Be Willing to Get Your Hands Dirty

Who knew that a career as a president of an Ivy League school would involve a direct and literal choice between Satan and God?


The recent efforts to hold a “black mass” on the campus of Harvard University has me concerned.  It’s not just about freedom of speech, who is or is not “misunderstood”, or what the term “education” encompasses.


It’s also about vocation.


It’s about the fact that we all have a “calling or destiny…in this life and hereafter” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). Too many people appear to think that this life has nothing to do with the hereafter–that the choices we have while on this earth are all about making everyone happy, keeping the peace, and keeping our job.


But we are called to so much more!


“The faithful should ‘distinguish carefully between the rights and the duties which they have as belonging to the Church and those which fall to them as members of the human society.  They will strive to unite the two harmoniously, remembering that in every temporal affair they are to be guided by a Christian conscience, since no human activity, even of the temporal order, can be withdrawn from God’s dominion.’” (CCC 912)


While the president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust, did call the black mass “abhorrent” and recognized it as a highly offensive ritual, she continued on with this statement in reference to the student group sponsoring the event.


“Nevertheless, consistent with the University’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs.”


Wait…that has a familiar ring to it…it reminds me of something…oh, yes:


“But he said, ‘Why?  What evil has he done?’  They only shouted the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’  When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood.  Look to it yourselves.’”  Matt 27:23-24


The relativistic similarity of these two statements is a point of concern.  President Faust is not an example of someone putting her foot down and attempting to stop sacrilegious behavior at all costs.  This is simply someone saying, “I really don’t agree with this, but if you want to do it, go ahead.  I wash my hands of it.  I take no responsibility for your choices.”


This is not Christian behavior.  This is not “being nice.”  This is not love toward neighbor.  This is not tolerance.  This is saying, “I don’t care about you enough to lay my life on the line for the well being of your soul.”


Whether the world believes it or not, there is right and there is wrong.  Objective Truth exists.  And it is the responsibility of the faithful, especially the faithful in prominent, public positions, to defend this Objective Truth.


“‘In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, [lay people] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.’”  CCC 907


We’re talking about the dignity of persons here–persons who are all made in the image and likeness of God.  Persons who are being exposed to the threshold of evil, who may not even realize the ramifications of their actions.  The occult is dangerous.  The occult is real.  It can open a door that is difficult to close.  This excellent article by Patti Maguire Armstrong explains the dangers of dabbling in the occult.  It is our duty to protect our neighbor from ever facing the temptation of that world.


So what should President Faust have done?  I realize she was placed in a horribly difficult, horribly unfair position.  But aren’t we all at times?  Not always a position of her scope and magnitude, but a position in which a choice has to be made nonetheless.  A choice for God or against Him.  Perhaps she felt she did what she could.  Perhaps a stronger stance wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway.  But, then again, perhaps a stronger stance would have made a huge difference with God.  Perhaps by taking a stronger stance she would have crossed the line from holding a career to holding a vocation, and would have become a source of inspiration and strength for the rest of us who fight similar, if smaller, battles every day.


This is what I hope for my children as I teach them about vocation.  That they can make a difference.  Not just in the world, but in souls.  And if it is but one soul that they save–one soul that they inspire to the heights of heaven, then it will be worth any sacrifice and persecution that they may have to endure.


I want to raise children who discern their role in this world to be not just a job, not just a career, but a vocation.  A higher calling of this world that will carry them to their destiny in the next.


I want to raise children who won’t associate with “abhorrent” behavior–who would rather get their hands dirty by stepping down from their job than appear to be condoning an objective wrong in any way.


This is our calling.  This is what will overcome the bad of this world and allow the good to reign supreme.  It is in this way, that “‘worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives.’”  CCC 901



About Charisse Tierney

Charisse Tierney lives in Newton, Kansas, with her husband and six children. Charisse and her husband, Rob, teach Natural Family Planning for the Couple to Couple League and have experience teaching Theology of the Body for Teens to high school and middle school students through their parish in Kansas. Charisse holds bachelor and master degrees in music performance. A professionally trained clarinetist and pianist, Charisse has always held a deep love for writing and her Catholic faith. Charisse is a contributing author of The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and writes for Family Foundations magazine. She can also be found at
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