Reflection: Take Courage and Be Not Afraid

Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
Over the weekend of July 10 – July 12, Sr. Therese Maria and I attended the Portsmouth Institute Conference on Christian Courage in a Secular Age. The Conference was held at the Benedictine Portsmouth Abbey in Rhode Island, and featured a number of well-known Catholic speakers such as Brandon McGinley from EWTN publishing; Sr. Constance Veit from the Little Sisters of the Poor; Robert P. George from Princeton University; and Mother Olga Yaqoob, Foundress of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth.  
A recurring theme throughout the Conference was how do we, as Catholics, stand up and defend our Christian values and beliefs in this current secular age, an age that is increasingly relegating God to the sidelines, if not trying to obliterate His presence altogether from the public sphere. Let’s face it, as Christians, we are living in a tough world, a world that is constantly telling us that there are no truths to uphold, there are no moral absolutes, so why bother? Well, you and I know differently. Because as soon as we start espousing the views of the world, and telling ourselves that there really are no moral values to uphold or live by, then morally reprehensible things like abortion and euthanasia become ‘ok’. But you and I know that they are far from ‘ok’.
The whole line up of speakers over the weekend constantly touched upon and/or alluded to this recurring theme. I want to share with you one or two points from three of the speakers in the hopes that it might embolden you to stand up and speak out in defense of our faith when called upon or challenged to do so by the demands of our secular world.
Brandon McGinley spoke at length at how our secular culture is increasingly encouraging ‘freedom’ and ‘personal autonomy’, at the expense of procreation and fertility. Having a baby is becoming ‘ok’ in our society if it expresses the parents’ autonomy, that is, it is ‘planned’ (the term should be used loosely because we can plan nothing). The underlying current in all this is that people in society today like to feel in control and procreation becomes just one more thing that (they think) they can control. The use of contraceptive devices becomes a key tool in this web of attempting to control when life is produced or not produced. So what’s the remedy to this unhealthiness where God is clearly absent? Brandon calls it the “courage of fecundity”, that is, acknowledging that we are not in control, and relying on God’s grace to get us through any difficulties or trials we may experience, which may be the unexpected arrival of a little bundle of joy. The remedy is to be open to life!

Robert P. George of Princeton University asked the $64 million question – “are we ashamed of the gospel?” The gospel is not just the writings of the four evangelists and the epistles of St. Paul, its not just the New Testament as Robert P. George points out. The gospel is also believing in the Church’s teachings on the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of life and sexual morality. Are we ashamed of the gospel, in its entirety because we live in a culture which attempts to deny, suppress and silence us on these very issues? Food for thought….