Profile in Courage

(Homily for Third Sunday of Lent, Year C)

In 1906, the Liberal Party in England nominated Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc as their candidate in Manchester, a heavily Methodist district. The newspapers said a Catholic could not get elected in that area, and Belloc's campaign manager told him to avoid talking about his religion.

However, at his first campaign rally, Belloc got up and said “Gentlemen,” - this was before women's suffrage - “I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day.” He then reached into his pocket and pulled out an rosary. “This is a rosary.” He said. “As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads, every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative!”

After a few seconds of stunned silence, the crowd burst into applause, and Belloc went on to be elected as the first Liberal from Manchester in decades. Hilaire Belloc was the kind of politician most of us would like to see – a man of strong faith and great principle.

Back in the mid fifties, John Kennedy put out a little book about men of principle. He titled it Profiles in Courage.* The book describes eight senators – from John Quincy Adams to Robert Taft – who stood by their moral convictions, even though it cost them greatly.

Today’s Gospel tells about a man who towers about others for his moral courage. He spoke fearlessly to the rich and the powerful. He told those with possessions – food, clothing, whatever – to share with those who had none. He told public officials to stop cheating and soldiers to quit bullying. Such boldness led to imprisonment and beheading. John was a great profile in courage.

I think all of us would like to see more people like John – both in our church and in public life. But, you know, it’s easy to criticize politicians – and even bishops – for their lack of integrity. They will have to answer for themselves, but what about people like you and me? How often do we shrink from expressing our faith in in our workplace or family settings? I'm not talking about posturing or, God help us, judging others. Usually it is the small act or the quiet word that requires the greatest courage.

I know a guy who works in completely secularized environment, where his fellow workers often make remarks about “the Church” or “right wing Christians.” He doesn’t get into arguments, but when he sits down for lunch, he pauses, makes the sign of the cross and says a silent prayer. That act - five days a week - demands enormous strength.

If you and I took the risk of making small acts of courage, maybe we would we get the politicians and the bishops we desire – people like Hilaire Belloc or John the Baptist – who live their faith with integrity and have the courage to stand up for it.

************

*Ironically, Kennedy himself proposed a radical separation between religious faith and conscience formation. In a 1960 campaign speech he declared: "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters -- and the church does not speak for me."

Forty years later, Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, made a statement which, at least on the surface, provides a corrective to Kennedy's position: 'My religion decides what's right. And what's right for me as vice president will be what's right for America.' "

The issue is not separation of church and state, but truth in advertising. If religious faith informs your moral convictions, have the courage to let the public know. If not, why call yourself a Catholic, Jew or Baptist?

***

One of my readers pointed out the following about Senator Lieberman:

In the 108th Congress he voted 7 times out of 7 for funding bills, and amendments/motions that were clearly anti-life. This included funding for military abortions in military medical facilities, funding of international pro-abortion organizations, modifications of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 to include endorsement of Roe v. Wade and inclusion of "health-of-mother" exceptions, and once again, he voted against the Partial -Birth Abortion Act. May I respectfully suggest that removal of Senator Lieberman's name from the footnote of your December 14th homily would be appropriate, and (as a suggestion) perhaps a reference to an Orthodox Jew such as the film critic Michael Medved (who has nourished his ethical beliefs and has not wavered in his pro-life convictions) would still make the important point that we need to maintain ethical principles in all spheres of our lives -- Family, Work, Faith, Personal, Friends, Community -- even if "inconvenient", potentially detrimental, or opposed to the culture of relativism in our world. Father, the discovery of your website is a real blessing. I've passed it on to friends and family. Your writings are clear, concise, and filled with wisdom and smiles. Thank you. Lee Robey

Final Version

Versión Castellana

From Archives (Homily for Third Sunday of Advent, Year C):

2015: Are You Missing Out? Week 3: Joy
2012: What Should We Do?
2009: Joy as a Duty
2006: To Be a Happier Priest
2003: Profile in Courage
2000: A Priest's Examination of Conscience
1997: Rejoice Always!

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Bulletin (Samwise at Paramount, Christmas Schedule, Stryker Brigade)

Announcements

Pictures of Blessing of Animals for Living Nativity Scene at Paramount Theater

Demolition of Buildings and Clearing of New Lot

Press Release by Archbishop Brunett: "The recent decision of a Canadian Anglican diocese to develop a rite for blessing same-sex unions and the ordination of Bishop V. Eugene Robinson of New Hampshire has caused a serious problem within the worldwide Anglican Communion and poses a new challenge to Catholic-Anglican unity."

The Archbishop and the Politicians

Grossly Offensive! (the double standard at Georgetown)

From an editorial in the Dallas Morning News:

Like many Americans, we instinctively recoil from religious leaders telling secular lawmakers what to do. But how do you judge someone like Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans, who in 1962 excommunicated Catholic lawmakers who tried to prohibit the church from integrating its schools? Would the world have been better off had the good archbishop – or the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – held his peace? Today, critics of Pope Pius XII criticize him not for speaking out against the Nazis but for not speaking out often enough. It's funny how people seem to mind religious leaders commenting on political issues only when they don't like what they have to say. (see Domenico Bettinelli Inside Look)

Mary Magdalene: This Year's Theological "It" Girl

St. Louis Post-Dispatch "distorts facts"... (a wonderful example of how the media misrepresent and leave things out when they do not conform to pre-ordained categories)

Choice on Earth

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