Tag Archives: catholicism

7 Steps to Being Young & Catholic

Ok, so I’ve gotten some questions from readers asking about the specifics of how exactly to do this—that is, how is one to go about being “young and Catholic” in the world today?

Below is a battle plan of sorts…

1.)  Regular Mass and Adoration

The non-denoms have it right when they say that relationship with Christ is what your faith has to be grounded on.  But you won’t get there if you don’t make it a point to schedule time with Him.  For this reason the Church makes it mandatory for all of us to go to mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation—but mass is offered every day of the week.  Sure, I have friends with whom I only check in for an hour or so a week, but the people closest to me in my life I talk to on a daily basis.  It’s true that we can pray to Christ whenever we want and wherever we are (and we should!).  It’s also true that you’ll never be more united with Christ than in those moments after you receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  How close of a relationship do you want?

Reality Check: Many of us young people can’t make it to mass on a daily basis (especially if we’re not at a Catholic school or do not have a particularly vibrant Catholic parish nearby).  To those I say first of all to still try.  If you have trouble getting up every morning at 6:30 to make it to 7:30am mass, make it a goal to go to daily mass one day out of the week.  Christ will honor your sacrifice of sleep.  🙂  If you can’t make it to mass and receive Christ in the Eucharist, make a spiritual communion insteadAnd find out the hours of your parish’s Blessed Sacrament (or Adoration) Chapel.  Make it a habit to spend at least an hour in there a week.

 

2.)  Regular Confession

We’re talking once every two weeks.  …Seriously?  Yes.  I know the typical rule of thumb nowadays is once a month, but I personally find myself needing to go more often than that.  And for me, it’s much easier to answer the question “Did I go last week” than, “Have I gone yet this month?”  Let’s face it: we all do little things that hurt our relationship with Christ on a daily basis.  What kind of friend would you be if you didn’t say, “I’m sorry”?  And besides, who couldn’t use more grace?

Reality Check: A lot of us are afraid of confession.  It’s not that we can’t do it every two weeks, it’s that we don’t want to.  But I promise you, after the first time you go to confession saying, “It has been two weeks since my last confession,” you will want to come back the next time being able to say the same thing.  Make it a habit and you won’t be sorry.  No one regrets having his or her sins forgiven.

 

3.)  Spiritual Reading

If you’re not reading the Bible, or something written by a saint, or a sound theologian of the Church, you’re going to find it difficult to grow in your faith.  Our love for God grows the more we know about Him.  Plus, reading will make that hour a week you’ve just committed to spend in the chapel go by that much quicker 🙂

Reality Check:  Where am I to find said books?  The Bible is a good place to start!  The word of God in the very words of God—can’t get much closer than that!  Other books I recommend: Introduction to the Devout Life (St. Francis De Sales), I Believe in Love, True Devotion to Mary, Confessions of Saint Augustine.  Send me an email if you want more suggestions.

 

4.)  Be honest.

If your friends don’t know that you’re Catholic, there’s a problem.  You don’t have to turn into the crazy religious kid who doesn’t talk about anything but church, but do let your friends (religious and non-religious) know that you’re Catholic.  Going to confession on Saturday?  Invite your Catholic friends.  Headed to Mass?  Invite all of your friends (but politely let the non-Catholics know beforehand that communion is only for Catholics living in a state of grace).  Speak up if someone bashes the Church, and maybe skip that frat party on Friday if you know that it will lead to you having to go to confession on Saturday.

Reality Check: It’s a little late for some of us.  We have friends who already know us as someone we no longer want to be.  Time for a heart-to-heart.  Lay it all out on the table.  Write a letter if you don’t think you’ll be able to say it all.  Look, I know I used to do this or I told you I’ve done that, but I’m trying to change.  I’m going to take my faith more seriously and as my friend I just wanted you to know what’s going on with me. But please: Don’t drop your friends for Jesus.  He wouldn’t do that, and it’s not a very good witness to faith if your friends think you dropped them because they’re “not holy enough”. Now, you may find that you can no longer take part in certain activities and as a result some friendships may naturally fade away, but make it a point to be upfront and honest so it’s not perceived as a personal attack.

 

5.)  No really, be honest.

You don’t have to pretend that you’re perfect now that you’ve decided to take your faith seriously.  In fact if you do, no one will take you seriously.  Your Facebook statuses do not all have to be about Jesus or taken from the Bible.  You’re allowed to have a social life outside of church.  You can listen to non-Christian music.  Most importantly, when you mess up, own up.  It’s human to struggle.

 

6.)  Find Catholic friends

Like I said, don’t ditch your non-Catholic friends (so long as they’re not leading you into sin).  But it’s important to have friends within the Church, too.  Why?  Because being a Catholic is difficult, and human beings are not able to survive without friends.  Sometimes you just need the friend next to you in the pew, or someone to call when you don’t understand the Church’s teaching on something.  They don’t need to have the right answer for you, but you need someone who understands the struggle, and who can encourage you in faith.

Reality Check:  That’s nice, but what if the only other Catholics in your town have gray hair?  Two suggestions: 1) Pray, pray, pray that God will send a friend your way.  And keep an open heart—be a friend to everyone.  He could be preparing your non-Catholic friend’s heart to receive His truth through your friendship.  2) Make friends with the old people!  They’re probably awesome and full of stories and great advice.

 

7.)  Do well in school (and/or at work).

Chances are good that God is not calling you to drop out of school and go off into the desert to pray.  It could happen, but it’s more likely that He is calling you to live your life for Him right where you are: in school, at work, at the gym, etc.  You really want to be a good witness of Christ?  You have to strive for excellence in all that you do.  Period.  In other words: Do your homework.  You may not be able to get straight A’s, but you better try your hardest.  Offer your hard work up to Christ as a prayer.  Jesus didn’t cut corners, so neither can we.

Reality Check: When asked, “Is it befitting a cardinal to ski?” Blessed JPII replied, “What is unbefitting a cardinal is to ski badly.”  🙂  Seriously.  You cannot be a Christian and settle for mediocrity.

Bottom Line?  Do good, avoid evil.  Easier said than done, of course.  But be encouraged!  You are not alone in the struggle.

Why I Love Jesus AND Religion

[Please, if you would, take a moment right now to pray for a special intention of mine today.  Thank you so much!]

This video was making the rounds on my Facebook news feed yesterday.  You may have seen it:

Now I was a fan of this guy’s last video.  And in this video, he does say some things that are right, and I get that his heart is in the right place.  Where I take issue is that he is not merely saying that Jesus is greater than Religion (which, by the way, I agree with).  He is saying that Jesus hates religion.  And while it may be tempting to play the, “yeah, I think religious people are lame, too” card in an attempt to get more people to hear our message, we need to be careful that our message does not fly in the face of the Gospel.  I don’t have time to cover everything misleading in the video here, but I will try to hit the main points.

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?

…Then I’d say you probably haven’t read the New Testament very carefully.  Jesus is pretty clear in Matthew 5:17 when He says,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

The Law, of course, being the Law of Moses, i.e. The Old Covenant, i.e. RELIGION.

In the Old Testament, God actually calls religious people whores

Yes, God called some religious people whores in the Old Testament—when they were being unfaithful to the Law (in other words: when they were disobeying the laws of their RELIGION—their religion given to them by God, by the way)

In the New Testament, Jesus refers to the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites an awful lot, but remember the definition of a hypocrite: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.  Jesus actually told the disciples that they should DO what the scribes and Pharisees tell them.

“…practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:3).

“Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19-20)

Doesn’t sound like Jesus hates religion to me.  In fact it sounds like He takes it pretty seriously.

When individuals use religion as a mask or for personal gain?  Yes, Jesus hates that.  But only because religion is not (and never was) meant to be a mask.  It’s meant to be an aid.

If I’m sick, knowing the doctor is definitely going to be important.  I’m going to need a relationship with him in order to let him know what is hurting me so that he can heal me.  But the fact of the matter is, if there’s no hospital, I’m not going to be able to find a doctor.  If I don’t go in for regular check-ups (even when I don’t feel like I’m sick), I’m not going to remain healthy.  If there’s no medicine when I am sick, my relationship with the doctor isn’t going to be enough to make me well again.  There’s a reason the doctor prescribes medicine, just like there is a reason God gave us the rules of religion.

Boyfriends, Babies, & Jesus

Question:

Hey Mary,
I am a Catholic dating, more like a “courting”, a non-Catholic. As a Catholic, I know that it is my duty to raise all of my children in the Catholic Church, so me and my boyfriend have had several discussions on this.

In his church, they are first baptized when they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and he argues that that is how it was meant to be because that is as the Bible tells it. However, I believe in infant baptism as the Church does. So when we have this discussion, he says that the only reason the Church does it is so the baby’s original sin will be removed and they won’t go to Hell.

I don’t necessarily believe that an unbaptized baby will go to Hell, but I do believe that they should be baptized to remove original sin, so they can grow in the light of Christ.

How can I explain to him in a clear and concise argument the beauty and better reasons to infant baptism?

 Answer: 

Thanks for your question!  I’m reminded of (yet another) CS Lewis quote:

“You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

As important as it is to nourish our bodies, it is even more important to feed our souls.  In a very real way, this is what baptism does.  It gives us the light of Christ (as you said, and as I’m sure your boyfriend agrees).  Now, if you two do one day get married and have kids, I’d imagine you’re not going to wait until they reach the age of reason to ask for food.  You’re going to feed your children to give them the proper nutrients so they are healthy.  How much truer should that be for the health of their souls!

Likewise, none of us chooses the family we are born into.  In fact, none of us chooses to be born in the first place.  I think it is fitting, then, that many of us do not initially choose our spiritual family in the Church.  We do not choose to born again in Christ.  But regardless of when you are baptized—if you made the decision after several years of study or if your parents decided it for you before you knew what was going on—it was still Christ who chose you first.

In addition, there is in fact Scriptural support for infant baptism (not to mention accounts from the early Christians).  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus Himself says:

Now they were bringing even children to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16)

“To such belongs the kingdom of God.”  Unless we become like children, we cannot enter Heaven.  It doesn’t really add up, then, that we have to first “be mature” to accept Christ, does it?

Also, there are accounts in the New Testament of whole families being baptized after hearing the Good News.

Act 16:15 – (speaking of Lydia) – After she and her household had been baptized

Acts 16:33 (of a Philippian Jailer) – “…then he and all his family were baptized at once.”

1 Corinthians 1:16 – I baptized the household of Stephanas also

There are no records of Christians in the early Church intentionally waiting until their children have attained the age of reason to baptize them.  It seems once the parents found Christ, the whole family received Him.  And if baptism is truly the person of the Holy Spirit coming to live within you, why wouldn’t you give that gift to your son or daughter from the first days of their lives?

That would be my answer.  There are plenty of resources you can check out for this.  Catholic Answers is a good place to start.

Divine Instruction Manual, Please?

I have received several questions from readers over the past few weeks asking about the Church’s stance on a number of issues, ranging from tattoos to women in the workplace.  While I could attempt to dedicate a post to each topic, I figured it would be more efficient to wrap them up, for the most part, with this:

If you’ve been in the world for longer than about 20 minutes, you have probably noticed that not every situation has a clear black or white answer.  Sometimes it may be that we are faced with making the choice simply between good and evil.  But more often than not, we find ourselves faced with a choice of good and not-as-good—and when that happens it is not always clear which is which.

The Church knows this.  Yes, there is objective truth.  Yes, there are things that are objectively and morally wrong.  For these issues, the Church has a yes or no answer, and you can typically find it in your Catechism.   But while the Catechism is amazing for learning about faith and morality, it is not meant to be an instruction manual for every question you come to in life.  This is why it is so important 1) to really know your faith and 2) to actually have a relationship with God.

If you know the teachings of the Church, you can apply the basic principles to your situation to help you discern which is the right or wrong answer.  It will usually come down to the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.  Most importantly, if you have a relationship with God, you will be seeking to do His will, which of course cannot contradict the teachings of His Church.

So, to answer some specific questions: unless your tattoo is of an image that offends God (or if your getting a tattoo is disobeying your parents), then it is not sinful.  And yes, a woman can be a good mother and still go to work.  Nothing too counter-cultural here 🙂

Being Catholic vs. Following Christ

Question:

Why do Catholics refer to themselves as “Catholic” and not as “Christians”?  For instance, when I am asked what I believe, I don’t say I’m Lutheran or Presbyterian, I say I am Christian. But I have noticed that my Catholic friends identify themselves not as Christian, but as Catholic. 

Do not we all believe that Christ died for sins and rose again, and that this is the essence of our faith? So then why does there seem to be this distinction between us? I know that there are many theological and liturgical differences that separate Catholics from the denominations, but I think that we should all come under one umbrella on one point: that we are all professors of Christ’s redeeming grace and, therefore, all Christians.

This is not to say that Catholics are not Christians, but to ask why I do not hear my friends who are Catholic referring to themselves as Christians.

 

Answer:

Thanks for the question!

First of all, you are absolutely right.  Catholics are Christian.  In fact, before the Protestant Reformation, most people who identified themselves as Christians were Catholic-Christians (give or take a few heretics).  Saint Peter was the first Pope of the Catholic Church (and I don’t think anyone would argue that he wasn’t a follower of Christ!), and we have had an unbroken line of popes since Saint Peter, that goes all the way to our current pope, Pope Benedict XVI.

Catholic actually means “universal,” so when someone says, “I belong to the Catholic Church,” they are really saying, “I belong to the universal church.”  So it’s a little ironic that nowadays it can sometimes feel divisive among other Christians.  Our earliest written record of the term “catholic” to describe the Church is from Saint Ignatius of Antioch, in AD 107.  Ignatius was a bishop who, like a lot of the early Christians, was arrested and killed for his faith.  In his final letter to his fellow Christians in Smyrna (a city in modern-day Turkey), he wrote, “Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic [universal] Church” (To the Smyrnaeans 8:2).  The term sort of caught on after that.

Why don’t your Catholic friends refer to themselves as Christians, you ask?  I can’t be sure.  It could be that they don’t know for sure whether Catholics really are Christian.  I’ve been asked this question a lot by kids on retreats or at youth group, and I often get the sense that most of these young people know that Catholics are Christian, but they also know that our brand of Christianity is different than a lot of their friends’, and they’re not really sure how to articulate why that is.

For me, if someone asks if I am a Christian, I unhesitatingly tell them yes.  I am a proud believer in Jesus Christ.  But if asked what faith I am or religion I am apart of, I proudly say that I am a Catholic.  Why?  Because while all Catholics are Christian, not all Christians are Catholic.  To be a Catholic means that I am under the authority of the Church that Christ established over 2,000 years ago when he gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:18).  To be a Catholic means that I can run to Christ in the sacrament of reconciliation when I have sinned, and truly know that I have been forgiven.  To be a Catholic means that I believe that Christ meant it at the Last Supper when He said the words, “This is my body…take and eat,” and I get to receive Him on a regular basis in the Eucharist.  Jesus commanded us to follow Him, but I believe He gave us the Catholic Church as a means to do that in the fullest way possible.

You are right, though.  It was Christ’s prayer that we “may all be one,” as He is one with the Father (John 17:21).  There is definitely a balance to strike between only focusing on our differences, and ignoring them completely.  In the end, we will only ever be truly united when we all believe in the one truth that Christ Himself meant for us to believe in.  Until then, we love each other as Christ has commanded us to 🙂

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