Addressing the Knights of Columbus, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ...If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity…Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.
Scalia himself was a scamp, a mischievous intellectual who saw the truth and declared it clearly. He was a kind of Don Quixote of the Supreme Court—ready to be a fool for Christ—to tilt at the windmills of secular idiocy and risk being trounced for the truth and bearing a beating for beauty.
What is required for the New Evangelization of the West? A few more fools for Christ.
We are in a situation which the church has never had to face: a large population that has breathed the air of a Christian society, but does not realize what air it is breathing. Our secular society’s philosophical, cosmological and legal foundations are deeply Christian, but few understand it. Our assumptions about morality (even when we reject them) are deeply rooted in Christianity, but we are not even aware of it. The last thing the fish sees is the water.
Consequently, the Catholic faith, which is profoundly relevant (because everything in our society — even our atheism– is built on it) seems the most irrelevant thing to the vast majority of worldlings. How then, do we even begin to evangelize a world which is not simply lost as the ancient pagan world was lost, but is lost within a world that is still deeply Christian?
Furthermore, those who reject Catholicism, continue to live and operate within a system of morality which commends “goodness” or “spirituality” or “decent behavior”–all of which comes from deeply Catholic assumptions. Therefore a huge proportion of the population follow a religion which is a vague, attenuated form of Christianity–a pale, milk and water variation of the real thing.
Those who follow this watered down, vague and spindly belief system (I can’t even call it a religion) therefore seem immune to real Christianity because they feel they don’t need it. It is as if they have been inoculated against Catholicism by having a tiny dose of the real thing. They are consequently impervious to the Truth.
How can we evangelize such a people? I believe the only way is through radical discipleship. In other words, we need more fools for Christ. We need intentional disciples who will turn the world upside down.
The world needs to see today, what the pagan world saw in the early Christians. They need to see radiant, courageous, joyful and uncompromising Catholics. They need to see and hear such Catholics who will stand up and fight for the truth with the zeal and good humor of the martyrs.
Where can such Catholics be found in such a soft and decadent age? They are here. I see them day by day and week by week. They are here in our pews, in our schools, in our parishes. They will stand up for the faith if they have leaders, and they will move forward with great sacrifice and courage once they have a cause.
These Catholics will march forward with full knowledge that the world thinks them fools. They will be Don Quixote Catholics–tilting at windmills, reading the old books, wearing a bedpan for a helmet and brandishing as a sword the Scriptures and as a dagger the Catechism. They will defend the weak, support the poor and love the sinner. They will celebrate a beautiful liturgy, build fine churches and sing beautiful music. They will live simply and joyfully as a stunning witness to a greedy world.
That kind of Don Quixote Catholicism will Evangelize the West and nothing less.