Hearing the Lenten call to conscience

By  Peter Copeland and Brendan Steven, Catholic Register Special
  • March 2, 2023

As we progress along any journey, we are faced with countless distractions, our own laziness or lukewarmness, and temptations that can lead us astray.

Jesus takes us off our comfortable path where we seek to associate with the likeminded and not be troubled by people we disagree with, wrapping ourselves in social cocoons of positivity, affirmation and groupthink. 

Faced with the knowledge of impending social ostracization and conflict with the authorities, untold difficulty and suffering and His coming death on a cross, Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. In Jesus’ humble submissiveness we see how we are to confront the temptation to flee or to respond to social conflict and challenges in unfruitful ways.  

In our journeys in search of our place in the world and in the Church, we have both felt an intense desire to discover and follow the Way of Christ in its fullness. We have both seen what happens when it is followed incompletely, having spent part of our careers in the often-acrimonious world of politics. 

Thankfully, we are lucky to have found our way to lay apostolates that are rooted in finding the fullness of the Way. Among these lay apostolates is Catholic Conscience, an organization based in Toronto whose aim is civic evangelization, namely, the formation of Catholics and people of good will into active, engaged citizens rooted in the full breadth of Catholic social teaching. Its lofty goal is to bring the Gospel in all its aspects into our public life.

Our experience with Catholic Conscience has influenced the way in which we approach the task of personal formation and evangelization in our culture. In all that we do, we now describe our work as evangelistic because this is the wisdom of the Church in describing her social doctrine: “Evangelizing the social sector… means infusing into the human heart the power of meaning and freedom found in the Gospel… it means building a city of man that is more human because it is in greater conformity with the Kingdom of God.” 

It has been said that all evangelism heals because it makes possible an encounter with God, who always heals in His encounters with us. Civic evangelization aims to heal the woundedness of our public life through the healing Way of Christ.

This call to conversion is sorely needed in this time when social fragmentation and polarization are the mark of the public sphere. 

As Christians, we aren’t immune to this fragmentation. In interacting with Catholics and people of good will from all walks of life and across the political spectrum, we see vividly how so many of us Christians put our “isms” before Christ — “liberal” or “conservative” often comes before Christian. Critically, for Christians, this manifests in a warping of our vision of who Christ is, and what He has to tell us about how we love and live with each other. We desire Christ when He affirms our idols — we ignore Him when He asks us to cast them out.

We’ve also noted many feel obliged to leave their faith at home and not incorporate it into the many aspects of their social and civic lives. In our work, we strive to show the relevance of Catholic social teaching for the fulfilment of human life, especially in civic and political community, so it can be applied in civic vocations as voters, active citizens, professionals and politicians. We believe Catholic social teaching is at the very heart of Christ’s Great Commission.

Because God created the world in His nature, it is intelligible and good. Common to all of reality is truth, goodness and beauty. In everything, there is a degree of truth — what we can know with our minds — and there is goodness, the degree of perfection we can see in a thing. Beauty is what happens when truth and goodness are found together. We see the two and intuit that it is beautiful. 

By attentiveness to what God and His Creation are like, we can come to create in our thoughts and deeds things that we can recognize as approximations of God’s nature, which is perfection — in love, goodness, truth, beauty. 

During this period of Lent, let us recall to mind how Jesus dealt with conflict — personal and political. The phrase, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” speaks volumes.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.