Once a Catholic
Published on February 18-19, 2012 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
They were all raised Catholic: the founder of the organization that is now Planned Parenthood (Margaret Sanger), the publisher of the pornographic magazine Penthouse (Bob Guccione), and the dictator of Nazi Germany (Adolf Hitler). Their mothers were devout in the Faith but, somewhere along the way, these three strayed from the path of the straight and narrow. Sanger chose to devote her life to a cause rather than to the Cross. Guccione made a living out of censoring his conscience and baring the bodies of women on centerfolds. Hitler became so obsessed with his own ideology that he would twist even theology to suit his evil ends. Instead of joining the rest of us Catholics in the mission of sowing the seeds of the Gospel, these three historic figures went about planting the very weeds that divide us now.
How different would our world have been if they had stayed faithful to the Faith: countless lives would have been spared; sex would not be treated like a commodity; pregnancy would not be cited as a curse.
But, the Church also asks us the question that Christ once posed to another crowd centuries ago: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Lk. 15:4). The Church asks us this question because it seems, at least in the case of these three, that none had taken the risk to seek out the single sheep that was lost, to call home the one fellow who was once a Catholic. Each of them was left alone in the wilderness and somehow each one paved his own way: Hitler pursued his military campaigns, Guccione his voyeuristic compulsions, Sanger her contraceptive causes. The price for our negligence to evangelize them who were our own is staggering: it has amounted to a world war, a sexual revolution, and a culture of death.
We are reminded that there are consequences not only on what we have done but more so on what we have failed to do.
The Lord’s question then challenges us to reexamine our conscience and to reevaluate our efforts. Christ demands that we not only provide what is enough for His flock; He expects us to go the extra mile (cf. Mt. 5:41). It is not enough that we lead lambs to the water. We also have to guide them through the dark valley and point out the path to the Lord’s lush pastures (cf. Ps. 23:2, 4). It is not enough that we raise our children Catholic; we also have to help them find a home in the Church. It is not enough that we share with them our faith in God while they are young; we also have to show them at every age how best to serve Him.
The Good Shepherd Himself has given us a compelling example of caring for every sheep in His flock. He has set the standard that keeps none wanting (cf. Ps. 23:1). The way He sees it, none can be dismissed as a ‘lost cause;’ everyone counts and everyone is worth the risk.
As Catholics, we are called to live up to that standard. We are sent to seek out the sheep that has slipped silently away. History has shown that it is that ‘lost sheep’ that somehow manages to get the world, in a manner of speaking, to go to hell. We need to follow the example of Christ the Good Shepherd and risk life and limb to bring that lost sheep home; or else, we will all live to regret it.