I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I’m not a convert, either. My mom’s side of the family is Catholic, so I was baptized as a baby and received my other sacraments of initiation on the usual timeline. I never say that I was raised Catholic, though. We didn’t go to church, not even for Christmas or Easter. That just wasn’t what we did. Now that I live as a Catholic (with God’s help), and I see my friends raising their young children, I’m starting to understand what it might have been like to be raised Catholic. I hope to raise my own Catholic family with my future husband someday, but in the meantime, I just work on me.
Now, how to live as a Catholic: that is something I can do. I have maintained a delightful relationship with Ave Maria Press (AMP) as a book reviewer for several years, but I also enjoy their Professional Development Webinar series. The name is a little misleading; you don’t have to be working (or even volunteering) in ministry to participate in the webinars. AMP even records each webinar and posts them on YouTube for later viewing! Out of my desire for a little spiritual growth (and the desire to clear out my backlog of videos to watch), I recently viewed “7 Habits That Define Our Catholic Identity,” given by Bert Ghezzi. If you don’t even have the hour to watch, here’s my summary and a few analytical thoughts.
First, the major takeaway. The seven habits are:
- Develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
- Celebrate the sacraments.
- Observe the liturgical seasons.
- Pray and read Scripture daily.
- Participate in your parish.
- Share your faith.
- Participate in Catholic social justice.
I don’t know if Ghezzi intended to list them in that order, but that seems like a pretty good order of importance to me! That’s not to say that any of them are worthless, but if you’re going to start building just one Catholic habit, I say start with Jesus. As Ghezzi notes, it is possible to have been raised Catholic yet never really feel the presence of God. If you don’t know where to start, just ask. Ask Jesus to make himself known to you. Ask God to fill up your heart. He wants to love you, and he gives you the faith you need to believe in him. Ask for help to put that faith to work.
Regarding sacraments, Ghezzi clarifies that we are supposed to be participating in them, not just watching. The priest is not putting on a show. We’re not the audience. Listen, sing, and pray. Offer your prayers, works, joys, and sufferings on the altar at Mass. As the liturgical seasons pass by, make a big outward change in your life, too. Advent and Lent aren’t the only time for special resolutions. How can you make Advent the beginning of your year (which, liturgically speaking, it already is)? What can you resolve to do for every week of Ordinary Time?
What parish do you go to? If you bounce around, where would you turn in a crisis? That’s your parish. Invest in it. Make friends. Pray for your parish, even if you don’t have the time or ability to do anything else. I have a long commute, so I pray the rosary as I drive home each day. Once a month, I pray for my parish’s pastor and associate pastor, their health and intentions, and the intentions of the parish. They need the prayer; I need the prayer.
So much has already been said about prayer, Scripture, evangelization, and social justice. I won’t spill more e-ink on it here except to second Ghezzi’s recommendation of “friendship evangelization.” People aren’t projects, and you can’t convert anyone. (God does that.) What you can do is make a friend. Meet people’s genuine needs without counting the cost. Let the light of Christ shine through you in silence, and pray for an opportunity to speak up. Then, when you get the chance, share Jesus.
Living as a Catholic only ends when your life ends. How do you live out what you believe?