This week we celebrate the lives of three men of great importance to the Church. Thursday is the memorial of St. Patrick (died 461), who brought Christianity to Ireland. Then Friday is the memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (died 386), who became Bishop of the Holy City in 348 and is remembered for brilliant catechetical essays and homilies on the sacred liturgy and the sacraments. And Saturday is the Solemnity of St. Joseph: Spouse of the Virgin Mary; Foster Father of the Lord Jesus; and Patron of the Universal Church!
In 1997, NBC and the Wall Street Journal conducted a national poll on the place of religion in the lives of Americans, and that same poll was conducted in 2014. In 1997, 14% of Americans reported that religion was “not that important” in their lives, and in 2014 the number of those who gave that same answer has risen to 21%. This falling away from religion is an illustration of what is often called secularization — the trend away from a worldview formed by religious faith towards one in which religion has no place or only a marginal place, and it cuts across all segments of our society. When confronted with this trend, too many Christians begin to look for ways to make the Gospel and the Church “more attractive” by trying to change the Mass, the doctrine of the faith, our organizational forms (like marriage), etc. But such a response to secularization assumes that we are offering a product in the marketplace and that we must increase our market share. Like the line in the movie Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, “We just need to tweak the product line and get better advertising.”
To think that way is to reveal that one has not heard and understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Who promised us that we would be opposed, rejected and persecuted just as He was. By our Baptism we are called to friendship with Jesus and a share in His Cross. During this Year of Mercy, we should remember more keenly than ever – Christ sends us in the Great Commission to continue His work among the nations by proclaiming the Gospel, celebrating the Sacraments and caring for the least of His brethren until the Last Day. Want to resist the trend of secularization? Invite someone to come with you to Mass. Ask a friend to pray the rosary with you. Invite someone to Eucharistic Adoration. Give a good book about our faith to a neighbor or colleague who is searching for…well, for something or Someone not yet known. Volunteer to serve someone in need. This is how we proclaim the Gospel.