“Excuse me, I passed gas.”
While being in the medical field certainly amplifies the irony that is the human existence, every good Catholic experiences this clash of truths. You see, as Catholics, we are inherently idealists. I don't care if you're a realist, a cynic, or even a pessimist by nature. Welcome to the Catholic Church, where we deal in the Good, True, Beautiful, and perfect. In comes the irony. Welcome to the real world, where we deal with blood, guts, sweat, tears, evil, lies, ugliness, and all that is imperfect. How does one reconcile the experience of our imperfect world with the perfect ideals of the Catholic Church? How can we know that the Church has the Truth in black and white when we experience a world full of gray? (Disclaimer: When I say this, I do not mean to imply that the Catholic Church is not part of the “real world”. The Son of God understood blood, sweat, and tears more than I ever will, and He established this Church as His bride. However, there sometimes seems to be a gap between the Catechism and what happens out there in our daily lives. Keep reading.)
So how do we deal with this? How do we call people on to the heroic virtue that the Church calls us to while accepting the human condition? How do you deal with the irony!?
Well, first off, irony is supposed to make you laugh. So my first suggestion is that we laugh, and not take ourselves too seriously. (Come on, farts are funny.)
Alright, now take a deep breath. The next step to dealing with the irony is to know the ideal. Know what the Church teaches, and why they teach it, and then BELIEVE IT. Catholicism helps us to bridge the gap between what ought to be and what is, so we have to know what ought to be even if it doesn't seem to line up with reality. Dig deeper.Because I've learned that if I have a problem with Mama Church, usually I'm wrong, not her. And listen. It's okay to believe in ideals. What is life if there is no ideal to strive for and nothing good enough to fight and die for?
Okay, so now you're good, but what about everyone else? This is where the clash of truths really hits, when our lifestyle totally contradicts what the world says is "natural". This is the truly hard part of heroic virtue: meeting people where they are, while not compromising the truth. It's a delicate balance. Do your best. The key here is to have compassion and use your common sense (because being an idealist doesn’t mean you lack common sense). There are two extremes to avoid: 1. Playing God and telling people they’re going to hell; 2. Adopting the “I’m ok, you’re okay, everyone is ok” lie of relativism. Don’t pretend bad is good, even to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. But don’t use the ideals as a sword and cut all violators to pieces. Let the one without sin cast the first stone. The bottom line: Love. Love people enough to accept the baggage that comes with being human, but love them too much to let them stay in the muck. (So for me, that means not giving my patients birth control, but gauging their openness before I spring all of Theology of the Body on them, for example.)
To sum up, here's how we deal with the irony of clashing truths in our life in three simple steps:
1. Know the truth.
2. Live the truth.
3. Meet people where they are, and treat them with compassion.
As Andrew quipped most poignantly in his last post: "Remember that Catholicism is a package deal. By choosing it, you choose not just the easy parts, but the difficult teachings as well. We are calling the world to a higher standard of living and must therefore exemplify this discipline of following Church teachings in our own lives if we wish to effectively evangelize."
Bam. Now you're on your way to heroic virtue. Go live ironically.
Written by: Joan Piatt