“Ask a Priest: Was I Wrong for Not Speaking Up?”

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Q: The guy I work for made what seemed to be a sarcastic prayer to God in front of a bunch of guys. I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit, because it was awkward, but I didn’t say anything. Did I commit a sin of some sort with my actions? Thank you. – P.R.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Sometimes we get caught in awkward situations where our first reaction isn’t our best one. That the incident bothered you is a sign that your conscience is working. Perhaps the incident is worth mentioning the next time you go to confession.

What would be good, too, is to plan ahead. What will you do the next time somebody makes a similar joke?

If we prepare ourselves now, our reaction might be very different in the future. You might just look at the guy without smiling and simply walk away. Or you might say something edifying — “Our Lord isn’t like that. He’s different in this way …”

It is worth backing up a step and asking why this guy thought it was OK to make this “prayer” in your presence in the first place.

People sometimes joke about certain topics around those whom they perceive as being in their camp.

A man, for instance, might be tempted to make an off-color joke with his buddies in a bar. It’s unlikely he would do the same thing at the Thanksgiving dinner table with his mom and sisters and wife present.

Why the difference? Because he expects that his buddies will appreciate a dirty joke. He wouldn’t expect that same thing from the women closest to him (we hope). He probably already realizes that they hold to a higher standard.

The point here is that your friend might not perceive that you hold to a higher standard, too.

It might be a good moment to look for ways to give more public witness to your faith, either by your conversations or by wearing some kind of religious symbol.

This could help send out the message that you are take God seriously. And that in turn might discourage other irreverent jokes.

A helpful book might be 60 Days to Becoming a Missionary Disciple by Fr. John Bartunek, LC SThD.

So let the light of your faith shine. The world needs all the illumination it can get.

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