The 'Hard Sayings' Line
As most readers of this magazine and virtually all visitors to our website know, since 2005 we have operated what we call the NOR Gear Shoppe, where various items bearing NOR-themed logos and designs can be purchased, such as T-shirts, hoodies, boxer shorts, baby bibs, bumper stickers, wall clocks, greeting cards, coffee mugs, beer steins, tote bags, etc. The Gear Shoppe is hosted by CafePress.com; the NOR's profit margin is very slim for all products, never more than a few dollars per item. Nevertheless, we figured this would be a fun way for readers to express their appreciation for our apostolate, not so much by flooding us with greenbacks but by bearing on their person -- or their cars or walls or kitchen table -- a physical manifestation of their support of orthodox Catholicism as presented by the NOR.
We have, to date, been pleased by the response. We are humbled whenever anyone finds our magazine worthy of support. The most popular line in the Gear Shoppe is the one showing a couple at a barbecue with the slogan, "I'd Rather Be Roasting Heretics." The briskest selling item is, naturally, the "Roasting Heretics" BBQ apron. (It makes a great gift, for those thinking ahead to Christmas.)
A distant second would be our classic NOR logo, found on the front cover of this magazine and in the upper left-hand corner of our website. Yes, you can now sport this striking symbol on, say, a golf shirt, while sipping your beverage of choice from a vessel bearing its image. There are three styles to choose from: encircled with a red background ("Logo Cerchio"), encircled with a gold background ("Logo Gold"), or without any border ("Logo Uno"). Also contesting for one of the top spots is the "Catholic Attitude" line, which bears the image of a crusader, one we've used for the past couple years on the cover of our direct-mail advertising packages and in display ads.
Recently we were contemplating the current state of our beloved Church and the unease many modern Catholics feel toward the hard line our Church takes, and has always taken, toward various matters, whether practical or theological. This unease often develops into a failure to submit to, much less embrace, some "difficult" teaching of the Church, usually in the area of sexual morality or social justice, repentance, obedience, rejection of earthly desires, etc. Individual Catholics' unwillingness to submit to the Church's hard teachings has led to a severe weakening of the faith in our time. And this weakening of the faith has had a detrimental impact on the world at large. As Fr. John Corapi explained in our interview in the July-August issue, Jesus gave us the Church to "hold the world in being," and when the Church is faithful, this is what she has done. But when the faith of her individual members is weakened, the Church no longer has the corporate strength to hold the world up, and the world "sinks into Hell under the weight of its own iniquity," as Fr. Corapi put it. We've each got to place some of the blame for the catastrophic state of the world on ourselves: "Just imagine if we had sixty or seventy million fervent, vibrant Catholics in this country. It would be a vastly different place," Fr. Corapi said, "a better place."
Yes, we Catholics are "in the world but not of the world." This does not mean, however, that we can go merrily about our business content in our knowledge of the Lord while the rest of the world goes to Hell in a hand basket. Indifference is not a Christian virtue; indifference to the world is not a Christian calling. No, as possessors of the knowledge of the saving grace of Christ Jesus, we have a tremendous responsibility to our fellow man -- even, and especially, to the wayward among us. As members of the Church Christ founded on earth, each of us is a recipient of His Great Commission to spread the Gospel and make disciples of all nations, preaching baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to guide souls to their true home in Holy Mother Church.
Pondering all this led us to reflect on the "Bread of Life discourse" in John 6, in which Jesus declared Himself the living bread come down from Heaven and extolled us to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to obtain eternal life. Many of the Jews present murmured among themselves, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" (Jn. 6:60). From that moment on, many of Jesus' disciples fell away and no longer walked with Him. To this day, Christ's real presence in the Eucharist is the greatest stumbling block to authentic faith, among Catholics as well as non-Catholics.
For those graced with the gift of faith, the doctrine of the real presence is a source of joy rather than uncertainty or hostility. Yet the doubters and scoffers still can't bear to hear it. And so we began to wonder whether those of us graced with faith can bear the responsibility of proclaiming this Good News to the world. Sure, we bear it in our hearts, but, we wondered, are we willing to bear it on our bodies? Who among us has the courage to wear the word of God in a public place?
Thus was born the concept behind the "Hard Sayings" line of T-shirts we have made available at the NOR Gear Shoppe.
Combing the New Testament, we strove to identify the single lines that, when seen on a T-shirt, could be easily read and understood by, say, passersby on the sidewalk, other passengers on the bus, fellow shoppers at the supermarket, gawkers at the gym, parents at the park, etc. We looked for the lines that would be the most jarring to modern minds, lines that aren't part of our English lexicon -- at least not yet.
It was a struggle because there are so many challenging passages in Scripture, but we were able to whittle the list down to a manageable size, and then select the final cut.
The first hard saying is the obvious one, John 6:53: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." Though the passage it is taken from is rich and extensive, we wanted the single line that best encapsulated the message of the passage. We think this is the one. And we've made it available on a T-shirt.
We selected six additional sayings of our Lord, as well as six sayings of St. Paul to fill out the "Hard Sayings" line. Among them are: "He that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in Heaven" (Matthew 10:33); "Because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth" (Apocalypse 3:16); "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16); and "The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). On the back of each T-shirt is the NOR "Logo Uno."
Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the Bread of Life discourse, the Gospel reading for August 23: "Even today, many are 'shocked' by the paradox of the Christian faith. Jesus' teaching seems too 'hard,' too difficult to accept and put into practice. As a result there are those who reject and abandon Christ; those who attempt to 'adapt' his teachings to the fashions of the times, distorting its meaning and value . Following Jesus fills hearts with joy and the full meaning of existence, but it also brings difficulties and sacrifices because very often it means going against the trend."
What could be less fashionable, less trendy -- or more shocking -- than bypassing a Tommy Hilfiger, Volcom, or DKNY shirt and instead opting for an NOR T-shirt bearing a weighty Scripture saying?
Our hope is that the displaying of these sayings -- itself an act of courage and conviction in our increasingly hostile secular society -- will stir someone, maybe many, to consider anew the claims of Christ and His Church, and come to the knowledge of the truth, and ultimately accept the gift of salvation. Even if only one person is moved to crack open a Bible, then the effort will have been worth it.
We offer the Hard Sayings line of T-shirts as an invitation to share the faith, as is our duty as Catholics. Moreover, we offer this new Gear Shoppe line as a challenge: Can you bear the responsibility of sharing your faith -- as you walk down the street? Because in order to share the faith, one must first know the faith. Presumably that's why you're reading this magazine. As Fr. Corapi said, we've all got to examine ourselves and ask if we could be doing more, if we really could be a leaven in society. Nobody promised that this would be easy; as the Pope says, it will bring difficulties and sacrifices, but it also has the potential to fill hearts with joy. We offer these hard sayings, finally, as a possibility to do more -- to proclaim the Gospel not necessarily orally but with words, to wear the faith, to be visible witnesses to Christ our Lord.
The Hard Sayings line: Can you bear it?
Visit our website, www.newoxfordreview.org, and click the NOR Gear Shoppe link in the left toolbar to find out. All Gear Shoppe items are available for online purchase with a credit card only; orders cannot be placed by calling our offices.
We thank you for your missionary fervor!