One of the most practical principles of practical philosophy is to seek for truth everywhere and to cling to it wherever it is found. This can be seen plainly in the figure of Socrates in Plato’s writing, who seeks wisdom for almost everyone and seldom leaves without having gained something from it. Faced with this principle and the rather extended streak of the Patriots’ season last year, which ended in February with a Super Bowl victory, what is a Pats fan to do but take some practical wisdom from Bill Belichick? Yes, I realize that this is a bit of a divisive topic, and yes, I know that fans from all other teams would be ready to pillory Belichick and the Patriots as cheaters whenever possible, but if you will not accept his wisdom for the sake of his accomplishments, at least accept it on account of St. Basil, who advises us to be like the bee, which takes in what is good and leaves the rest behind.
What do the Patriots have to do with God? I think that one of their unofficial mottoes, “Do your job,” can be of great use to Christians in our day and age. It is without a doubt that the Church
today faces a slew of great difficulties. From the growing secularism in our world, especially in the Western world, the rise of the “nones” in the U.S., the vile nature of the New Atheism and
their anti-theist attitude, which is almost always directed toward Christians, the many threats that our culture presents to the family and the challenges which young people have to face in
forming new families, the violence that Christians are faced with in many regions of the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, the never-ending saga of abusive and incompetent
clergy, and the growing sense of existential nausea and boredom, it is no great insight to see that the Church is under a vicious assault, and something must be done about it.
To all these problems, there must be careful and well-thought-out responses, which address each issue specifically and critically by those who are trained in the subjects they address and have both the authority and the competence to do so. Some have been, and are in the process of, being addressed, others will surely be addressed. In the meantime, however, what are we, the regular “run of the mill” Christians, to do? The answer to that question is simple and easy to give, but extremely hard to accomplish. In a simple phrase, we simply need to do our job. While there is certainly a crisis today, the Church has seen dark times before and emerged victorious, precisely because those in the Church were doing their jobs. Thus, the clearest, simplest solution to the current crisis is simply to remind each other—ourselves first and then those around us—to do our jobs.
In its very infancy, the Church was faced with three centuries of intermittent, but often brutal, persecution. By AD 314, however, about 10% of the Roman Empire was Christian. Only sixty-six years later, in AD 380, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This outstanding feat, in which the Christian religion went from being an outcast and persecuted superstitio to the officially-endorsed faith in three short centuries was accomplished through Christians being Christian; God took care of the rest.
What does doing our job entail? First and foremost, it starts with unquestioned, unconditional, and unflinching love for God and equally unquestioned, unconditional, and unflinching love for our neighbor. As Christ reminds us, in this is all the Law and the Prophets summarized. (Mt. 22:34-40) This road, which starts with a completely open attitude of love, ends in sanctity. As St. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:19-20). An anecdote that seems appropriate here is that of a bishop who was asking his priests for suggestions on how to increase vocations to religious life and was met with an utterly brilliant priest, who simply responded, “Your Eminence, it would be your canonization.”
So, the rather succinct response to our current crisis is nothing more than, “Go do your job, be a saint, sanctify yourself and those around you will also be sanctified.” As St. Seraphim of Sarov reminds us, “Gain inner peace and thousands around you will be saved.” So there we have it, the easy part is done, all that remains is the Herculean task of being faithful to Our Lord’s command when he told us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). A Herculean task indeed, but as He reminds us, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26).