Are you pro-life? Check.
Do you use NFP instead of artificial birth control? Check.
Are you against the death penalty and euthanasia? Check.
Do you homeschool? Check.
Are you against co-habitation? Check.
Do you participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly? Check.
Did you cancel your cable? Check.
Is your OB/GYN a practicing Catholic? Check.
Have we really gotten that bad about judging another’s faith life? CHECK.
Fifteen years ago, when my husband and I were preparing for marriage, we struggled with several Church teachings, primarily artificial birth control. As a convert, I found reconciliation particularly daunting. If I’d been given a grade back then, it probably wouldn’t have been very favorable. As our years together have increased and our family size grown, I’ve come to realize that imaginary checklist gets longer and more scrutinizing. Perhaps it’s social media and our desire to one-click our way into someone’s faith life, that makes us self-appointed authorities on the authenticity of someone’s walk with Christ based on a tweet or status update. I think that’s what makes me so sensitive to this false sense of being a “perfect Catholic.” It just doesn’t exist.
To be honest, I think the whole checklist thing is ludicrous. Don’t we all reflect the often referred to, “Cafeteria Catholic?” Haven’t we all struggled with a teaching (or two or three) in our faith journey? Who am I to judge another’s struggle? Instead of meeting people where they are, some alienate themselves in a Catholic bubble, surrounded by others that are equally like-minded and quick to throw out a judgment when another family doesn’t fit their “checklist” of Catholic principles.
Do I believe there are absolutes in our faith? You bet. But, I also believe some take a little longer to get there. For me, I’m always intrigued when a friend says they were baptized Catholic or were confirmed, but then left the church. The seed was planted, but perhaps fell on infertile soil. How can we cultivate it? Bring it alive? Nurture it? Help it bloom? Life experience has taught me that you never know a person’s spiritual baggage. As I reflect on my faith journey the past fifteen years – and even in the past two – I am amazed and humbled at God’s grace. If someone had shoved it down my throat, said something condescending or even scoffed at a remark I made, I may not have been so open to God’s plan for my life as a mother, wife and friend.
I’m grateful I fell off the wagon. I’m thankful I argued with God, a lot, on so many topics. I think it’s awesome I have a great number of friends who challenge my beliefs daily. All those things have made me a better Catholic, but they’ve also made me a more compassionate Christian. One who realizes that my timeline usually isn’t God’s.