Listeners, after all, were not just consumers of Catholic programming, resembling customers of retail products. Catholic identity made a difference because Christ’s Church is different than the world. Listeners were fellow Catholics who by virtue of their baptism had been united in one body and identified with Christ’s gospel mission. We were already partners in this work of the New Evangelization. We didn’t have to sing “You’ve Got a Friend” because they were already “brothers and sisters in the business.” We were in this thing together.
So our first membership drive floated on the slogan, “Catholic Radio: it’s yours to keep.” The results were gratifying. When we sized things up at the end of September, it seemed as though listeners understood what was going on. This was not a great surprise; it was a great relief. In fact, we were ecstatic.
And then rather than the quail coming, the rains came. To use another image: Darth Vader has a real counterpart in the invisible world who appears as an angel of light rather than a grotesque action figure. We believe we went through an unusual baptism of suffering. Maybe you’ll agree.
Let me first return to a strange incident from a year before. There is a paradox in Catholic mission. You are engaged in incredibly fulfilling work surrounded by people who are with you not because they have to make a living but because they want to live the Life. We avoid merely hiring people. We don’t provide jobs, we enlist for mission. When we interview prospective co-workers we are listening to hear if God has called them to this work. We then try to provide an environment in which they can carry out their vocation. It is a privileged environment compared with so many other occupational settings. Your co-workers are committed to learning the basic operations of the Catholic way of life together. We are all charged to learn how to confront, exhort, admonish, pray for, serve and forgive one another. We are often together in worship, playing softball, going to our children’s and grandchildren’s baptisms, sponsoring non-Catholics into the Church, partying on holidays, celebrating the sacrament of matrimony, sharing a common morality and mission. It’s not at all perfect but it is an extraordinary blessing to see one’s vocation also serve as one’s occupation. It truly is some kind of wonderful.
St. Paul tells us, however, that to keep him from exalting he was given a “thorn in the flesh.” We were about to experience this in spades. A year earlier, Tom Monaghan had wrapped up a meeting with a memorable, even odd, sober warning. After Al had reported on the extraordinary moral support we were receiving and how it had created an almost euphoric atmosphere in which to work, Tom starkly said, “Well, if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, the devil won’t take it lying down. You’d better be ready for spiritual combat.” Given the atmosphere in the room, it was jarring. As it turned out, it was prophetic.