by Fr. George Morelli
And whenever thou art praying, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, in order that they might be made manifest to men. Verily I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou whenever thou art praying, enter into thy chamber, and after thou shuttest thy door, pray to thy Father Who is in secret; and thy Father Who seeth in secret, shall render what is due to thee openly. (Mt 6: 5-6)
From the times of my earliest memory these words of Christ were implanted on my mind. A simple practical example of putting this into practice was the proper way of saying the Prayers at the Table, popularly known as 'grace' before and after meals, while in public. It meant making a silent and mental Sign of the Cross and saying the appropriate prayer mentally as well. Any public display of one's commitment to Christ, would, at that time and locale, have been considered hypocrisy.
However, the world of my early years was spiritually and culturally very different from the world that has ushered us into the second decade of the 21st Century. Practically everyone in my hometown was a practicing Christian. There was one devout Jewish family that had a small grocery store and a travel truck to service remote areas. On any given Sunday morning most people went to the church of their choice. It might be said that there was a shared culture of the value of religion in daily life. If someone ostentatiously displayed some overt religiosity, in all likelihood such a display would have been considered hypocritical.