The Flame: March/April 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Late last summer, I hiked from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We (three priests, a guide and trainee) camped three nights and hiked over 25 miles carrying backpacks of 35 lbs. Although I am in pretty good shape, I trained for this hike by loading a backpack with bricks and carrying it up and down the hills and stairs in

I thought the hike would be easier, after all, I did train. In the end, I survived. Most of my body bounced back in a couple of days. Some parts took a week to feel normal again. One thought I have is: What would have happened if I did not train?

Some people say that these are trying times for Christians. I disagree, they are tempting times. The cultural supports that supported Christian beliefs and behaviors have eroded away. What was blasphemous before is now accepted as art. What scripture calls immoral is now accepted as normal. Just a generation ago, attending church on Sundays was thought of as necessary in order be a Christian. Many people today think attending church is irrelevant and unnecessary.

This kind of culture is not a trial for Christians. Most of us are not being overtly persecuted for our faith. Instead, the contemporary values of our time tempt Christians to yield to those values. It is easier to round off the hard edges of truth, lower standards of morality and make Sunday our day to do what we want, instead of the Lord’s Day. This kind of life is both easier and more socially acceptable.

How can we live our faith in a vibrant manner in this time? Like hiking the Grand Canyon, we need to train to live Christian life. Here are three areas for training:

gratefulWe need to train our minds to be sensitive to moral and religious truth. This means that we need to read and listen to things like Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If we want to be able to articulately defend our faith, other resources would be needed. If we do not feed on the truth, we may end up “following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:2)

We need to train our behavior to reflect the love and purity of Jesus Christ. Our Lord taught us to love people, not use them or verbally bash them. Jesus commanded his disciples to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) He told us to “do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12) Jesus even told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) This kind of love is not natural. It is supernatural. We need a purification of heart, humility and the Sacrament of Penance to grow in this love.

We need to train ourselves to embrace community over individualism. This means connecting with like-minded Catholics, who worship each Sunday and Holy Day. It also means developing relationships that are mutually supportive. These types of relationships provide the strength to withstand the rip tide of our culture that draws us further and further from the Lord and his way of life. Not many lone rangers will be able to stand against the tide of secularism.

These disciplines will train us to resist the lure of our secular times. These disciplines will also better equip us for trying times. What are trying times?

In 1531, Henry VIII had taken the title of “Supreme Head of the Church.” People who did not take the Oath of the Succession of the Crown were tried for treason. It declared that all people taking this oath must deny the power of any “authority or potentate.” In other words, it meant denying the authority of the pope in the area of marriage. In November of 1534, King Henry VIII declared in the Succession of the Crown Act that anyone, who did not recognize his marriage to Anne Boleyn as legitimate was guilty of treason.

Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor of England, over these issues, and Bishop John Fischer, refused to take the oath. In 1535, both were martyred under King Henry VIII. Thus, trying times began for loyal Catholics in England.

Let us enter these seasons of Lent and Easter with the eagerness of spring training. We want think and act with, as well as, belong to the Lord. We will then be ready to meet the temptations and perhaps the trials of our time.

In Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries

PS: I look forward to seeing you at this month’s Charismatic Mass and the Unbound workshop.