Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “Judge the Catholic Church not by those who barely live by its spirit, but by the example of those who live closest to it.”
The problem is simply most of us do not obey that simple suggestion and I include myself in this category. The Church is a group of people and people are not perfect. Far too often we forget this very simple statement.
Today we will focus on how focusing on the wrong things can get you in a great deal of trouble both in this world and the next. Some time back a man related to me this story that I will never forget. The story is so real, so true, and so gut-wrenching.
It began as the man told me about his parents. They were of two different faiths (The father was Catholic and Wife was Lutheran) but the father promised his mother on her death bed that he would marry in the Church. So he did exactly that. He married the love of his life and she promised that she would raise their children in the Catholic Church. A year or so later the family came. They begin with getting the baby baptized and eventually their other sacraments. The mother rarely went to Church but the father took the children to church every Sunday. Well, every Sunday until the last Sunday. On that last Sunday, the parish Priest put in the Church Bulletin the names of all of the people in the parish that have not been giving money. Then to make a stronger point in his Homily he called out the names of those same people. The names were collected from the envelopes. His father always paid cash and put money in each week - he did that so his wife would not be too upset. To keep harmony at home he caused embarrassment at Church. He was so upset he never went back to Church one time the rest of his life and when he died his funeral was in a funeral home.
I thought to myself this was horrible. The man said wait, this is not the whole story by far, listen to me and then he said, “Several years later- actually almost seven years to the date. The same wife was taking her children to a Lutheran Church. The husband would no longer go to Church and the wife thought that going to Church would be good for the family. Then in early August of 1968, it was right after the National Democratic Convention in Chicago. The YV was full of stories of police brutality and this was on the minds of everyone. The Lutheran Minister in his sermon compared the Chicago 7 to Jesus in the Temple. Wow, this set up a response in which the oldest child of the mother stood up in the middle of the sermon and walked out of Church. The mother and his little sister immediately followed. They were all upset at what went in that Church.
I was thinking when I heard this story good for you but the man told me, “That was the last time that my mother ever attended Church.”
Wow, this was horrible I thought to myself.
He continued and said, “On her death bed, the man asked his mother about that day and if she could remember and she smiled and told him she did.
About this time I began to feel very sorry about this man. His mother and father both quit going to Church and he was there with them when it happened.
The man looked at me and laughed. “You always think that this happens to someone else, but it can happen to you.”
I have one last thing to explain he said softly, “I was also at Church when my son went for his last time.”
This is when I started to think. This is horrible. This really should not happen or it should rarely ever happen. However, to this man it did. I wanted to ask him more questions but I was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to know, yet at the same time, I was compelled to find out more.
The trouble I thought to myself was that our actions impact so many other people at Church. I wondered if my actions ever caused someone to quit going to Church. It was at that time I realized that the man who I was talking to was actually me.