Do you make the Sign of the Cross and bow your head in prayer before eating at a restaurant? On Ash Wednesday, do you walk into work after lunch with an ashy smudge on your forehead? When asked by your colleagues what you did on the weekend, do you say you went to Mass? Do you speak out in defense of the Catholic Church? Have you ever held up a sign that said “Abortion is Murder” on a busy street corner? Have you refused a work assignment because it goes against Catholic teaching? Do you say no to artificial contraception and to same-sex “marriage”? Do you have a big family? Do you go to Confession regularly? Do you continue to learn as much as you can about the Catholic Faith?
If you said “yes” to any of the above, then in the eyes of the world you’re crazy. Your way of life makes you different from those around you and at some point you will be the object of criticism and scorn.
The history of the Church includes many examples of crazy people, men and women who chose a counter-cultural life. St. Gianna Beretta Molla gave up her life so that her baby could live. St. Maximillan Kolbe volunteered to be put to death in order that a married man could live. St. Junipero Serra gave up a successful career as a university professor and became a missionary. Martyrs refused to renounce their Faith and died for it. There are countless unknown people who live unworldly lives: married couples who accept children lovingly from God, men and women who give up the possibility of marriage and family to live a consecrated life of service to God and His Church, people from all walks of life who daily try to put God first.
A friend gave a homily in which he pointed out that Jesus called his followers to do crazy things. Seventy disciples were sent out “like lambs among wolves” (Lk 10:3), without sandals and other personal belongings. How nuts is that! Today, Christ continues His call to craziness. How many of us embrace the call?
My friend explained in his homily: “In the eyes of the world, we are not really crazy. In many ways, the Church has stopped appearing crazy to our society. The Church is seen merely as just another institution, just another community. But once the Church is seen as just another institution, once we stop appearing as crazy, the Church will become irrelevant—because the Church is not just another institution. Every other institution in society is focused on this world. The Church is totally directed away from this world, towards eternal life, towards the kingdom of God. Yes, we live in this world. The Church is in this world, and we must take care of things in this world, but our focus must always be away from this world and towards eternal life. The Church must be primarily concerned with the salvation of souls, giving birth to eternal life in her members. It is why one of the deepest images of the Church is being a mother. The Church is like a mother, nourishing that eternal life in her children. The Prophet Isaiah described this image so beautifully: Jerusalem, the Holy City, the Church, is like a mother nursing her child, feeding her child.”
While my friend was vacationing in California, he had the privilege of celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Peace Shrine, a parish in the city of Santa Clara. He said:
“It is a very active parish, but not in the way we usually think. It is active not because they have lots of groups and lots of activities and lots of ministries. It is an active parish because at all hours of the day and night there are people in the church praying and adoring the Blessed Sacrament (they have perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the main altar). It is an active parish because there are many people going to Confession (confessions are heard throughout all the Masses during the week and on Sundays, and the lines are always long). And there is a deep devotion to Our Blessed Mother in the parish. The Rosary is prayed in the church every hour. There is a shrine to Our Lady on the parish grounds and people are constantly going up to pray.
“Consequently, the parish produces vocations—when I was there, I met three seminarians from the parish and they have had others. Why is this so? Because it is a parish that is very much centered on eternal life. The people are praying, going to confession, entrusting themselves to Our Lady. They are concerned with the salvation of their souls, not with worldly measures of success. And the mentality is to trust Jesus and Our Lady—not to worry about having meetings, making an action plan, acting like an institution. Focus on Jesus in the Eucharist, keep Our Lady front and center, and you will see the results.
“Some would call that parish crazy: ‘Oh, that parish is crazy. People are always praying; they’re always praying to Our Lady, they kiss her statue. Crazy parish.’ But that is how we want to be. We want the world to see us as different, to call us crazy. If the world does not call us crazy, something is wrong—we are not really following Jesus, we are not fully living our Christian faith. When we decide to trust Jesus—to really trust Him fully—He will call us to do something the world will not like; we might not even like it. We will think it is crazy; the world will think it is crazy; the world will not like us. But that is where the greatest blessings come from. That is when the most powerful graces will come and how the vocations will come. That is how the Church must live in the world. That is how Our Lord lived in the world—He was hated, He was crucified.”
The world needs crazy because crazy is the light of Christ. Crazy is putting God first, focusing on the crucifix and its message of self-sacrificing, merciful love. Crazy is kneeling to adore what the world sees as a piece of unleavened bread but we know is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Crazy is taking our Faith out of the church pews and living it at work, in our homes, on the street, and in the world.
So go out into the world today and be a crazy fool for Christ.