Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"Giving people advice on how to get to Heaven" - GW Catholic

This week, one of our student leaders told the story of how she did some evangelizing in one of her classes. Btw, this is not the first time that a GW Catholic has courageously spoken up in class to either defend the Church or to clarify a teaching or both. I’ve heard of several instances of GW professors attacking the Church in class – the latest being a prof who stopped a class on the New Testament to ask, “For any Catholics here, where is the teaching on ‘Purgatory’ in the Bible?” (to which I would have replied, “Maccabees, Paul’s letters, Peter’s letters…and, professor, where does it say in the Bible that we only follow what’s in the Bible?"). Speaking of which, a couple years ago, a GW Catholic freshman brought in a pamphlet from the Newman Center on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and shared the main points from it out loud with her class…! The Catholic professor (there are some good profs here) told me about it and was very impressed…apparently, so were the other students in the class.

So, in this student leader’s class, the discussion focused on St. Augustine. The point was raised that St. Augustine was critical of people (e.g., heretics). And, the question was then posed, how can he be a man of love and a saint if he is critical of people. That’s when the leader raised her hand and said some incredible things. Now, keep in mind that this student starting coming around Newman last year, and admits it was only for the “free food”. She has had quite a year, to say the least. She now comes for more substantial food – spiritual food – and leads others to do so.

The first thing she said was that St. Augustine was “giving people advice on how to get to Heaven”. Whoa, great line. She defended him as a teacher who was trying to help people know and live the Truth. I heard her amazing line and was visibly moved by it. Another student witnessed my reaction and said, “there’s more”. The student then laid out her main teaching to the class which I will paraphrase. She said that to be a person of love means to correct people when you notice something wrong in what they are saying or doing. She gave the example of someone who has a piece of food in their teeth which is visible to others. If you love the person, then you will tell him or her about it. If you love someone, she proclaimed, then you will tell them when they are in the wrong. Bravo!

Bravo for many reasons, the first of which is the courage to say all of this in a college classroom in front of peers. Also, what she said is solid Catholic teaching about fraternal correction based in what Christ taught (Mt 18:15-17). It comes under the heading of the “works of mercy” as defined by the Church:

Corporal works of mercy:

• To feed the hungry;
• To give drink to the thirsty;
• To clothe the naked;
• To harbour the harbourless;
• To visit the sick;
• To ransom the captive;
• To bury the dead.

Spiritual works of mercy:

• To instruct the ignorant;
• To counsel the doubtful;
• To admonish sinners;
• To bear wrongs patiently;
• To forgive offences willingly;
• To comfort the afflicted;
• To pray for the living and the dead.

So, she not only defended St. Augustine correctly, she defended love and mercy. She performed a spiritual work of mercy in her class by instructing others!

A plea to all GW Catholics based on all of this – if a friend of yours is in the wrong about something, speak to him or her directly about it. Speak the truth in love to them – to their face and not behind their backs. It is the adult thing to do. It is the Christian thing to do. As Jesus says, if he or she won’t listen to you, then bring it to the Church. Love calls you to speak to them about it. Mercy calls you to speak to them about it.

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