What does it mean to be Catholic?

Oftentimes we hear people say to be Catholic is to be a good person. Well, goodness is a characteristic of being Catholic, but it isn’t the only characteristic and it’s not enough to just be good.

Being Catholic means believing in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Being Catholic means seeking to live a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship that is the most important one in our lives and is the foundation of all of our other relationships in life.

Being Catholic means taking the time to spend with the Lord each day, to share our thoughts and dreams, to give Him praise and thanks for the blessings He has bestowed upon us. It also means taking time to just listen and to just be in His presence.

Being Catholic means taking the time to encounter the Lord in the Sacraments particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation. It is how we nourish the gift of faith and how we experience healing and forgiveness to grow in that relationship.

Being Catholic means observing the Sabbath, not just taking time for Mass, but dedicating the day to God and to rest.

Being Catholic means seeking to live as Christ. To be patient and loving towards others. To share the Lord’s compassion, mercy and forgiveness with others.

Being Catholic means being a missionary. The image that comes to mind often is the priest or religious sent off to a foreign land.

Yet, we are called to be missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, places of employment, anywhere we are. The Second Vatican Council stated that the “Church by nature is missionary.” It also defined the Church not as the magisterium or the ordained and religious, but all of the baptized — ordained and lay. That is who the “Christian faithful” are. All of us are called to be missionaries, each according to one’s own gifts and talents and vocation in life. We proclaim the Gospel by how we live our lives and by our words.

Father James Mallon, author of the book “Divine Renovation,” has said “The witness of life must come first, but it must lead to the Word of Life being proclaimed. Without actions, our words are not believed by our cynical post-modern, post-Christian society, but without words, our actions are not understood.”

A week or so ago, the Gospel of the day came from Luke and told the story of the first time Jesus sent the Apostles out to proclaim the Gospel. In His instructions He said “Take nothing with you.” In other words, to be missionaries of Jesus Christ, we don’t need an app, a Bible or “Catechism.” We don’t need any special training.

Curtis Martin, founder FOCUS, an organization that sends missionaries to university campuses, observed that we didn’t need to be trained to tell others of a good movie we saw, or a restaurant we want our friends to try. Why do we think we need training to share our love of Jesus Christ?

St. Peter tells us in the Scriptures: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

Our missionary task, our work of evangelization is not one of threatening or declaring to others what they are doing wrong. Rather, it is sharing our story.

Why do you believe in Jesus Christ? When have you experienced His presence and love? How has that made a difference? 

What keeps you rooted to your relationship with Him? What keeps you joyful and committed to Christ in the midst of the chaos you experience in life?

Is your faith life-giving? Has your faith made a difference, a life-changing difference in your life?

We need to take some time to reflect on these words and come up with an answer, an answer we can readily share in a loving, joyful and non-threatening way. An answer we know so well, it can fit into a normal conversation with a friend, co-worker or family member in a non-threatening way.

It is very possible that the answers don’t come easily. Yet, we need to take time to find the words, as imperfect as they are, that describes how important our relationship with the Lord is. 

Faith is an important part of who we are and of our story. We must not be afraid to share this story with others.

Anchor columnist Father David Frederici is pastor of St. George’s Parish in Westport and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.


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