I was 17-years-old and a senior in high school when John Lennon died. It’s a period of time in my life I will never forget.
I still have the newspaper clippings from that day showing the fans who gathered in Central Park and all over the world with candles and flowers to commemorate the first Beatle to leave us. I remember being so sad and my father telling me to pray for his soul.
In praying for John Lennon, I felt connected to a larger community, both spiritually and worldly. My parents had always raised me and my siblings with a deep sense of community – taking care of our neighbors, visiting homes for the elderly, events with our parish community – and as I witnessed the world-wide reaction to Lennon’s death and the passionate gatherings of fans that followed, I felt more of a global connection to people for the first time I can remember.
It was a period in my life where my faith and beliefs were beginning to play a significant role and I was in the process of defining the kind of person I would be.
I was reminded of all this last weekend, when I was in Montreal, Quebec, speaking at a conference and had the opportunity to witness the Occupy Montreal camp, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. Although I do not share the protestors’ sentiments and goals, the people I saw there reminded me of how I felt connected with the world so many years ago.
I know these protestors, whether they are young or old or somewhere in between, believe they are standing for something important and feel they, too, have a global connection since nearly every country is seeing their own version of the occupy movement. If you ask them why they are protesting, you will get many and varied answers ranging from “I’m not really sure” to “I want things to change.”
Affecting a change in society is a real accomplishment. As Christians, we are called to affect a change by virtue of our baptism and regardless of our state in life. As a single Catholic you, too, are called to bring the Gospel message to society at large whether it is within your own small community or on a global scale. You are called to “occupy society” and be examples of Christ’s love to all. Romans 12:2 tells us: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Being a catalyst of change requires much more than protest, it requires real work and real charity, simply through treating your family, friends and those you meet with love.
Here’s a great example.
One day years ago, my father was walking to his car after attending a Tuesday morning Mass and was accosted by two female Jehovah Witnesses. The older woman was fiercely bombarding him with a barrage of insults against the Catholic Church, taking him completely by surprise. He took note of the fact that she was Hispanic and when she stopped talking and caught her breath, my father simply said, “You’re a fallen away Catholic, aren’t you?”
The woman was so surprised she couldn’t speak.
Then my father pointed toward the church he had just left and said, “Why don’t you come home? Come home now.”
The woman burst into tears and the rest is recorded in salvation history.
So how do you, as a single Catholic, begin to affect a change?
By letting your example of being single and faithful speak to others – smiling and content when the room is filled with mostly couples, having a chaste and fun dating relationship that speaks to those who are observing you, standing up for your faith and values when you are challenged for your stance or faced with criticism. If you are divorced, through your example of suffering with dignity and faithfulness. And eventually, by showing society the example of a true loving and Christian marriage.
Whether you realize it or not, you and all you say and do are observed by others on a daily basis. As a single Catholic, you can transform society for the better, simply by living your faith and your state in life with joy and authenticity.
Therefore, I give you this call to action: take your faith, your talents and your love for God and go occupy society!