“Ask a Priest: What If I Missed a Chance to Witness My Faith?”

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Q: Recently, I decided to do a better job of avoiding TV shows that hinder my growth as a Christian. Somebody at work later brought up a particular show, and I told him that I didn’t think I should watch it. Another nearby person asked me why and I responded, “Because it messes with my head” — rather than using that as an opportunity to witness about Christ and how I’m trying to avoid sin. Was this a mortal sin on my part? I’m concerned about Luke 9:26, when Jesus said that if we are ashamed of him, then he will be ashamed of us before his Father. I’m not ashamed of Christ. I will tell anybody that I know that I am a Christian, but sometimes I don’t evangelize or witness well, because I know my vices and others know them, too, so I feel hypocritical when I “preach” to people. – C.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that you are avoiding TV shows that hinder your growth as a Christian. That shows your conscience is becoming more delicate, more refined. That is a grace of God.

Perhaps that question at work caught you off-guard. It is natural that we don’t easily tell people the deepest reasons for why we do certain things.

So don’t let a momentary lapse get you down. If it helps to mention the lapse in confession, do so. But don’t stew on it.

What’s important now is that you stay the course. Continue to be discreet about the TV shows, etc., that you watch.

Maybe the next time someone asks you about certain shows, you might have an answer prepared — something to that effect that you find it offensive because it doesn’t treat women respectfully.

You shouldn’t think this kind of comment is hypocritical. We are all sinners, yet we are called to share the Gospel. Hypocrisy is when we preach to others but sneakily and routinely live the opposite way.

We should offer a religious/moral viewpoint humbly, recognizing that other people might not have had the same grace as we have. Lots of folks are on the margins and simply haven’t heard much about Jesus. They need to hear about Our Lord.

One way to share the Gospel is to share how your faith has helped you. “I realized that that TV show wasn’t helping me grow closer to God, so I stopped watching it.”

If someone asks you for details, you could mention that the show treats women like objects or that it insults marriage, etc.

This could start an interesting conversation. Or it could leave your listeners baffled or cynical. In any case, you will have given them something to think about. You will have sown a seed.

At a different level, it would be good to have a diet of solid Catholic books. Try to learn more about your faith.

You might also browse the websites of Catholic publishing houses such as Ignatius Press, Ascension, TAN Books and OSV.

The idea is that you don’t just want to avoid bad media; you want to fill your mind with good things.

Then, look for little ways to signal your faith in public. A small crucifix or holy picture posted on your desk, or a Christian-themed ring or lapel pin might be the kind of thing that quietly shows your Catholic identity.

If some people reject you for that, well, at least you know where they stand.

In the meantime, keep up a solid prayer life and sacramental life.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.


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