A Catholic’s Guide to Surviving the End of the World As We Know It

Does anyone else feel like one night, not too long ago, they went to bed in a reasonably normal world and woke up to a world scripted by Albert Camus?

My hand’s up. Way, way up. I know I’m still supposed to be bubbling over with Easter joy (and believe me, I’m doing my due diligence in the chocolate-eating department), but the culture’s rapid and violent pivot to absurdism has me too disoriented for bubbling. Spinning is more like it.

I mean, we’ve got George Washington University students trying to get their Newman Center’s chaplain removed because, well, he’s Catholic; Johns Hopkins University won’t recognize a student pro-life group because that might make other students uncomfortable; and suddenly anyone who has the temerity to say marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman is a crazed, fundamentalist bigot who probably tortures small puppies behind closed doors.

Oh, and people in all seriousness are arguing on Facebook that a government that can’t even pay its electric bill should fund research on duck genitalia.

Spinning, spinning, spinning.

So, how do we, as Catholics, respond to the madness? Guns? Ammo? Canned goods?

Um, no.

1. Get Married.

Seriously. It all starts here. As Pope Benedict said not long ago, there is “a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage.”  He then went on to point out that “marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the New Evangelization.”

So, be part of the solution, not the problem. Stop waiting for God to show up at your front door with a handwritten invitation to a primary vocation and get busy already. God has called you enter into a spousal relationship in time—either with another person in marriage, with his Church as a priest, or with him in the consecrated life. That call is already written on your heart, and it was put there so that you can grow in holiness and model God’s self-giving love for the world. Read that call, then answer it. Start applying to seminaries or visiting religious orders. If you think you’re called to live the consecrated life in the world, talk to your bishop about making vows.

If it’s a human marriage God made you for, do a serious reassessment of your expectations. Do you think you need to wait until you’ve established a career and traveled the world? You don’t. Do you think you need to find your soul mate? Well, as Julie Shaw so wisely noted on Slate this week, “You don’t marry someone because he’s your soul mate; he becomes your soul mate because you married him.” Forget about every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen and find someone whose company you enjoy and whose worldview you share, someone who you can trust to be loyal and true, someone with whom you can laugh and cry as you build a life and a family.

And no, finding that someone isn’t easy, nor is it entirely up to us. Faithful single Catholics are few, and spouses don’t show up on command. Increasingly, there’s a whole lot of waiting involved. Trust me, I know. I wrote the book. But waiting doesn’t have to be wasted time. At least not if you’re waiting right. So, wait right. Live chastely. Date chastely. Serve God, talk to God, and bear your crosses daily. Use this time to become more the woman or man God made you to be, and more the woman or man your future spouse needs you to be. Then, when you do get married…

 2. Love Your Spouse

More than almost anything else, our world needs to see what real love looks like. Most of what it knows of love is Hollywood caricatures and real world failures. Show people something different. Show them integrity. Show them fidelity. Show them humility and sacrifice and meekness. Show them an incredibly imperfect person waking up every morning and loving their spouse like their life depends on it. Don’t just invest the same energy in your marriage that you invest in your career or your marathon training or the Steelers. Invest exponentially more.

And if your spouse hurts you? Forgive her. If he betrays you? Remain faithful. If she makes you unhappy? Work harder to make her happy. Don’t look to your spouse to totally fulfill you. Unless your spouse is Jesus. Then, yeah, you can expect total fulfillment. For the rest of us, married to human persons not divine ones, we should just expect marriage to stretch us, challenge us, and—one daily death at a time—make us holy. After all, that’s what it’s there for.

3. Have Babies.

Lots and lots of babies. Boy babies and girl babies. Healthy babies and sick babies. Babies you plan and babies that catch you by surprise. Welcome them all. Show the culture of death just how wrong they’ve got it by building a culture of life within your home, a culture where every life is recognized for what it is: an incarnation of love and hope, a gift from God, an image of God.

Then, love those babies. Laugh with them, cuddle with them, and play with them. Teach them, pray with them, and discipline them. Show them how beautiful they are and how infinitely more beautiful God is. In the midst of the tantrums, vomit, and dirty diapers, the cheerio crumbs, dirty walls, and broken dishes, the slamming doors and blasting music, model for them the fatherhood of God and motherhood of the Church. And on the days you fail, just tell them you’re sorry. They’ll learn from that too.

4. Give Generously.

Cancel cable and increase your contribution to your parish. Cut back on eating out and send the dollars saved to a crisis pregnancy center. Forgo meat for a week and buy groceries for the friend that just lost her job. You don’t have to take a vow of poverty and don a habit, but almost all of us can find at least one “extra” to trim from the budget and give to God’s poor.

Even if you can’t, you can give a greater gift: your time and love. Listen to your friends. Check up on your parents. Get off the phone when you’re driving your kids home from school and ask about their day. Look at the world around you and see who’s in need of a smile, a conversation, or a hand to hold. Then give them that hand. Love your neighbor as yourself

5. Pray.

You knew this was coming, right? But oh boy, do we need to pray. Not just for the world, but for ourselves. We need to talk to God, spend time with God, praise God, and thank God. We need to receive the grace God longs to give us in the sacraments, and we need to receive the wisdom he’s written down for us in his Word.

Why? So that we become more perfectly conformed to him.

As John Paul II said, we need to be become what we are, imaging Christ more fully so that the world can see him more clearly. If the men and women who live and work around us aren’t seeing Christ—his love, his mercy, his truth, his plan, his joy—it’s at least in part because we’re not showing it to them. We’re not loving radically enough. We’re not witnessing boldly enough.

That’s what these five points all boil down to: our witness—our radical loving, bold, hopeful witness.

1700 years ago, ordinary men and women converted an empire not with arguments, but with their lives. Sometimes that meant bleeding out in an arena. More often, it meant opting not to kill their newborn baby girls, caring for their neighbors in the midst of deadly plagues, and loving their spouses as they loved their own bodies.

That was the response of the first Christians to a world gone mad. That was the method of the old evangelization. And it worked. It didn’t keep the civilization from collapsing, but it helped something more beautiful, more graced, rise from the ashes.

It can do the same today … if we choose to live the Christian life with the same abandon. That’s what the Church is calling us to do through the New Evangelization. In fact, that is the New Evangelization. It’s not a program. It’s a way of life. It’s a response to radical absurdity with radical love.

No ammo or canned goods required.


Categories:Culture Marriage Prayer Pro-Life

  • Pinsey

    Salvation is based on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross., NOT by trying to be perfect enough, not by our good works, not by receiving Holy Communion, Baptism, or Confirmation. But by ONLY asking God for forgiveness for our sins., and asking Christ to come and well in our hearts forever. When we: repent, ask, & receive, we become “Born-Again” Christians. And by doing that, we are saved, and have Eternal Life with our Savior.

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  • JackB

    Boy, if there was ever a statement that rings my bell more it is “Have Babies. Lots and lots of babies”. Is there any consideration for the poor Mother? Most couples with common sense know their limits today. My first wife would have died if she tried for a third child. Thank God for contraception.

  • Paul Harvey

    Leonard, I’m with you. The paragraph wrote by Clara is exactly all catholics believe in. The glory of the institution – the Catholic church. They all mention Peter and they all start with the ignorance of the person who doubts it. I am targeted by my catholic family who says they will pray for me to understand what catholicism is “really” about…….if you know the truth, then you certainly know how much MAN is in catholicism. The glory of the church and the glory of man. I bet if you question them about worshipping or praying to mary they will deny that as well. I’m just stating what I have run into multiple times.

  • Tim

    As a former Southern Baptist fundamentalist for the first 40-years of my life, I can tell you that the Catholic Church is the only faith that does truly understand scripture both literally and spiritually. You MUST eat His flesh a d drink His blood to have life in your. The Last Supper was the first Eucharist. Jesus, Lord and Savior IS the Eucharist!!! Until you let the Holy Spirit open your heart and mind to that supernatural fact, become Catholic and part take of Him in the form of the Eucharist you will never know the full truth of you Christian faith. By the way, when you make a statement that the Catholics will be LEFT BEHIND, you better be right. The alternative is not pretty.

  • Leonard

    I believe there are a lot of good people in the Catholic church, but as a whole the Catholics would be the best ones to write on how to survive the end of the world because they will still be here. The Catholic church needs to read the Bible and notice what they are doing wrong in God’s eyes.

    • Clara Parnel

      Just a loving reminder to Leonard above. The Catholic Church came first, and then the Bible from the Church. It was the fathers of the early church who after prayer, and through belief in the words of Jesus himself “Peter you are the ‘rock’ on which I will build my church. Whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. chose the FOUR authentic gospels, from around 24 that was in question. I challenge you Leonard, to find out what the Catholic Church REALLY teaches and to study what the early church fathers had to say. You will be AMAZED by what has been written in error, and mostly by well intentioned people, although most of them hate what they THINK the Catholic Church teaches, not what it actually DOES teach! God Bless you on your spiritual journey!

    • JackB

      Leonard, I would add that Catholics are thought to be the only ones in Heaven. That’s what I was taught many years ago.

      • A. Crawford

        Why don’t you bother to get a Catechism and read it?

        • jgbech

          I’m not allowed in.



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