Questions of Faith: What Does it Mean?

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“My strong belief in God as a result of my upbringing and my participation in the Sacraments have given me a faith that satisfies a personal and spiritual need.  It brings a sense of peace always.   Even when I am at a low point, a time of great stress or fear, there is someone (God) and something (faith) that will be there with me no matter what. “

 

“I would say having a stricter, more humble definition of Christianity than most.  Like part of the sacrifice club.  It seems other forms of Christianity have all gone soft, yet at the same time are bigger talkers about their dedication to Christ.”

 

“It’s more important for me to be a Christian, or at least to try to adhere to the way a Christian should act. Having said that, you could pretty well put the name of any major religion in there. It’s more important to lead a good life than it is to go to church.”

 

“I like the idea of being called to care for others and to use my unique gifts to do right; to make a better world. I like the good that the church teaches. I like the idea of Sacraments to “feel” Christ in my life. It makes a difference to me & helps me focus on doing right & being good.”

 

     Those are all answers to the same question.   What does it mean to be Catholic?  I don’t have an answer.  In fact, if you have any thoughts on the subject, I invite you, encourage you, even beg you to post your comments.  You’d be doing me a great service because this is something I’ve been struggling with for years.  In a previous blog post, Faith: You’ve Got to Get It Before You Can Keep It, I referred to myself as a non-Catholic practicing., as opposed to the far more traditional non-practicing Catholic.  I attend mass every week.  I am just not, at least according to the sacraments, Catholic.  I’d like to be; I think.  I just don’t know if I’m qualified.  I believe in evolution.  I believe in the big bang theory.  I believe women should have a far more significant role in the Church.  I believe celibacy is wholly unnatural and not actually holy in the slightest.  I’m only scratching the surface here.  Mostly, I think my own moral code is stronger and certainly less hypocritical than a lot of the things we’ve witnessed from our religious leaders.  No need to go into detail on that.  .  So I ask again.  What does it mean to be Catholic?

     My father is Catholic; although, at various times in his life, his conviction has wavered.  My father-in-law is Catholic.  He’s at mass daily and never wavers on anything, whether it be faith, politics, his weekly football picks, or the best way to fertilize a tomato garden.  I know plenty of Catholics who attend mass weekly, others who go at Christmas, Easter, and when it’s convenient, and still others who never go at all.  I know parents who have their children baptized   even though they have no plans to ever go to church.  I know other parents who have their children baptized despite being followers of a different religion.  Covering their bases?  I’m not sure that’s how it’s supposed to work.  I have one friend who claims to be Catholic even though he has no real belief structure at all.   This friend attends mass, sometimes, and will ONLY receive communion from the priest.  That’s not all that unusual, except he prefers to sit on the right, the priest generally stands on the left, and he doesn’t want to cross the aisle so he doesn’t receive at all.  Is he more or less Catholic than the person who receives communion almost every day of the year?  How about the person who attends mass regularly but never receives communion because, according to the Church, he’s not allowed?  Yes, I am referring to myself.

      This Sunday, church pews will be overflowing as we put on our finest to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.     Most of those seats were empty last week.  They’ll be empty again next week, and will remain so until December 25th when we all gather to honor the birth of our savior.  I’m not judging.  I’m really not.  If you received the first sacrament, the sacrament of baptism, you’re Catholic; I’m not.  I’ve got nothing to say.  I just wonder.  Are there degrees of salvation?  Is true faith in the heart, in the sacraments, in the act of going to mass, or in some combination of all of it?  When the time comes, is Saint Peter going to stop us at the gate to see if our parking pass was validated?   

   

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