I don’t normally watch the Simpons, but the episode the other night caught my attention when I heard that Homer and Marge were sending Bart to a Catholic school – and when Bart offered (in all sincerity) to pray a Rosary for someone. I missed the end (only saw up to the panic-stricken Marge (a Protestant) dragging Bart and Homer out of First Holy Communion Class), but I think any Catholic watching it must have been laughing heartily most of the way.
Watching Catholic Bart being Catholic with conviction and sincerity (up to where I left it) was interesting, especially watching him doing normal Catholic things in front of his worried ‘Protestant’ family (e.g. doing the Sign of the Cross before his meal). I’m highly doubtful as to the evangelising effect a Catholic Bart might have (although who knows – God works in mysterious ways) but to me it showed (strangely enough) how confidence, conviction and sincerity in someone’s attitude toward something (particularly religion) is undeniably attractive; it’s the thing a good leader has (or is able to show).
On Sunday, reflecting on the Gospel reading in his homily, our priest observed that sometimes he sees people in restaurants doing this: (he did the sign of the cross super-quick and small across his chest, glancing furtively from side to side). He had the whole congregation in stitches (though I’m sure the laughter was heartier by the odd twinge of guilt).
Showing youself to be Catholic in restaurants and public places is challlenging thing, precisely because it lays you open to being judged, derided or challenged – the same is true of anything that exposes some deep truth about a person. People are funny; we like to wear masks. But there is a definite difference between standing in the middle of the major intersections on Queen Street waving evangelical banners, and saying grace before a meal in a restaurant. Doing the Sign of the Cross is not some sort of subversive attempt to convert the table next to you – if anything it is admirable. I think this is where a lot of evangelicals go wrong; their actions are often more off-putting than anything, and certainly won’t convert anyone to Christianity. By the same token, Christians should not hide their faith – how and where is the balance to be struck?
There is a lot to be said for confidence, courage, and joy. One thing that gives me confidence is seeing other people being confident: I think there are few things braver, bolder or more inspiring than one of the best soccer players in the world scoring a brilliant goal, then making the Sign of the Cross and pointing to heaven as his team mates pile on top of him.