Wednesday, March 2, 2016

366 Project - Day 62 - "Being Catholic"

March 02, 2016 - "Being Catholic"

Two very interesting experiences happened to me yesterday, the first of which involves a social media post by a longtime friend... while the second occurred while eating a "Moons Over My Hammy" sandwich at Denny's.

In the first of the two experiences, a friend posted a status about coming home and finding a Jesus pamphlet stuck in their front door... then went on to express pride that their child took it and ripped it up. The post finished with the statement that if everyone were to do that, the world would be a much better place.

I thought long and hard about whether or not I should respond to the post. In the end I did respond, asking how, exactly, that was a "good" thing and something to be proud about. Someone I do not know then responded to my response by saying "How is that not a good thing and something to be proud of? Kid's a freethinker.".

I don't know which frightened me more: The original post which I responded to... or the reply the stranger made to my response to that post. The emotion and thought of it filled my mind for the remainder of the day.

Hours passed and I found myself sitting at a Denny's having lunch with my mother in between doctors appointments. Very near to our table were two gentlemen eating lunch while having a very in-depth conversation about religion. It was quickly made clear that both were Christian... and that one of them had a degree in theology. The primary subject of their conversation was Christianity and, in particular, Catholicism.

My mind kept getting distracted by their conversation - as it was quite loud and difficult to ignore, but also happened to be of a subject I'm quite familiar with. Their conversation started off well enough with a general agreement that Christianity was "the way to go". When they began talking of Catholicism, however, things seemed to go down a very twisty road. Both made it quite clear that they admired Pope Francis and what he is "trying to do"... and, based on what was being said, it appeared that both had been Catholic at some point in their lives but have since left the Church.

Right about this time my mother began asking me questions about the Church... and talking about how much it has changed since "years ago".  Our conversation and the conversation of the two gentlemen sitting nearby seemed to intermingle. They were talking about specific tenets of the Roman Catholic Church... yet 7 or 8 out of every 10 things they were declaring consisted of incorrect information. They seemed to be extremely firm in their knowledge of what the Church says about "this" or what the Church says about "that"... as well as why Catholics do "this" or why Catholics do "that" - yet they simply were not getting the facts correct.

My mind shifted back to the conversation with my mother... and her statement that the Church has changed a lot over the years and that Mass is so different now than it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago. We talked about how there are many people who do not genuflect before entering the pew. We talked about how few people go to Confession. We talked about how many people head out the door immediately after receiving Communion, without staying for the final prayers and the declaration that the Mass has ended. We talked about many things of that nature... and it made me realize that it isn't the Catholic Church that has changed, it's the Catholics themselves who have changed.

I'm Catholic and an active member of my parish. I also happen to come from a Catholic family. Combine the two and, well, lets just say that I know a heck of a lot of Catholics!

What amazes me is how many Catholics I know or have met over the years do not know the "basics" of their own Church. Many don't know "why" we dip our finger into the Holy Water Font and cross ourselves upon entering and exiting the church - or when you "should" and "shouldn't" genuflect, or why we even genuflect in the first place. Many do not know the conditions under which you "should" or "shouldn't" receive Holy Communion. Most do not know that you are supposed to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays of the year (unless it happens to be a Solemnity), and think that the "No Meat" rule only applies during Lent. Even more don't know that most Catholics (it depends on age) are required to both Fast and Abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I have met other Catholics who see the Brown Scapular that I wear, who did not know what it was... and have never heard of a Scapular before. That I can somewhat understand, as the wearing of Scapulars has unfortunately become less common in recent years. Far worse is that I've had the same happen with regards to the Miraculous Medal. A very large number of Catholics I've spoken with do not know the details of how "that whole Purgatory thing", as they put it, works.

Yet all of this information is right there in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That's another thing though... as I've met far too many practicing Catholics who have never heard of nor seen a copy of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church", which is sad. No - I don't expect every fellow Catholic to have fully read and studied the "CCC" - but to not even know that it exists and that within it the basic tenets of the Roman Catholic Church are defined just seems strange to me. Even worse - many have never read the Bible itself - and only know what they've heard during mass.

Looking at the overall picture - I look back on that social-media post I mentioned at the beginning, and I think to myself: Why am I surprised by this? How can we expect others to know and understand the beauty of our faith when so many of us do not even make the effort to know and understand it ourselves!?!

I might get hell for stating this... yet I can't help but feel that many non-Christians have the negative view of Christianity that they have because they've never met someone who was truly trying to walk the path of the teachings of Christ. That might be why so many people are taken aback at some of the actions and words of Pope Francis... they just aren't used to seeing a Christian actually being a Christian!

I pray ever day that this will change. I know that I am far from perfect. I know that I have committed a great many sins in my lifetime... and I still continue to sin (which is why I spend so many afternoons in Confessionals, LOL!). In our current world... our current culture... there is no such thing as a "perfect Catholic" or a "perfect Christian". We may never reach the perfection that is Jesus Christ... yet I cannot help but feel that we who call ourselves His followers should be constantly trying to do just that.

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