Q: I am a Catholic who had a Christian girlfriend. This was an issue with us as she didn’t share the ideology of the church and she got mad when I wouldn’t just go with her every week. She wouldn’t come with me out of respect for my parents who are devout Catholics. I tried to work it out so I would go to my church on Saturday and with her on Sunday, but she thought I couldn’t make my own decisions. In the future, how should I handle a situation like this? She wanted to share religion. I would love your opinion on how to handle this.
A: First, thanks for taking your faith seriously enough to be asking this question. I’m sure this time in your life was a difficult time for you. It can be challenging when someone demands of you to choose between faith and a relationship, especially when it comes to dating or trying to find a mate.
Let’s get down to the basics of our faith. When it comes to being Catholic, you must remember that it is not something we celebrate for one hour on Sunday and then set it aside for the rest of the week. No, our Catholic faith should be a part of every moment of our lives.
Our Catholic faith should be a part of every relationship we have. That doesn’t mean we have to hit them over the head with a Bible or force them to come to Mass with us, but it does mean that we see Christ present in everyone we meet, that we recognize the Body of Christ in the world, that we offer others the invitation to grow in faith and that we pray for all who are a part of our lives.
I’ve always said my Catholic faith is in my DNA; it is who I am. I am Catholic, and I am proud of it. I also expect others to accept the fact that I choose to live my life as a Catholic.
So my hope would be that a girlfriend or boyfriend or even a spouse would not ask us to change who we are. As Catholics, we certainly believe in respecting other religions, but that does not mean we should abandon our beliefs when someone disagrees with us.
Q: Some are happy with his apology, some aren’t – what do you think would be the best way for Ryan Braun to apologize to Milwaukee? What would be a good way to recover from his mistake?
A: I can answer your question in two different ways: first, as an avid Milwaukee Brewers fan, and second, as a priest who looks at the situation with the eyes of faith. Like most people, what I found most disappointing was how Ryan Braun chose to lie in such a convincing manner at his press conference in Arizona. I believed him; I believed that he was innocent.
As a sports fan who grew up in Milwaukee, I have always been, and always will be, loyal to my team. Loyalty is a wonderful trait, but it also makes us vulnerable. So when the truth about Ryan Braun came out, it stung.
When we look at it from the perspective of faith, we know we are all sinners. We know that we all make mistakes. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to own up to our mistakes, accept the consequences and then receive the forgiveness of God. This is called reconciliation – to be reconciled with those whom we have harmed, both God and others.
We are called to be truly sorry for our sins, not to just be sorry when we are caught. We are called to be sorry that the sin happened in the first place, then to freely admit the sin. In our Catholic faith, when we confess our sins, we are asked to be truthful, to be transparent and not to hide anything.
That is where Ryan Braun has failed his loyal fans. It feels like he is hiding something. He has every right to keep the details to himself; he has admitted his faults to Major League Baseball and he has served his suspension. From a juridical view point, he has met his obligation.
But for the average fan in the stands, it still feels incomplete. He has offered his apology and maybe we should willingly accept that apology. But as that loyal fan, I still feel spurned. As the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” So I proceed cautiously, wondering if there is more to the story.
What is the best way for Ryan Braun to recover from his mistake? I give a very simple answer – “honesty is the best policy.”
(Fr. Herda, ordained in 1990, is pastor of St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay, and St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a priest, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and place “Ask Fr. Jerry” in the subject line.)