Take a fresh look at your home’s crucifix
You never know who will come to your door on seemingly-normal weekend morning. Recently one Saturday, my doorbell rang, and I answered. Two very polite, well-dressed young men introduced themselves as evangelical missionaries. They asked if they could speak with me.
I invited them into the living room. Before little else was said, one of them spotted the crucifix on the wall. Pointing to this image of our Lord crucified, he asked why Catholics seem to like crucifixes and depictions of the saints in their homes. He mentioned that my home was not the only Catholic residence that he had visited like this; he witnessed other places with crucifixes and pictures or statues of Mary and the saints.
“Well,” I explained, “we Catholics treasure crucifixes because of what they call to mind. In themselves, they simply are wood, plaster or even plastic, but we cannot look at them without being reminded that Jesus, the Son of God, died for us on the cross. He suffered for us because he loves us.”
It seemed that this made a little sense him. “Why do Catholics display pictures of Mary, the mother of Jesus?”
I reached into my pocket, withdrew my wallet, and found a $5 bill. It bore the portrait of Abraham Lincoln. I then found a $1 bill, and it showed the face of George Washington.
“You carry the same currency as I,” I said. “Our government has had a reason for placing the images of these particular historic figures on our money. The reason is simple, and none of us can argue with it.
“Abraham Lincoln and George Washington both were presidents in very uncertain times, and they served well. Their leadership defined and strengthened our highest national values. “Washington led our army when our country attained its independence. Most of all, each contributed to what we are today by patriotism and dedication. The idea is that we who handle this money be inspired to be good citizens in our own lives. We have no money displaying the likenesses of Jesse James or Benedict Arnold.” They laughed. I think that they got my point.
We talked for a while. They questioned me about the Catholic religion. I answered. Then they said that they had to leave and offered me a pamphlet. I saw a copy of Our Sunday Visitor lying nearby, and I gave it to them.
They failed to convert me, and I do not think that I converted them, although God works in mysterious ways.
The encounter that Saturday morning helped me, however, not just because I had the opportunity to make the Catholic Church better understood, but because each time that I glance at that crucifix on the living room wall, I remember that conversation and how I explained why crucifixes are important to Catholics.
Even the most humble of crucifixes, the least in artistic quality, has a stunning lesson to tell us. God so loved the world that he sent to us his only Son. Not only did the Son of God die for us, but he also taught us the way to live.
How blessed the world would be if all people heeded the lessons taught by Jesus. How wonderful life would be if all of us paid attention to the Ten Commandments.
We have these lessons because God taught us the lessons through Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (cf. Jn 14:6). He loves us with a perfect, eternal and unqualified love. He loved us as he died on the cross. He died for us because of love.
Of course, as St. Paul urged, we proclaim Christ crucified (cf. 1 Cor 1:23).
Our day and time so often sees too much injustice and evil. We are surrounded by despair and desperation. Look at the rate of suicides. Look at the violent crimes. Look at human insensitivity.
Look at the crucifix. Christ is the answer.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.