Catholic Values Column: Turn the World Upside Down


The Church of the Apostles turned the world upside down. They went around, preaching and saving, bringing all kind of people to the Truth of Christ. They were hunted down and so many were killed, but their words spread. They turned the whole world upside down!

I used to think that the historical context of the Church of the Apostles was so vastly different than today. It was somehow easier for early Christians to evangelize. The world is different today; it is much more Christian, so it is harder to evangelize people.

How this logic of mine made sense, I cannot tell. When I put it into words, it seems really silly. Yet this is what I always thought. The world of the Apostles was so different, and that is why they evangelized so successfully and we do not.

I was surprised as I began delving into scripture, especially the Gospels and Acts, in my Scripture and Tradition class, where I saw how alike our two times really are. The Apostles were surrounded by pagans and living under a state that discouraged and even punished them for living out their faith in Christ. Sound familiar? Yet the Apostles zealously and unabashedly conversed with strangers and converted them to the faith.

Fast forward about 1300 years, and the world is a whole different place, or so it seemed. The Church was a political power, and the pope was as much a prince as he was a priest. While the faithful sent their money flowing “to the Church,” the successor of Peter sat in luxury in Avignon, under the control of the French king and not minding it either. Almost 70 years into the “Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” an illiterate Dominican tertiary entered the Avignon scene.

St. Catherine of Siena fell in love with Jesus at a very young age. She vowed herself to Him and refused to marry, and, after familial opposition, she eventually became a Dominican tertiary. She spent years with minimal contact with other people and practiced asceticism and self-scourging for spiritual growth, but eventually, she was called back into the world. In 1376, Catherine spent three months in Avignon convincing Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome.

She succeeded.

In her highly-political time period where faith was only surface deep, especially in leaders, the 30-year-old Catherine was able to convince the leader of the powrful Catholic Church to go against the advice of his corrupt advisors and leave luxury behind to relocate back to Rome after around a 70 year absence. This one girl turned the world upside down. And no, she didn’t solve all the problems. But she definitely shook things up and pushed the Church a huge step in the right direction.

Today, the world is highly political and leaders avoid religion altogether or use it to advance their agendas if they can. (Remember how Tim Kaine claimed to be Catholic in the VP debate so that Catholics would be swayed to support his un-Catholic political doctrines?) Christians are often punished for following their faith, like with the HHS Mandate and all the small bakeries and other such companies that have been shut down for not providing a service for a gay wedding. We are surrounded by people of many non-Christian religions and even many Christians who are only surface deep, as their actions disprove what they preach.

The world has really not changed all that much. Surrounded by pagans, the Apostles opened the path to grace. In a world of political surface-deep Catholics, St. Catherine moved the papacy back to Rome. Now it is our turn. I want to look at the world and say, “I can’t. It’s not my place.” But to say that, I would be wrong. It is my place to change the world, and not only can I, but I must.

Catholics today, we must turn the world upside down. Like with St. Catherine, it is good and necessary to take time to build up spiritual strength. That is why God has brought us here to Franciscan University. This is our time of preparation, but time is finite, and eventually we will enter the pagan, political, “real” world, and our preparation will necessarily turn into action. I’ll admit that it is scary, but God placed each of us in this time in history for a reason, and the world should be a different place, a better place, because of us when we leave it.

Tell me, when you embark into the mission field of life; how will you turn the world upside down?