This past week at the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast legal and political philosopher Robert George gave an address that will likely be remembered for decades. Closer to home, it will likely remind many of us why we have chosen to be faithful, and in particular to be part of the Ave Maria Project.
The question each of us today must face is this: Am I ashamed of the Gospel? And that question opens others: Am I prepared to pay the price that will be demanded if I refuse to be ashamed, if, in other words, I am prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and megeneration liberalism do not wish to hear spoken? Or, put more simply, am I willing, or am I, in the end, unwilling, to take up my cross and follow Christ?
Powerful forces and currents in our society press us to be ashamed of the Gospel—ashamed of the good, ashamed of our faith’s teachings on the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, ashamed of our faith’s teachings on marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. These forces insist that the Church’s teachings are out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted—even hateful. These currents bring pressure on all of us—and on young Catholics in particular—to yield to this insistence. They threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good evil, and what is evil good. They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all…
… The question of faith and fidelity that is put to us today is not in the form it was put to Peter—“surely you are this man’s disciple”—it is, rather, do you stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife? These teachings are not the whole Gospel— Christianity requires much more than their affirmation. But they are integral to the Gospel—they are not optional or dispensable. To be an authentic witness to the Gospel is to proclaim these truths among the rest. The Gospel is, as St. John Paul the Great said, a Gospel of Life. And it is a Gospel of family life, too. And it is these integral dimensions of the Gospel that powerful cultural forces and currents today demand that we deny or suppress.
Perhaps each year we can all reread it so that we don’t forget why as we face the constant pressure to be ashamed of the Gospel. We might take particular inspiration from the fact that our town’s patroness–she who stands so undeniably at the very center of town–never (as George reminds us) denied her Son and was true to His Gospel despite the cost.
Of course anyone can move to Ave Maria and will be welcomed and loved here. Nevertheless, may it always be true that Ave Maria is a Catholic town that is not ashamed of Christ’s Gospel of Life and Family.
Update: from today’s (5/18/2014) Second Reading:
Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.