Today, faithful Catholics more and more frequently face difficult decisions about whether to speak-up when family members, friends, co-workers, and others turn away from their Catholic faith in various ways, such as attempting marriage outside of the Church, espousing views that are opposed to Catholic moral teaching, or simply giving-up the practice of the faith.
At the same time, in recent years, a heavy emphasis has been placed on the importance of affirming other people.
Authority figures are supposed to be especially affirming, according to this way of thinking. To take a few examples: parents today are much more careful to affirm their children’s goodness; employers have come to recognize that affirmation can serve as a strong motivational tool, helping their employees achieve greater results in the workplace; and in my years of playing and coaching different sports, I’ve seen trophies grow—to the point that a third-place sixth-grade basketball tournament trophy can now rival the NBA Championship trophy!
As is so often the case, this trend towards relentless affirmation has in it some good and some bad. There are ways in which we could say that it fits well with our Catholic faith. We know that when God created Adam and Eve, He said that these particular creatures were not only “good” but “very good” (Gen 1:31). And we know that we are made better than very good in Baptism. Baptism makes us members of God’s family, the Church. We become His adopted children. Baptism gives us not merely natural but supernatural life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1227) tells us, “The baptized “have ‘put on Christ’ (see Galatians 3:37). Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies.”