A friend of mine makes chain mail jewelry. It’s beautiful and elegant, and also extraordinarily strong. When she offered a simple product, a little miraculous medal attached to a steel chain with a little knot of steel chain mail links, the response was almost hysterically positive.
It wasn’t just attractive, but it solved a real problem. So many people had lost beloved medals or crucifixes because the one little link that attached them to the chain just wasn’t strong enough. What a shame! And how baffling that Catholic jewelery companies so often make this mistake. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the medal is, how well-made, how expensive, how meaningful. It will only be with you if that one little link is strong enough.
It’s hard to resist the metaphor here. As Catholics, we all carry around our faith with us – or at least we want to, and we ought to. “We always carry around in our body the death
Even lapsed Catholics hostile to the Church seem to have a hard time forgetting what they once carried within them. They refer to themselves specifically as “recovering Catholics,” rather than as simple gnostics or atheists. I know people who desperately wish they didn’t believe. I know people wrapped in cold fury toward Christ. They want no part of Him or His crazy love. But even they, albeit unwillingly, carry around in themselves the death of Jesus. Once you’ve been given that gift, it’s very hard to pretend it’s nothing, even if it’s something you don’t want. My God, He does leave a mark.
So, that medal. That crucifix. That sign of Christ’s death that we carry with us, whose power we cannot deny. We can talk ourselves out of cherishing it, if we try hard enough. Goodness knows I’ve seen that, too. The world is full of people who’ve gone out of their way to excise Christ from their breasts. It leaves a scar, but it can be done.
And just as we can lose a medal without even knowing it, we can lose Christ without meaning to, if we’re not careful. Christ Himself remains the same, remains faithful, remains the center of existence; but the things that link us to Him are so often weak. All it takes is a change of routine, a skeptical spouse, a new set of friends, an unpleasant encounter with some sinner who calls himself Catholic, and away slips our faith. Christ Himself is strong. Our link to Him, though, is so vulnerable.
It’s vital to look closely at our lives and identify our weaknesses, because it doesn’t matter how good, true, and beautiful the Catholic Church is. If our link to it is weak. we can lose our precious faith as unobtrusively as a medal slipping off a chain and tumbling noiselessly away, to be buried under leaves or covered with dust or to rest silently at the bottom of the sea, never to be seen by human eyes again.
What links you to Christ? Where is that link weakest?
I’ll go first. I make part of my living writing and talking about Jesus and about the Church. But every so often, I have to remind myself not only to talk about Him, but to talk with Him. Consistent, sincere prayer is my weak link. I can run myself ragged getting the kids ready for catechism class, preparing them for the sacraments, listening attentively to the readings at Mass, writing little checks to this and that charity, even going to confession and receiving the Eucharist, and still somehow forget to pray. That’s my weak link, and has been for my entire life. When I stop reinforcing it – when I neglect to add those links of steel – I’m in danger of losing Christ.
What if you pray all day and half the night, but never once think to watch what you say when you talk to people who aren’t God? Charity is your weak link. Shore it up, add some steel to your charity, or you may lose Christ.
What if you are willing to be as Catholic as the day is long, as long as you’re surrounded by other Catholics; but the minute you’re with your secular friends, you shuck your spiritual life without hesitation. Humility is your weak link. Shore it up, or you may lose Christ.
Sometimes we are only truly linked to the Church and to Christ through sentimentality, or through habit, or through a desire not to annoy. Sometimes we are linked only by fear or laziness. Sometimes the link is all about aesthetics; sometimes it’s about intellectual vanity. None of these are strong enough to keep us close to Christ. All it takes is one concentrated attack, or the long, slow tug of gravity, and there will be a breech.
What is your weak link right now? What will you do to reinforce it with steel?