Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On Balance

(I know this is somewhat after the initial splash, but I took my time to process this fully. Cut me a break - I'm new at this, ok?)

St. Thomas de Sales often said, in much prettier words, that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar - "truth tempered with charity," or something like that.

This sounds great in concept, but in practice, where does one draw the line? Bishop Niederauer of San Francisco initially got some flak for inviting Nancy Pelosi to a conversation, rather than giving a diatribe about the obviousness of her error, after her notorious recent comments about abortion. While I usually agree with the juggernauts of the Catholic blogosphere, I found myself staunchly on Neiderauer's side: unpopular as his statement may have been, his responsibility is for the souls for his flock, including hers. Perhaps he didn't excoriate her because he knew that wouldn't draw her to Christ (and besides, over two dozen other bishops had made the issue abundantly clear already).

You can't compromise the truth! People have a very real right to know the truth. But you can't convert people with a sledgehammer, as my professors frequently reminded my classmates and me. The hardcore road may be very attractive to many of us, especially when beaurocracy and politics and red tape make life needlessly difficult. But that doesn't mean that it's necessarily the best way to do things.

So what's the balance? How do I avoid being an overbearing charismatic, a bitter traditionalist, a liturgical terrorist, on the one hand, but equally to avoid being lukewarm, a sellout, jaded and apathetic? How do I compromise neither Christ's Truth nor my Christian responsibility to usually not be a jerk to other people?

I don't have an answer here; just questions. I think this whole post can be summed up in the words of St. Josemaría Escrivá that I read between beginning this post and finishing it:
The charity of Jesus Christ will often lead you to make concessions. That is very noble. And the charity of Jesus Christ will often lead you to stand your ground. That too is very noble.
He has a wonderful way of stating things in an obvious, simple, and very challenging way. The question now is simply one of discerning when to concede and when to stand firm...


  1. Good ole St. Thomas de Sales.


  2. This actually reminds me of a story Dr. Regis Martin told in my freshman theology class. A newly appointed archbishop (I forget who or where) was asked the question, "Do you plan to take the church in a more liberal or conservative direction." His response was something akin to, "My goal is not to go left or right, but deeper into the heart of Jesus." Good advice.

  3. Thomas de Sales is the name of my second son. Nice try, though. :o)


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