Sunday, January 17, 2016

What Kind of Christian

Our Archbishop Emeritus Francis Hurley passed away this week. The diocesan newspaper ran this piece telling his amazing story and these are the first few comments from a local news station's web page:

* I am not even Catholic, but respected this guy!

* He was a good man -- he reached out to the Muslim community here in Anchorage, and we considered him a dear friend. Rest in peace, Archbishop Hurley.

* Godspeed to a good man. Prayers for the Church.

* Rest in your Lord's arms, Father.

* My husband and son are named after him. He will be missed.

My heart swelled to read such sentiments. How much he was loved and respected, even by non-Catholics and  Muslims. You see, I know Christians, Catholic and otherwise, who are always angry. Angry about music; angry about sermons; angry about culture; angry about personalities; angry about politics; angry, angry, angry. Their "suffering" at church is all they can talk about. Loudly. Often rudely.  But Pope Francis has called us to a culture of encounter, of reaching out in dialogue and friendship outside our usual circles. If we live actively attempting to encounter people, we might not be as angry. We might be nice. We certainly will not insult and mock others, even others with whom we disagree.

I have been the recipient of such an angry attack. An attack in front of others, never apologized for, and spun into alteration. It changed my life. And not over something crucial like doctrine or morals. I dared express an opposing opinion than that of the loud Angry One. Now that I know what that kind of treatment feels like, I resolve not to mock or insult another human, even those on "the other side" of the doctrine and morals I hold dear. Nope. If I cannot reach out in dialogue and friendship then I will pray for their souls. If I have to stay away from those that insult and mock, then I will.  I can still pray.

What kind of Christian do I want to be? Yes, I despise how our culture celebrates sin. Yes, I'd like to see some things done differently at church. Yes, I keep myself and my children away from certain people, movies, music, and books. But I do not need to hurt and humiliate. The contrast between the archbishop and the Angry Ones is striking.

I think Archbishop Hurley encountered people. From these comments above, he seemed to have had decent contact with all sorts of folks, both in and out of the Church. I daresay that some of those Catholics embraced different music or practices or politics than he. That's how I want to be remembered ~ as an example of a Catholic who was decent to people without compromising my own Holy Faith. Being nice does not mean I think that everyone is right and sin doesn't matter. It's not either/or. I can attend Mass and receive my precious sacraments. I can vote and dress and sing and read how I like. I can raise my children how I see fit.  I can run my household and strengthen my inner life my way. And, I can try to truly encounter people, whether on Facebook or in real life.

As a Catholic, I encounter Christ in His Church first. Then others. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul. This is the first and greatest commandment. And love your neighbor as yourself. Upon these two rest all the law and prophets (Matthew 22:36-40)."

Archbishop Hurley, rest in peace. We love you and will miss your stories.

This is how I remember him, smiling at the pulpit.


  1. Thanks for sharing your blog. I am Catholic but was drawn to read your conversion story. I will bookmark your blog site and come back to read some more. Again, thanks for sharing and have a merry, and blessed, Christmas.

    1. Oh good! And the happiest of Christmases to you and yours as well!