Over the years, our family has grown to enjoy various cooking shows on television.
As a family who normally eats food that might rank a few notches under “gourmet,” it’s fun to watch how the mythical other-half lives as they devote their talents not only to the food itself, but to the presentation of the food.
In fact, after a few viewings, you quickly realize that the ingredient of presentation is half the battle. Somewhere along the line, it struck me that the presentation of the Catholic Faith is very similar. It’s not all in the presentation, but much of it is.
A Delightful Restaurant
Imagine going to your favorite steakhouse for dinner. You walk in and are greeted with a smile and shown to your seats. Adorning your table are fancy napkins and tablecloths, shiny silverware, and a little candle that seemed like it was patiently waiting for you to arrive.
You look around and see the glistening chandeliers on the ceiling; you notice the elegant red drapes on the windows, pulled back to allow the last vestiges of sunshine as they give way to twilight. You hear a little violin music nearby, and smell fresh flowers in the distance.
Your food and wine arrive and you see the red cabernet in a polished glass, the perfectly-charred filet, the sour cream and chive baked potato, and asparagus drizzled with bernaise sauce. For dessert, you order the raspberry truffle and coffee from a French press.
In short, you have a wonderful dining experience.
Now, it didn’t have to be this way.
The waiter could have taken your steak, potato, truffle, wine, and coffee, dumped it into a blender, turned it on puree, poured it into a paper cup, and served it to you by the dumpster in the back alley.
No one could deny: it is the same food. The only difference was the presentation. So it is with the beautiful Catholic Faith.
A Baseball Analogy
Can you present the Catholic Faith in a wonderful way that enthralls and inspires others? Of course.
Can sharing the Catholic Faith be done in a way that distresses others and causes them to dislike not only Catholicism, but Catholics? Absolutely.
And, alas, my guess is that the latter happens frequently.
A priest friend of mine explains this same point with a baseball analogy. If someone asked you what baseball is, you could respond in two different ways.
You could hand him a dusty rulebook, containing mathematics and geometry that would inspire perhaps only a young Pythagoras or Euclid to love the game.
Or, you could take him to a game. He could see the smiling faces on players and fans alike, stand and cheer for America at the singing of her beloved national anthem, smell the manicured grass, watch grown men run around and play like children, and feel the camaraderie increase as—inning by inning—total strangers become friends as they rally around the common cause of victory.
Either way teaches them about baseball, but isn’t the second one better?
Of course, even with all this, there’s no guarantee that everyone will love baseball; even in the world’s greatest museums, some people will find nothing to their liking. But at least it gives them a fair chance to love baseball, or at least know what baseball is like.
Sharing the Catholic Faith
Is communicating the Catholic Faith much different?
My friend makes the point: if someone who is uninitiated to Christianity asks us about the Faith, how do we respond? Do we take the time to help her understand God’s love, mercy, and compassion? Do we take the time to understand her?
Do we discuss our intimacy with God and what that means to us? Do we comfort her? Do we take the time to smile? Do we take the time to love?
Or, do we merely toss her the Baltimore Catechism rulebook with all its impersonal pages and quizzes?
I understand the importance of dogma and doctrine, just like I understand the importance of a baseball rulebook. But if you want someone to love the Faith, I don’t think it’s necessarily the best starting point. We need to start with love and caring.
Either way, it’s the same Catholic faith, and we have a choice. But the genius lies in the presentation. The love lies in the presentation and in the willingness to love others. In the ability to show how much God loves them.
At every Byzantine liturgy, the priest incenses the icons and incenses the congregation because we are the icons to the world. It is a wonderful reminder that it is my job to convey the love and mercy of God to a gloomy and sullen world.
I’ve reached a stage in my life in which I realize that, much of the time, what people really need most is a hug—sometimes literally; sometimes figuratively; sometimes both. I know…that makes me sound like a flower child of the 60’s.
I understand that this sounds terribly simplistic. But it’s not. It’s wonderfully simplistic. Because the truth is that God is simple. The truth is that (though we often stand in His way of doing so) God is a loving Father who wants to give each of us a hug, pat our head, and assure us that it’s going to be OK.
Jesus wants to tenderly hold us close to His Sacred Heart and caress us with His mercy. We need to tell others that this is Who God is.
May God grant us the grace to find the way.