Billy Joel wrote a very popular song back in the 70s named Only the Good Die Young. It is a very upbeat and catchy song in which he sings about prayers, rosaries, confirmation and Catholic family life. The only problem with the song is that the author is not very happy about his encounters with one or more catholic families. Apparently the Catholics he met did not do a very good job of spreading the gospel or ministering to people like Billy Joel.
An opportunity lost
In the song he says about the young lady’s mother, “she never cared for me, but did she ever say a prayer for me?” We can learn much about how to share our Catholic faith from this song. Billy Joel is an amazingly talented musician, his music is still very popular and has had a profound effect on our society. If only the Catholics he met in his life had been better at engaging non-Catholics. I have no idea who he met or what they did to leave such an unfavorable impression on him, but it was such a profound experience that he dedicated a whole song to it.
I come into contact with quite a few young people whom my kids bring home. I try to be as friendly as I can and try to meet them where they are in their maturity and journey of faith. Not all of the kids that have come to our home are perfect, but that shouldn’t cause me to kick them out or forbid them from hanging out with my children. However, depending on the age and maturity of my child, I may need to talk about some of the issues I see in their friends just to ensure that unhealthy behaviors do not rub off. These discussions should always be in positive terms, working with my child to help them help their friend to be a better person who is able to grow closer to the Lord perhaps with the help of my child and our family.
If I, as a parent, try to forbid any association without the cooperation or consent of my child, that could end up producing another Billy Joel who harbor negative feelings about family and our faith. Even if a particular friendship doesn’t last, it is our hope that each young man or woman will at least remember us as a family who was nice to them even if we disagreed on certain things.
Are we having fun yet?
“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun” is one of the lines in the Bill Joel song that Pope Francis would take interest in. The Pope, reflecting on the attitude of Christians, wondered who would want to be a Christian if they always looked like they were going to a funeral. It’s true! If we believe in the good news of the Gospel, we should be filled with joy and nothing should be able to take that joy away. Bad things do happen to us from time to time, and we may suffer and not feel happy, but we should still maintain a joyful outlook on life.
It is my hope that our home is a home of joy and happiness. I would hope that each person we encounter along the way will leave with the impression that being a Christian is joyful and that we may even have more fun than those who do not believe in the gospel. Hedonist pleasures (excessive drinking, sins of the flesh and the like) are fleeting pleasures that many times you regret in the morning. Hopefully my kids and their friends would say that there is such a thing as good, clean fun and they have experienced that at our home, I know I have.
Evangelize always, when necessary use words
We are always evangelizing others. We are either drawing them towards a life centered on Christ or we are pushing them away from it. It is not possible for us to make everyone happy, there will be people who disagree with us and may even be ugly about it (I experienced it first hand in the Texas Capitol during a very tense legislative session with pro-life legislation up for a vote). It is how we respond to these disagreements that will either leave a favorable or unfavorable impression of Christianity. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, he doesn’t say we have to agree or allow ourselves or our family to be harmed, just refuse to return a slap when we receive one. Anger only begets anger. We can be resolute in our beliefs or in defending ourselves and our family and still do it with love and empathy for the other person.
God is love and Jesus loved us to the end and even loved those who scourged and crucified him and at least one of those soldiers was converted because of it (see St. Longinus). Love is indeed powerful and it can change hearts and a lack of charity can harden them. The choice is yours, now go out and make a difference in the world in which you live.