My friend Sister Maura worries about my travels to risky places for Catholic Relief Services. On the other hand, I marvel at how this soft-spoken and diminutive nun of 90 provides medical care in the toughest local neighborhood to which I have never traveled alone.
While CRS abides by strict security protocols, there is no greater "protection" than that offered by our local communities. Beneficiaries and staff know one another as people with names and families, quirks and humor, unspeakable losses and stubborn hope.
In speaking engagements around the country in recent years, I ask Catholic audiences how many know the date of their baptism. The high-end response is a little under 10 percent. The average is about 2-3 percent. This, brethren, is a problem.
You know your birthday. You know (or you'd better know, gentlemen) your wedding anniversary. You know your children's birthdays. So why don't you know the date when you became a friend and companion of the Lord Jesus Christ — the most important day of your life?
A boy falls and skins his knees. A boy wrestles in the living room and bonks his head on the coffee table. A boy tries to field a ground ball at shortstop, only to take a bad hop that bloodies his nose, or gets plowed by a much bigger boy on the football field.
"Boys will be boys," someone will tell the parents.
A boy with a wandering mind gets several poor grades on some math tests, prompting the teacher to send a note home. A boy crushes on a girl, then sees her holding hands with another boy. A boy is left out from the invitation list for a sleepover at a classmate's house.
A blessing and challenge of our culture is how rapidly people move from one event to another with relative ease and indifference. A variety of secular and religious rituals enter and depart in rhythmic fashion, each evoking different euphoric responses. Sports fans happily welcome the baseball season and leave behind fascination with March Madness. Movie watchers attentively watch the Oscars, even as they anticipate the upcoming summer blockbuster movies.
I know people who gave up social media for Lent. I tried to go the other way. Plug in. Get social. Mention, hashtag and link.
My focus mostly was Twitter, a forum as volatile as it is friendly. It should be a great platform of evangelization for Catholic journalists. Through its mentions and hashtags, the Gospel message has potential to reach many people who wouldn't see stories in print. Often, those people are marginal — even hostile — toward the Church. That's OK. Jesus and His disciples didn't just preach to the choir.
Father Thomas Byles was 42 when he boarded the Titanic with his second-class ticket and portable altar stone. He had made arrangements with Captain Edward Smith to secure space on the ocean liner to celebrate Mass. Even on vacation a priest is never off duty, but the Catholic convert would have it no other way.
He saw his faith as "a wonderfully great gift," he once wrote to his brother, William, "a truly marvelous and altogether supernatural support..."