As we pass through the early weeks of this Year of Faith, it is well to recall the oft-repeated words of Blessed Mother Teresa: God calls us not to be successful, but faithful.
It’s easy to think that this message is meant for others, not for me. After all, we all want success – in the name of God, of course. We work hard, we pray, we try to live out the teachings of the Church and hand the faith on to our children. We may even have an apostolate, such as teaching CCD, singing in the choir, hosting a Catholic website or Facebook page. We are justified in wanting all these works to be successful.
Yet remaining faithful means relying solely on God, in all things, at all times, and never thinking that any worldly measure of success could ever compensate for a failure in faith. It means, at times, viewing the world through the eyes of Job, seeing every good thing and every apparent blessing in our lives disappear with the wind, and rising up to say, “I know that my redeemer lives, and in the end he shall stand upon the earth … and in my own flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).
Perhaps we lack a sense of what faith looks like in our own lives, or in the world around us. It is natural for us to want good things in life for ourselves and our families, and we think that if we have these things living the faith will be easier. Yet if we place our faith in material things, however subtly, we risk falling slowly into the Gospel of Success, thinking that the blessings of God are necessarily material and we can know a Christian not by his love but by his stature or success.
Yet Jesus warned against all of this by his cross, the antithesis of earthly success. Faith is believing that God is Almighty and deserving of all my love even when things go wrong, or when I suffer terrifying loss. Faith is holding on to God when no one else bothers or the effort seems fruitless, and professing his name when others take it in vain. Faith gives me the knowledge that if I can’t say a simple word in God’s favor during a casual chat with a neighbor, I am flattering myself to think that I would suffer death for his name.
As a father, I am concerned for my children growing up in a world that seems increasingly hostile to the Catholic faith, or any sense of virtue. How do I prepare them for all they must face, so that they stay with the Church, profess the faith and – at the end of a long, fulfilling life – die in the state of grace? I have made a little list that others may add to:
I will teach them the faith by word and example; show them love even through my anger or disappointment; model Catholic marriage with my wife; let my children know how fierce and tender a father’s love can be; laugh each day with them and show them my humanity; lead them to the sacraments and guide them to worthy reception; practice charity and give sacrificially to our parish and the needy among us; and offer myself – following St. Paul – “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, as (my) spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
In this Year of Faith proclaimed by our Holy Father, this one father can do no less, trusting all success to God, in faith.