I ask this question because my daughter asked me this question. She’s an adult, and she knows better, but sometimes, profanities come out of her mouth. When I correct her, she reminds me of my sins. She says, “Does it just depend on what kind of Catholic you are that day?” Ummm, well, she does have a point. I correct her, but, sometimes, I don’t correct myself.
I had to take a hard at myself and my attitudes toward Christianity and Catholicism.. What kind of Catholic am I on any given day? Am I a “good” Catholic one day and a “cafeteria” Catholic another day?
Catholicism is more than a “religion,” a “belief system,” or a faith, it is a way of life. Catholocism is a way of life because our faith and our lives are one. Therefore, if I do not follow the commandments, if I do not integrate prayer into my life, if I do not follow the precepts of the Church in my life, I might say that I am a Catholic, but, in truth, I’m not, except when I’m at Church.
Going to Church is one thing, but living our faith in the world is another. Of course, it’s wonderful and beautiful to attend Mass on Sundays, holidays, and, maybe, even weekdays. It’s also a law of the Church that we attend Mass every Sunday. However, if we go to Mass every Sunday without fail, but leave our faith at the door of the Church when we leave, can we call ourselves Catholic?
If we walk out of Mass to a pro-choice rally, not to protest, but to support a woman’s “right to choose,” are we really Catholic? If we encourage our Congressmen and women to approve funding for planned parenthood, are we really Catholic? If we leave Mass, send our family to grandma and grandpa’s, telling them that we will be home later, then meet up with friends for drinks and dinner, ignoring our spouses and children, are we really Catholic? If we have an affair after we leave Mass, are we really Catholic?
To be a Catholic means to obey the Commandments, to obey the Magisterium of the Church, and to live in this world morally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally, always being true to the teachings of Jesus. In our world, that’s not easy.
Our world is one in which the center is the self. Are we happy? Are we fulfilled? Are we comfortable? Do we have enough money? Do we have a big enough house? How long do I need to work until I retire? God has ceased to be the center of our world. The self has taken the place of God. The self has become an idol that we worship, for there is no other, but the self. The self is not meant to serve but to be served. Is it easy to be a Catholic in the world?
No, but it’s not impossible.
The first thing we have to recognize is that just because we sin, does not mean we are not Catholic. There are big issues in the Church which cause us to be separated from God, such as abortion, but if we have a sincere, contrite heart, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is there for us. Even if our sins are not mortal, the Sacrament is there for us. The graces that come from confession help us as we struggle with this world that does not value the sacred.
The next thing we have to recognize is that we have to follow the Magisterium of the Church to remain in good status. We might not agree with the Church’s stands on different issues, but we have to accept the fact that our opinions do not matter. What matters is obedience, which requires humility, to the doctrines of the Church. (This is often not easy, but it is critical.)
Next, we have to establish a sense of community in the Church. This means getting involved in the Church. We have to make sure that our children are educated about our church. We have send them to Faith Formation Classes, and when available, we have to attend adult faith formation classes. We have to volunteer at church, and churches always need volunteers. You might find yourself leading a class for the youth, but God will help you through this.
Being a Catholic also means establishing a sense of community with our family and friends. It means spending time with family and extended family, when possible. It means cultivating new friendships in the Church. If you feel isolated in Church, something is wrong. You might have to step out of your comfort zone, but you won’t feel isolated once you get to know people.
In the sense of community, the first community is the family. You have to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder when it comes to your children. Your children are gifts from God and you have been charged with guiding them through life so that, one day, they will reach heaven, too. Our world does not think that children are a blessing. We have to proclaim to the world that children are a blessing and that we welcome them no matter their condition. The family is the focal point of society. Pope Francis says that “As the family goes, so goes society.” Look at our society now. You can change that!
Lastly, being a Catholic means to care for your soul. Your soul is the only one you will ever have and it will last through eternity. Treat it well, for it is a Catholic soul. Be proud of your faith. Let people know that you are more than just Christian, you are Catholic. Live your life as a Catholic. You will help change the world.
What kind of Catholic am I today? I am a flawed Catholic who keeps falling, but getting up. I make mistakes. I have many shortcomings. I am a dreadful sinner. No matter what, though, I am a Catholic and I strive to live my life wearing my faith as a badge of great honor. I am a Child of God. Most importantly, to me, I am a Catholic.