An Uncomfortable Witness


Earlier this week I had to take my little guy to his one-month checkup.  Knowing this would be the only time I’d see his doctor before his two month appointment—which is when he’s due for his first round of vaccines—I knew I had to bring something up.

Most of us don’t get to take our kiddos to faithfully Catholic doctors.  And there’s nothing wrong with this.  I trust that my son’s pediatrician is good at her job and truly cares about my son.  But I also know that there are some vaccines (one of which my son is supposed to get his first dose of next month) that were first developed using aborted fetal cells.   This means that—even though it was years ago—this vaccine, lifesaving though it may be, nonetheless came at the cost of exploiting another human life.

Fortunately, my research showed me that for this particular vaccine there is an ethical alternative—one that was developed without using aborted fetal cells.  So I knew it was my obligation as someone who respects the dignity of human life to bring this up and to ask his doctor for the alternative vaccine if possible.

That story is still playing itself out.  And I don’t bring this up to have a debate in the comment box about the necessity/pros and cons of vaccines.  However, this whole ordeal has made me think about witnessing to the faith.

Sometimes we beg God to put us in situations that will give us the opportunity to share our faith.  Our zeal for Him is so strong that we want to shout it from the rooftops.  But there are other instances when taking a stand is more uncomfortable—when we are sort of the underdog.  I’d love to just be able to defer to the doc in this case…she’s the medical professional after all, and I don’t like telling people how to do their job.  But my faith demands me to speak up about this.  It demands that I be the difficult patient—that I make a stink if necessary (joyfully, of course).

I think sometimes we make excuses to get out of what we know we need to do.  “I don’t want to come off as judgmental,” we say.   We pretend we are doing it out of concern for the other when the truth is we are just too afraid of how it will make us look.  I know I was concerned earlier this week about coming off as the religious freak that has no idea what she’s talking about.

Of course we need to use prudence in how we witness to the faith.  But prudence isn’t the same thing as cowardice.

So maybe for you it’s not the decision to vaccinate.  Maybe it’s that tugging on your heart to speak up when your friends start bad-mouthing the “weird” kid in your class.  Maybe it’s an uncomfortably honest conversation with your Catholic friend about the need to be faithful to all of the Church’s teachings—even the most difficult.

God, give us all the courage to speak up for you when you call upon us, and not just when it’s convenient.