In this month of June, we witness a particularly brutal battle in our current culture and information war—an epic battle to reclaim our culture, our Republic and even our Holy Church.
We just celebrated the great feast of Pentecost—the birthday of our Church. What power the apostles and disciples received from the Holy Spirit—a power that conquered the Roman Empire, and many subsequent civilizations that did their best to destroy Christianity by the sword and other horrific means.
This month as the world celebrates that vice, which is at the root of all sin, it may seem like we’re losing. We see businesses, schools, and institutions cave to the most disgusting and vile demands of a minority that shrieks and riots as they demand first tolerance, then acceptance, and finally allegiance. We now live firmly in the theatre of the absurd. But as the absurdity becomes more and more blatant and pushes more boundaries, many have awakened and begun to fight back. That’s the good news.
But what of those individuals we see on TV and social media? What of those in our own families that seem to be caught up in this culture and these unorthodox (to use an understatement) lifestyles?
I think it’s important that those who seek to uphold Christian values, who seek to counter the insanity and immorality of this culture, make a distinction between the political movements that foment such confusion and those individuals caught up in it, especially our family members and loved ones. Their beliefs and behaviors may be right in your face and challenging you. You may be tempted to react and throw word bombs right back at them. You may feel shame and grief. You may wonder where you failed and what you can possibly do now to help them.
Here are a few questions to ponder.
Do you love them and want to see their souls saved? I’m sure you do.
Does Jesus love them even more than you do? Yes, He emphatically does.
Can you save them? Absolutely not.
Can Jesus save them? Absolutely.
Does He want to? Absolutely.
So how can you respond to help them cooperate with the graces won by Christ on their behalf and be saved?
Here are a few suggestions:
First, seek understanding
There’s way more to the complex issues and feelings many are dealing with than what we see displayed politically and in the media. We are subjected to so much propaganda, but for the individuals caught up in the chaos, there are real feelings, and pain, and confusion. Try to get a better understanding of what your loved one may be dealing with by learning more on the topic.
It starts with listening. It’s tempting to preach when we see a loved one going down a bad path, but that is rarely helpful. Ask them what they are experiencing, how long they may have had such feelings, and what those feelings may mean to them.
They may not be ready to talk to you right away and that’s okay. Be present to them. Be attentive to their feelings and be sure to delight in who they are and not focus solely on the problem or your concerns. Your loving and non-judgmental presence will help to build trust so that they can talk to you when they feel ready.
Assure them of your love
Those that seem the least lovable usually are in the greatest need of love. Assure them verbally and in other ways that you love them. Separate their behaviors and beliefs from who they are as a person. Affirm the good you see in them.
Speak the truth in love
Being supportive of the person is important but that doesn’t mean you have to feign support for that which you believe is immoral and detrimental to them and their immortal souls. State what you believe and why and what your concerns are for them and for their future—including their eternal future. Resist any urge to put them or their peers down. Simply state what you believe clearly and lovingly.
Every person needs to feel loved and respected for who they are. I know it can be hard when someone is perhaps flagrantly attacking all that you hold dear. It can feel like rejection of you when they disrespect the values that you hold and tried to instill in them. Remember, you’re fighting against a powerful culture that has influenced them often to think that you’re the enemy. It can take time to dismantle that belief. The hallmark of every healthy relationship is an absolute reverence for the free will of the other.
You can’t control what anyone else does, but you can set boundaries in your own life. If they are disrespectful or disruptive, say at holidays or family events, it’s ok to let them know what behavior will not be tolerated in your home or in your presence.
Agree to disagree
When you find yourself at an impasse, suggest you agree to disagree. Let them know whatever they are struggling with doesn’t define them and you still, and always will, love them for who they are. If they separate from you for a time, then like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, let them go. Be clear that it is their decision and not yours. Again, assure them of your love so they can feel free to return at some point. Reach out after some time to remind them that you love them. They may not respond and that’s ok. You do your part.
Stand in firm and unfailing trust in God
These battles are emotional, of course, but they are at heart spiritual. And a spiritual battle requires spiritual weapons. Pray constantly and make sacrifices on their behalf. Fasting or other acts of self-denial are powerful. Sometimes offering up the penance of remaining quiet when you want to lash out is even more powerful. Offer up whatever suffering they may cause you for their conversion. You cut the devil off at the knees when you do that. Have Masses said for them. There is nothing more powerful than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass applied for a soul, deceased or still living.
Remember, nothing happens without a reason and a mystery. As the world celebrates the cardinal vice, our Church celebrates the triumph of humility with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the feast of St. Charles Lwanga and companions (worth looking up), the feasts of the Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and finally the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. We are truly surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. We’re not alone in this struggle but stand on the shoulders of many saints and martyrs that went before us and intercede on our behalf right now. This isn’t the first-time society has devolved into chaos and immorality. With all of her flawed members, the Church remains and those civilizations and despots who sought her demise, are merely footnotes in the history books.
Lastly, remind yourself every day that God loves them even more than you do and wants them to be saved. Pray with faith and confidence…and trust, trust, trust in the unfathomable Mercy of Almighty God and His Son, who conquered the world.
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