Category Archives: Catechism in a Year
It takes a lot of things to have a faith-filled, joyful, and growing parish community. It takes a lot of work from the priest(s), the secretarial team, and the whole congregation, especially the volunteers that give their time and talent to ministries such as music and youth group. I have been reflecting often on things I have observed in many parishes that really demonstrate how different they can be from each other. This post is not a guide on how to have a perfect parish, but rather a reflection on qualities that can help keep the fire alive and burning brightly for the love of Christ and His Church. Read the rest of this entry
Well? Are you hardcore? How can we define a hardcore Catholic? Is there even such a thing? The term ‘Devout Catholic’ is defined differently for many people. For some, it is just the Catholic that always goes to Sunday Mass. For others, it is the Catholic that seems to have a deep spiritual life, but perhaps doesn’t really follow every little thing that the Church teaches.
Fulfilling our Sunday obligation is only part of being Catholic. We must also frequent the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, pray daily, and assent to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. It is not enough to say “I am a devout Catholic” and think this is a synonym for being a Catholic that attends every Sunday mass. Attending Sunday Mass is an obligation that every Catholic has. Even the Pope has to attend Sunday Mass. Christmas and Easter are not the bare minimum requirements for being Catholic either.
When we look at the lives of the Saints, we see that their biographies do not only consist in attending Sunday mass. The Saints lived lives of heroic virtue, at the service of God and others. We can look at the lives of the desert fathers who committed their lives to prayer. We can look at the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and see how she devoted her life to charity and love towards those that were in most need of physical and (most importantly) spiritual nourishment. The lives of the Saints demonstrate an interior martyrdom which is a death to self and a desire to know and love Christ above all. To truly love Christ is to show the “least of these” the love of Christ in action.
Being a real Catholic is not about having a “holier than thou” disposition. Many times, the phrase “holier than thou” is said by those who feel intimidated or are offended when someone tries to help someone out of sin, even when done in charity. Sometimes they are right when they say we are being “holier than thou”. Oftentimes, when people of the world say this to us, it can make us feel like we have failed in evangelizing. If we are doing our best to love Christ and doing all that we possibly can to lead others closer to Him, then why is it received with such distaste among our family and friends? For many people, there is an internal moral crisis that prevents them from seeing things objectively. For others, however, I believe that they see a disconnect between our words and deeds. For some who do seek to live a life of virtue, they may still be shut down. Although it may not be easy for people to hear the truth, I believe that if our words are formed through prayer and said with humility and charity, our Blessed Lord will bless them in some way. The question is, how do we get through to those who do not wish to listen?
I think what it all comes down to is not to ask ourselves whether or not we are hardcore because this may create some kind of pride within ourselves. I think the real question we need to ask ourselves is this: Am I truly faithful to Christ, the Church He established, and do I live a life of service to others? Being Catholic is about loving Christ and devoted to the building of His Kingdom. It is about living life in truth and charity. It means trusting God enough to believe that His Holy Spirit is guiding His One True Church. Adherence to the teachings of the Church (and that means all of them), even if they challenge us, is key if we want to really enter into the fullness of a relationship with God. Being Catholic really comes down to making Christ the center of our lives, and encountering Him on a daily basis by making our entire life a sacrifice for Him and others. Along the way, frequenting the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion will keep us on the path when we stray and give us the strength we need the life the Christian life.
When we look at Mary, we can see the ultimate example of reverence and obedience. From her ‘Fiat’ to being with Christ in the last moments of His life on the Cross, she exemplifies what it means to be faithful. We must be obedient, just like Mary encouraged the servant at the Wedding at Cana and “Do whatever He tells you”. We must take up our crosses and follow Him daily. This Easter, we recognize in a particular way that Christ gave His very life for us. If we truly love Him, we will do the same, by laying down our lives for others.
“Each of you knows that the foundation of our faith is charity. Without it, our religion would crumble. We will never be truly Catholic unless we conform our entire lives to the two commandments that are the essence of the Catholic faith: to love the Lord, our God, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves… With charity, we sow the seeds of that true peace which only our faith in Jesus Christ can give us by making us all brothers and sisters. I know that this way is steep, and difficult, and strewn with thorns, while at first glance the other path seems easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying. But the fact is, if we could look into the hearts of those who follow the perverse paths of this world, we would see that they lack the serenity that comes to those who have faced a thousand difficulties and who have renounced material pleasure to follow God’s law.” – Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati
During the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged all of us to dive deeper into the faith by coming to a better understanding of the Church. Many Catholics don’t know the importance of truly understanding the faith in order to defend it, love it, and practice it to the fullest.
In a discussion I recently had, I tried to communicate the importance of understanding the Faith in addition to faithful practice and belief. To these “catholics”, the idea of seeking to learn and understand more about the Catholic faith didn’t really seem to be as important as just believing without question. When the topic of ‘why have faith?’ is brought up with them, the “feeling” aspect of faith is made to be a central focus. When I say feeling, I am speaking about emotional feelings. While these things are well and good, how we feel isn’t everything. So often, people don’t treat the Faith as objective truth, but rather as a tradition that they hold to stubbornly, without really knowing why they are even Catholic.
The reasons why we do what we do are not often communicated or taught, especially in this generation. For many “catholics”, practicing the Faith has become routine rather than a heartfelt choice. To others, it is a ritual limited to going to Mass a few times a year with the family, while the rest of the year is spent neglecting the Church. The reasons for why we practice the Faith are all too often forgotten. Do we know the reason? Do we know why we believe in what we believe and do what we do? This can lead us to life’s most profound question ‘Why?’
It’s like this. If a child asks his or her parent why the sky is blue and the parent simply says ‘because that’s the way it is’, that doesn’t leave the child with much to go on and it doesn’t do them any good except to, perhaps, keep them quiet. A parent might respond this way because they don’t know, don’t care to know, or don’t want to bother taking the time to explain the truth. In any case, the child would be much better to know it is because of the way the Earth’s atmosphere scatters light from the sun (Howstuffworks.com). This kind of answer allows for deeper understanding, even if they may not fully understand the concepts right away. There is also an appreciation and a desire to know and learn, rather than simply observe the surface and ignore what makes something what it is.
This uncaring attitude could also be compared to a wife who is only concerned with how her husband looks, who doesn’t really feel the need to know his heart, mind, and spirit. She would not appreciate all the things that he has done – building a roof over her head and a foundation for their home, providing her with food, and devoting his entire body and soul to her. The reasons deep down for why he does all these things for her is because he loves her. If he had to explain himself he would say that he wishes her to be sheltered from the storms, to be healthy in body, mind and spirit, and to feel cared for. He would be faithful to her until the end. Should the wife choose to ignore his efforts, deny his love or simply turn her back on him, not only does she pierce his heart, but she chooses to pull herself away from him.
The Church can never be separated from Christ, but members of the Church so often stray from Him. They refuse the sacraments He instituted, they ignore the Teachings of the Church which come from Him and choose to live out their lives in sin, pushing ever further away from Him.
The truth is, when the wife hurts and dishonors the husband in such a way, it is like when members of the Church dishonor and turn away from God. God has established so much through his Son, Jesus Christ, to care for us all in all the ways we need to be cared for. All of the things that He gives to us or allows us to struggle through are His way of trying to lead us closer to Him.
Christ knows the Church inside and out. He longs for her and all its members. He knows the heart of every person. Christ gave His life for the Church on the cross, because the Church is His bride. The Church’s members therefore should come to know Christ too, by in turn giving their lives to Him, getting to know who He is through prayer, seeking understanding His teachings, loving the sacraments, and by following His example. As Catholics, we are part of His Church and therefore we should know what it means to be a Catholic, and strive to become better follows of Christ.
If someone were to ask why we believe the host actually becomes the consecrated Body and Blood of Jesus, would we be able to answer, or would we simply say ‘because that’s the way it is’? To believe in the Eucharist and accept it as Christ’s flesh and blood is crucial and central to the faith, but so is the understanding of why we believe it.
To say that we are Catholic should not be something we take lightly, or push off to the side. If we are Catholic, we should know our faith, and know what makes us Catholic.
There are still many of us faithful Catholics who try to live out the faith with our lives; who fulfill their obligations, and strive to obey Christ and the Church. It is not always easy, however. There will come days when we will be tested, and respond to the question, “Why do you believe in the Catholic Faith?” This question demands that we must answer with charity, and present the truth with wisdom and understanding. We cannot answer this question properly unless we have sought to understand our Faith. There will be those who will attempt to tear down the Church and attack our Lord. In knowing our faith as best we can, we can defend it against those who speak against it, and we may stand as true followers of Christ. While our human knowledge will always be limited due to our human nature, we must aim to know all we can, so that we be open to the Holy Spirit, and thus be more able to glorify God.
There is no excuse in this day and age for being unable to find information. The Catechism is at our fingertips. The works and writings of Saints are in libraries, bookstores, and some are even available online. We can be questioned at any given moment about our faith. Saying, ‘because that’s the way it is’ isn’t going to cut it. Love the faith enough to understand it and invest time in learning the ‘whys’. Dive into the sky. While we may enjoy its splendid blueness, seek to reach beyond and witness the mysteries beyond just what we see on the ground. Seek to know and understand Christ and His church. To conclude, here’s a quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
True followers of Christ; be prepared to have a world make jokes at your expense. You can hardly expect a world to be more reverent to you than to Our Lord. When it does make fun of your faith, its practices, abstinences, and rituals-then you are moving to a closer identity with Him Who gave us our faith. Under scorn, Our Lord “answered nothing”. The world gets amusement from a Christian who fails to be Christian, but none from his respectful silence.
Yes, I know we’re already passed this date, but I’ll have the other videos up soon. Sorry for the holdup!
By December 13, read CCC 446-496
Dec 7: CCC 446-455
Dec 8: CCC 456-462
Dec 9: CCC 463-468
Dec 10: CCC 469-475
Dec 11: CCC 476-484
Dec 12: CCC 485-491
Dec 13: CCC 492-496
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