In the murky recesses of my memory is a bit of ancient Greek wisdom inscribed on a column in a cloister on the campus of my alma mater, Rice University. It reads, “Circumstances reveal men.” Apparently one of the Stoics said this, though Trent Horn will doubtless tell me that whoever said it never actually did.
No matter. The present crisis shows that it’s true.
Twenty miles north of the Catholic Answers offices, Fr. Anthony Saroki, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, stands with his curate, Fr. Ignatius, for hours a day outside the church absolving sinners. Here are two men whose belief in the supernatural efficacy of the sacraments and in man’s need for the visible sign moves them to bring divine grace—no matter the extra effort—to the faithful.
I’ll one-up the Stoics: Circumstances reveal saints.
Most of us cannot absolve sins, but all of us need to respond now to God’s call to be holy. The call is always there; God is just using the current confusion and chaos to turn our ear back to it. Is this a chastisement? My advice is to treat it like one. This effort begins in the interior life: more prayer, more mortifications great and small, more works of mercy corporal and spiritual. St. Paul’s assertion, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20), may sound like a platitude, but it is not. It is the state to which we are all called.
Yes, we are all aching for liturgy and the sacraments (give praise and thanks to God if confession is still available in your diocese!). It makes sense. We know through our senses. We need that visible sign that is also the conduit of grace. On Palm Sunday, I felt more acutely than ever the sorrow of not being able to assist at Mass—perhaps because I also know there will be no Mass for Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. Man is made for worship, as Fr. Hugh is always reminding us. It’s tough when we cannot worship in its highest form.
Catholic Answers wants to help. My colleagues and I have gathered the parts of a project we call Holiness at Home. First, on Catholic.com we will be streaming every day the Mass offered by my brother, Fr. Paul Check, from the beautiful chapel at the Saint John Fisher Seminary in the Diocese of Bridgeport. My brother is a great preacher and we will archive all of his sermons on the Catholic Answers YouTube Channel. There will be some special guest speakers from the chapel, too, including our friend Bp. Frank Caggiano, so stay tuned.
We will also be including in our email newsletter, Catholic Answers Daily, simple practices we can all take up to make our homes domestic churches. We are adding a second weekly episode of Catholic Answers Focus featuring the wise and gentle direction of Fr. Hugh Barbour, who will get us started with such practices as praying the Divine Office in the kitchen, keeping the liturgical calendar at home, and getting reacquainted with our guardian angel.
We will be sharing stories of saints and other Catholic heroes to fire your family’s hearts as well as consolations to strengthen them in times of trial. We will spotlight the virtues we all could use right now and how to cultivate them, such as simplicity, perseverance, hope, patience, and generosity. And we will give you tools you need to fulfill your spiritual and educative duties in your marriage and family.
On that score, let me close with an invitation to husbands and fathers. (It’s okay, wives and mothers—you can keep reading, because your help is critical.)
Dad, you are the spiritual head of your marriage and family. You are the pastor of your domestic church. If you are like me, you have realized that it’s time to step up your game. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to understand just how much I depended on the order of office life and the schedule of our common prayer life here at Catholic Answers. Now, it’s up to me to provide that order: first, in my own prayer life, and by extension, in my family’s. My hope is that the Holiness at Home project will be especially useful to fathers who are ready to set aside their frustrations about what the Church is or isn’t doing in this time of crisis and ask themselves:
What am I doing?
What more can I do?
What kind of man will these circumstances reveal?
There’s only one right answer to that last question: a saint.
Let me close by assuring you of my prayers and those of my staff, and asking you for yours.
Oremus Pro Invicem!