Preach. Use words only if necessary.
This bromide makes its way into the Catholic lexicon as a baptized version of “actions speak louder than words.” The sentiment goes beyond that. A Catholic should signal to others that he is Catholic through his actions. This signs might include a simple prayer before meals, even at a public restaurant. Or perhaps making the sign of the cross at passing a Catholic sanctuary. Without saying this witness should include works of mercy, especially to the poor and in need.
There is nothing practically wrong about this sentiment, except for one thing. I need this reminder about my own faith more than others. In other words, the practicing of Catholicism starts first and foremost with my own personal evangelization. Or as theologians might put it, my constant and repetitive need for metanoia.
This focus on self might seem a Catholic parody of our therapeutic culture. But it is the exact opposite. Our society deals with setbacks and hardships, along with successes and victory, by seeking solace in collective feelings and sentiments. Need to get back onto that work out program? Post an inspiring picture. Upset about a political outcome? Remind yourself of brighter times ahead.
G.K. Chesterton once answered the question “what’s wrong with the world” with two words: I am. This being true, our first obligation to evangelization is ourselves. And daily this comes through an embrace of the routines and objects that constantly remind us about the eschatological necessity of our Catholic faith. Prayers. Images of Saints. Rosaries. Scapulars. Holy Water. The Sacraments.
The Catholic response thus in a time of uncertainty is the same as that of great certainty: a steady turn towards the Lord. This need for a reminder is not an abdication of our duties to the world. But it is a necessary step to remember that the working out of our own salvation is our first and primary duty, above that of all others.
Certainly, it’s not consoling, in the sense that, our devotions and tribalism provide some mythical way forward to solve our everyday problems. But it is a reminder that our reception of the sacramental gift of grace should have real change in our lives. And that can be as simple as constantly reminding ourselves of God’s love for us.