One of the recurring themes at a retreat, some years back, was that we are to be (if we are not already) signs of contradiction in our families, circle of friends, and in society. One of the sisters at the retreat center spoke about "silent martyrdom," i.e., being this sign of contradiction in her own extended family. Her parents were both converts to Catholicism from the Baptist faith. She talked about being shunned by her wider family as a child because of their Catholic faith; how the family ridiculed and disparaged them for having "too many" children. "White Martyrdom," if you will....
Ben Sira [Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus] 2.1-7 (Good News Translation with the 'Apocrypha'):
1 My child, if you are going to serve the Lord, be prepared for times when you will be put to the test. 2 Be sincere and determined. Keep calm when trouble comes. 3 Stay with the Lord; never abandon him, and you will be prosperous at the end of your days. 4 Accept whatever happens to you. Even if you suffer humiliation, be patient. 5 Gold is tested by fire, and human character is tested in the furnace of humiliation. 6 Trust the Lord, and he will help you. Walk straight in his ways, and put your hope in him. 7 All you that fear the Lord, wait for him to show you his mercy. Do not turn away from him, or you will fall.
There was a time, really not so long ago, when just being a practicing Catholic meant that it was assumed one would be a sign of contradiction to the world. The 'World' didn't expect anything else from Catholics - that was just how they were. This was obvious in terms of modesty, piety, family size: Catholics were different from the world. They dressed differently, did not go to worldly or immoral films, etc. Catholics did not 'contracept'. They did not eat meat on Fridays. They did not miss Mass on Sundays. They said grace before meals. They often prayed the Rosary as a family after supper. They went to confession on Saturdays. They would never have considered cohabiting before marriage. They would vote en bloc for Catholic principles. They lived in the world but were not to be a part of the world. We can know from our own experience whether or not this is the case today. It should be obvious that something has gone terribly wrong.
I noticed when I was at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, two startling contrasts. The first day I was there, a mother and father about my age (40-something) with thirteen children (all dressed for the occasion) came into the Shrine and all the children, from oldest to youngest, did their double genuflection with their prayer book in hand, honoring and worshiping their Eucharistic Lord, and remaining perfectly recollected (!) and behaved. (That is a miracle in itself, and a reflection on those parents). The next day, a bus load of what seemed to be CYO teens arrived and, as they filed into the pews, a few (if any) genuflected (most did not). I was elated that they had come there (to the Shrine), but I was left wondering how their elders had failed them, and what terrible catechesis (or lack thereof) was at fault. There was a time when this would have been unthinkable.
I give the Shrine a great amount of praise for actively and conscientiously enforcing the modesty code. I have noticed and observed that, in traditional chapels & parishes, the people in attendance are made up of large families (for the most part). There is never a question about modest dress and or decorum. There is always a permeating sense of recollection, piety and devotion from young to old. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most modern Novus Ordo parishes I have visited. All of that has eroded in varying degrees. Those families (and individuals) who seek to live the fullness of the Catholic faith and are faithful to the Church's teaching have become signs of contradiction within their own parishes and families and among their friends. Pray for these families. They are really heroic. They are the seed bed of Catholic civilization.
This reading from a recent ferial Mass struck me, and gives much matter for meditation:
Wisdom 2.1, 12 - 22:
1 For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, "Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end, and no one has been known to return from Hades. 12 "Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. 13 He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. 14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; 15 the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. 16 We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. 17 Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; 18 for if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. 19 Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected." 21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, 22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls