Propose, Don’t Presuppose

propose dont presuppose

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Do not presuppose the faith but propose it…

Faith is not maintained automatically. It is not ‘finished business’ that we can simply take for granted. The life of faith has to be constantly renewed. And since faith is an act that comprehends all the dimensions of our existence, it also requires constantly renewed reflection and witness.          – Cardinal Ratzinger, Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism

In 2011, NBC’s Today Show traveled to the Vatican where they were guided around by Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Dolan is a great model of evangelization in our country today. He’s smart, funny, personable, and on fire with the faith. He’s also completely unafraid of interacting with those, such as the media, who have been traditionally considered hostile to the faith. He uses those interactions to proclaim the faith simply and honestly. He opens doors, both literally and figuratively; enchanting those who might otherwise be enemies and growing the audience for the faith he wants to share with them.

Dolan has been a favorite in our household since he took Milwaukee by storm in 2002. I think he’s done a lot of great work, but a particular strength is how able he is at the important art of meeting people where they are and helping them move forward, even if it’s just a little bit. A big piece of that, I think, is trust in God and a setting aside of both fear and pride. After all, a strong faith should help us to remember important things like: God will help us say the right thing at the right time and He has promised to protect His church.

When Archbishop Dolan left Milwaukee for New York, we watched all of the proceedings on EWTN. A particularly memorable portion of the coverage was a previously recorded interview he did with Raymond Arroyo. Among many other questions, Arroyo asked him about a tough moment in his time in Milwaukee, when he received a letter from a number of his priests asking him to consider having some dialogue on the question of celibacy. To many people, this seemed like a very contentious and controversial question. But Dolan always seems to know where he stands. He answered that we don’t need to be afraid of questions and that the Church is always willing to talk about things.

That was a really striking idea to me. Not an entirely new concept, but an important one that I hadn’t seen with quite that much clarity before. It certainly has an application within my home too – to react kindly and patiently to any questions my children have and to work to develop an environment in which questions are welcome. Questions and doubts are a natural part of life and should be treated accordingly (and graciously!).

Somewhat along these lines, the interviews with the Today Show made me both realize and remember that our faith is not so much something that needs to be defended (though there is a place for that) as to be shared with others. And if we start out feeling defensive about it, we often blow the opportunity. I know I sometimes get my priorities confused in this regard.

To convert somebody, take them by the hand and guide them.                   – St. Thomas Aquinas

My thoughts came about also from some training that my husband and I did for being involved in marriage preparation ministry at our parish. The facilitator of the training very wisely informed us that we may very well be these couples’ gateway into the church. That’s a tall order. Thank goodness we’re supposed to lean on God! 🙂

‘Go, make disciples of all nations was the last command Jesus gave to us before returning to His Father. It’s a big one. How can simple people like us convert the world? That brings us back to Mary, and to the apostles at Pentecost. They changed the world by letting God change them and work through them. We don’t need to be afraid. We need to be confident in the promise made by Christ Himself: ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age.’

Don’t be afraid of the world. The Holy Spirit is on your side. Charles Spurgeon once said, ‘The way you defend the Bible is the same way you defend a lion. You just let it loose.’   – Living the Catholic Faith: Discovering the Basics by Archbishop Chaput

Thoughtfulness and Kindness, not Silence

In taking time to develop a relationship with God and others that leaves room for understanding and charity, it would be a huge mistake to think that this means we should be silent about the things that really matter. The good news needs to be shared, of course, but sometimes it’s as simple as to bring it up in conversation.

We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become. – St. Clare of Assisi

What we love, we shall grow to resemble. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux