During class discussions in the religious education course I just completed, it became increasingly apparent to myself and my classmates that I am on the more conservative side of Catholicism. In other words – I am an Orthodox Catholic.
The Free Dictionary defines orthodox as: “adhering to the accepted or traditional and established faith, especially in religion.” So I have to admit that, yes, I am an Orthodox Catholic. This was made blatantly obvious during one activity, where a line was drawn down the middle of the room and those who were pro-contraception were to stand on one side and those against contraception on the other. My lone friend and I were somewhat intimidated as we looked over the line to the standing-room-only pro-contraception side of the classroom. This then led me to consider a struggle in living out my orthodoxy: firstly, understanding how my orthodoxy affects my spiritual development; and, secondly, how my orthodoxy makes me un-orthodox in my interactions with the rest of society.
In his 1908 book aptly entitled Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton stated that being orthodox is the greatest form of rebellion in contemporary society. Throughout the book, Chesterton lists the ills of early 20th Century society and how they had come about because of society’s deviation from Christ’s teachings. I find it amusing that a statement made on observations from 104 years ago is still very appropriate today. In our western society that promotes the rights of the individual over those of the community; putting materialistic and physical pleasure before spiritual fulfillment; a society that tells us that we are entitled to every whim – including our relationship with God – the Orthodox Christian that seeks the good of the community and spiritual pursuits before these material gods is seen as an anomaly that should be shunned and combated as an outcast.
So I ask myself: What is God’s will for me in this world? How should I present myself as a Catholic in society? Time and again I come to the answer that I need to be a gentle witness. It will do no good for me to preach fire and brimstone, telling the world that it is on the path to perdition. This is a message that the world either doesn’t want to hear or is not ready to listen to. Pushing the orthodox path to Christ will only lead to sealing their ears to His word.
After a recent heated discussion on the Church teaching on homosexuality (where I was shouted down to cries of who should cast the first stone before I could speak of the Church’s inclusive nature), I received some reassuring direction from someone who’s knowledge and faithfulness far outstrips my own. His message was this: “You will never go wrong if you teach from the Catechism and scripture, using them not as a weapon, but as a tool. Be ready, however, that many will attack you and will try to crucify you for professing the Truth.” His words reminded me once again of the revolutionary nature of my orthodoxy.
As an Orthodox Catholic and Christian, I realize that how I live my life and what I profess is revolutionary in today’s world. Instead of manning the barricades and starting a Holy War, I feel a call to be even more subversive. To be a gentle witness.