Working in the secular world requires a lot of contemplation and awareness. Celebrating our catholic faith in a society that doesn’t always celebrate Christianity or religious life can often times feel very lonely? As a teacher I know that keeping God out of the classroom and living a holy life is one of my biggest struggles. It has sometimes felt like living a double life.
I came to this realization when I started a job in a rigorous academic setting. I was surrounded by highly educated agnostic or atheist personalities and I struggled with how to find my place in the mix of it. How do I celebrate my faith and proclaim God when He is forbidden in schools, and how do I acknowledge Him around those who don’t believe? I made the bold move one Ash Wednesday and decided to receive my ashes at the early service before I went to work. When I entered into the school I had many students who were curious, and I had others who, unbeknownst to me, were also Catholic themselves. I had many students ask about my ashes.
So when students asked about them I told them. Many students were very curious as to what the ashes meant and wanted to understand this. I treated this just like it was any cultural experience. If we are asked, we are obligated to share and respond. I have never forced any belief on a student or a colleague, but when called to duty it is my job to serve as an ambassador. I think what I have also found is that it was okay to share my faith, but I could not force my faith on anyone, because that’s not what Jesus wants us to do anyway.
In my opinion, it would be the same with any belief. I don’t like this, or I don’t believe in that.
I started praying on the matter, and through the deep soul-searching and delving into my faith I realized that I don’t have to hide it or deny it I just couldn’t proclaim it for all. In the classroom, I can’t declare my beliefs and tell the students they should believe what I believe, but nowhere, to my knowledge, does it say a teacher can’t wear a crucifix or acknowledge their faith. On the contrary, I can’t assert what I believe and force to encourage students, but I have recognized that its okay to be aware of where I come from.
I have also realized that in this process my colleagues have respect for me whether they agree with it or not.
So here are five truths that I’ve come to realize about being a Catholic in a secular world:
- It’s okay to be Catholic: Denying your faith is denying God.
- Don’t force your faith on others.Jesus doesn’t want people to feel forced, he wants us to choose to come to Him and that is why He gave us free will. (And honestly, it’s just plain tacky.)
- Do all things with love. Don’t boast to get attention or seek awareness. If you share, do it with the compassion and the right reason, not as a defense or an attack.
- Serve as a model rather than as a preacher. Actions speak louder than words. “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” (author unknown)
- Pray for those around you. Prayer is so powerful.