“Being A Catholic Today”
July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
On Wednesday, July 18th, my parish of St. Faustina’s held a day of mission and praise: Rejoice, Revive, Reunite. We celebrated Mass, had Eucharistic Adoration, Confessions, praise and worship music by Full Armor Band, prayer with people, witness talks, and a bunch of other stuff. It was an amazing day. So many people in my church worked together to make it happen and the Holy Spirit was definitely at work throughout the events. I had the privilege of giving one of the witness talks, about being a Catholic in today’s culture. At first, I was a little daunted because that’s a large topic and I only had 10 minutes, but in the end my homeschool writing experience kicked in and I narrowed it down to what I felt was really important to my experience as a Catholic. Some people asked me to post on it on my blog afterwards, so here you go! I’ve tried to make it as close to what I actually said last night as possible. Of course, I rambled on a few tangents, but I think it’s about 99% accurate. I hope you all enjoy it because it comes straight from my heart.
“Being a Catholic today is the best part of me, the solid foundation underneath my feet. But it could also remind me of that line by Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Our culture today is not an easy one to live your faith in, by any means. Authentic Catholicism does not happen without sacrifice. But you can find joy in the sacrifice. That’s what I’ve realized over the past few years. The joy and the suffering, the sacrifices and the answered prayers, they all balance out into a fulfilling, authentic faith. Balance is what I want to focus on in my short time up here. Over the years, I’ve discovered that being a Catholic in today’s world requires a careful balance between what I’d like to abbreviate as: contemplation and education. By contemplation, I mean having a personal relationship with Jesus. Prayer. The sacraments. You need that. That’s what faith is. And by education, I mean knowing what your faith requires of you, and why. I don’t think you can have one without the other. So that, to me, is a big issue of ‘being Catholic today’. Obviously, I can’t cover everything now, but here’s my best shot:
To begin, in the interest of full disclosure, my relationship with Jesus was not always as in-depth as I strive for now. For years, my faith was a basic one. I went to church, read my Bible, and believed what I was taught. I knew Jesus was real- I experienced Him and the Holy Spirit through prayers and the sacraments- but there was not the, as Pope Benedict calls it, “full, active, and conscious participation” that should have been. It was more of a faith based on emotions. I felt Christ when my friends and I were on retreats and singing praise & worship songs at the top of our lungs, but a week later on a Tuesday morning when I didn’t want to do math homework, nope, didn’t feel as Christ-like then.
But gradually, as I matured, left school, and interacted more and more with the secular world, through my jobs and people who became my friends, I realized, I needed to know more. I wasn’t just spending time with members of a Catholic community any more, I was out in the world. To me, it felt like I was suddenly in the front lines of a battle without even realizing it. And I needed to know enough to defend my faith. That’s when my relationship with Jesus began to grow. At first it was a search for truth, more than anything. I found several amazing Catholic websites and blogs that I started following online, and I participated more in the wonderful events we have here at our parish. And, of course, I read. I read GK Chesterton, I read St. Faustina’s Diary of Divine Mercy, I read the Pope’s homilies and speeches online, and of course I read my Bible. I wanted to be able to stand up for the Church I loved when people confronted me on topics such as abortion, the sex abuse scandals, gay marriage, and all those other media hot-button issues that people just love to throw at you and expect a ‘sound bite’ answer. They seem to have the idea that to be a practicing Catholic means you have every tenet of the faith memorized and understood. Far from it, though! At 21 years old, when I really started this journey, I had barely tapped the surface of even the most basic Catholic teachings. A church that has been around for over 2000 years garners a lot of study material. Before I get too distracted with that, though, it was this search for knowledge that caused me to deepen my own, personal relationship with Jesus. Again, this is the point I want to make with my witness: that being a Catholic today calls for both a personal relationship with Christ, and a deeper knowledge of the faith you profess at Mass. This is what is happening to me. When I read about Jesus, and I defend Him, and I believe in Him, it makes me love Him even more because I see the truth that He proclaims, the Truth that He IS. “The way, the truth, and the life”. Recently beatified Cardinal John Newman said, “Heart speaks unto heart”, and that is what is happening to me. I learn more about my faith in Christ and Christ deepens his call to my heart. I’ve started going to Mass on my lunch break at work when I can, I pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy frequently, and I try to read my Bible and pray every night before bed. I especially enjoy Eucharistic Adoration. I have found the Sacraments contain such graces for my spiritual life. Mass is a gift and I try to approach it every single time like a new gift. I’ve even ‘tried’ to appreciate Confession, instead of being embarrassed and thinking, man I can’t wait for this to be over! I go in humble and seeking not only forgiveness, but counsel.
The funny thing about “being a Catholic today”, is that my search for knowledge of Christ through his Church seems contradictory. This feeling of contradiction comes from the realization that the more I know about my faith and the better equipped I am to share it, the more I realize that some parts of faith just cannot be explained. There are no words to describe them. There is a reason why we call it the ‘mystery of faith’. I could stand here and talk about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit for days on end, but what could my feeble human words ever do to actually describe them? I can be able to discuss and defend the Church’s teachings on the Eucharist and Baptism, on Jesus fully human and yet fully God, and Mary, Virgin yet Mother of God. I can memorize encyclicals and teachings, the catechism, the words of the saints. But at the end of the day, when I kneel there at Mass and see Christ made present on the altar, I can’t describe that to another person. There are no words. Again, I am reminded of Cardinal Newman’s words: Heart speaks unto heart. Some things you can’t evangelize. For some things, you just have to pray. That’s one of the reasons I realized that prayer is so incredibly important to keep your balance in being Catholic. I’ve tried to develop the habit of keeping a conversation going with God in my heart quite frequently. When I’m driving in my car, or at work eating my lunch, or any time when I find myself silent, I try to speak to God about simple things, just in a way to bring Him more fully into my day. That way, when I’m out at a bar with friends, or at a hockey game, or some other noisy activity, I’ll have that conversation in my heart for when I get quiet. It’s my little way of bringing God into everything that I do. And I do believe you can pray in a bar! It’s not the place I’d pick for deep contemplation, obviously, but let me tell you, you’d be surprised at the number of deep theological discussions me and my friends here have had down at Tommyboys, or at my house over a cold beer. It’s all about that balance.
Pope St. Pius the 10th said: “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven.” That quote sums up what my point in this witness is. We need prayer and the sacraments, like Mass, in our life to build our relationship with Christ. And we should educate ourselves about our church in order to better understand prayer and the sacraments. You can’t have one without the other. This, to me, is what being Catholic today is all about: Living our vocations, defending our Church, and growing closer to God through our every action.”
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.
Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea.”
“I say I will not mention him; I will no longer speak in his name.
But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.”