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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Choosing Battles

I have learned a lesson in my life which many learn the hard way. "Choosing one's battles" can be a phrase which all of us need to learn in order to cope with the world in which we live, and in the Church in which we live.

Some things we can change, some things we cannot change, some things are not our responsibility, some things are our responsibility.

In this Age of the Laity, especially after the Synod, it is clear that the laity have a huge part to play in reminding some clerics where the truth of Christ lies and where personal, subjective opinion has no place.

Daily, some people in their jobs, businesses, in all professions, need to choose which fights are worthy to enter in to and which ones need to be ignored. Sometimes, all one can do is pray.

This idea of "choosing one's battles" is new in our culture. I first came across the phrase in the 1990s in working in the Church, in areas where I learned, quickly, what I could and could not change. However, even though the phrase was new, the concept was old. I had to stand up in the 1970s in an educational situation where a teacher was proselytizing students in a secular school, trying to spread the cult she was part of to our students. I won that battle, as the board supported a secular stand of no religion in the classroom, but I could not work with this team teacher, as she made life difficult for me after this. I had to find another job. But, that battle was worth the agro.

Not all battles are worth the agro. In my own life, I had to choose battles and pass up battles. A lay person in the Church can only do so much on one's own. But, in matters ethical, I never stood down.

This is the problem with too many Catholics-not discerning which battles are important, are capable of being won, and which are not. Compromise is never an option in ethical, moral situations. Never

But, some battles need to be passed by or passed up to the proper authorities who can deal with these things. If we find ourselves constantly in an adversarial mind-set, which is not from God, but from the self, we need to step back, pray, become humble.

All the saints faced battles, some so keen that the saints became martyrs, such as St. Thomas More, or St. Anne Line. One cannot avoid certain conflicts, even when facing tribulation and death.

But, the more subtle arguments can be avoided, or put on the back burner, until one actually can make a difference.

How does one discern when to enter a fray and when not to do so? I have a few bullet points to help with discernment.

  • Can one make a difference? Is one in a position to actually change a situation?
  • Is the situation one of moral or ethical importance, affecting one's self or others, especially those underneath one in authority, such as students in a classroom, or workers underneath one's management?
  • Does one have all the information needed to fight the battle clearly and rationally? Has one done one's homework and researched the area of contention?
  • Is one acting out of humility and not pride? 
  • Is the situation one in which if a person ignores it, that person would be cooperating with evil? The midwives in Scotland, who lost their case, is a good example of this. They could not cooperate with the evil of abortion.
  • Are you responsible for doing something, or is someone else? Michael Voris gave us a clear example in London last year (2013), when he stated that the secrets of Fatima were not the business of the laity, as those were given to the Pope and to the bishops, for them to sort out. Some things are simply not our domain for action.
  • If one is responsible, can one follow through with all the steps necessary to make the change or bring the problem to a solution?
  • Is one prepared for the consequences, for failure, or even, for success?
  • If one does not act, if one falling into serious sin in any way?
  • Does one have a martyr complex, thinking one is being persecuted, when one is not? This can be a sign of a serious mental or emotional imbalance in a person.
  • Does one have the physical and emotional stamina to fight this battle to the end?
There may be other considerations, but these may prove helpful for some people who must make hard decisions of conscience, as I have had to do several times, with severe, but necessary consequences for my self and my family.

One cannot hide from responsibility, but one does not have to take on responsibility where one is not in a position to do so.

Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit given to all Catholics in the sacrament of Confirmation. However, sin and weaknesses can prevent this gift, along with the virtue of Prudence, from being activated in one's soul, informing the mind, controlling the emotions. Prayer must always be part of discernment.

Of course, those seminarians in delicate positions of formation must pray about engaging or not engaging in arguments or activities which would prevent them from being ordained. One does not have to engage in battles at the seminary level, unless sin is involved. The questions concerning the TLM or the trappings of tradition do not have to be addressed by a seminarian in training. 

Get ordained, is what I tell sems, then you will be in a position to effect change.

Pride or the lack of wisdom in a young man or woman can be a serious obstacle for their vocations in the Church as a priest or nun.

Choose your battles, people.  But, be ready for the big ones which you cannot avoid.

See here for another perspective.