Choosing to be Catholic

In several weeks, the Diocese of Fall River Office for Campus Ministry will hold our newest Charis young adult retreat entitled “Choosing to Be Catholic” which will be held on February 19-21 at Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham. Charis Retreats are peer-led and open to those in their 20s and 30s. The Choosing to Be Catholic Retreat asks the basic question: “Why do you choose to be Catholic?” That might very well be a question we all ask ourselves.

The Choosing to Be Catholic Retreat gives each retreatant an opportunity to reflect on what the commitment to being Catholic looks like in our day-to-day life. After all, when it comes to faith, we have a choice. So, why do you choose to be Catholic — were you raised Catholic or decided to become Catholic later in life, or if you’ve come back after drifting away or have been here all along? 

I believe being a Catholic primarily means that we have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ and that our faith is at the heart of who we are; the values, practices and norms of the Catholic faith have become intertwined with our sense of self-identity. This identity becomes a compass for our life, helping us make choices and put our faith into action. 

So what does it mean to you to be Catholic? Are we Catholic in more than name? Is our faith the center of who we are? I guess we can only answer that for ourselves; but I know that I have met many people in my life who are fully-committed Catholics. I don’t mean that they are fanatics or radicals or conservatives or diehards. I mean, rather, that I see in them God’s love present and moving outward from their hearts in all that they say and do. I see in them evidence of their relationship with God governing their actions, character and values. Simply put, they walk the talk. They let out what so many have trapped inside. As Catholics we are not called to a “me-God” relationship alone. We are called to an apostolic life. We are called to serve others. We are called to bring Christ to all others. 

The world is a crazy and scary place. And it is getting crazier and scarier by the second. So what can we do about it? What can one Catholic do? Well first of all, we can get off our butts and get out there and make a difference. The Cursillo movement of the Catholic Church, of which I am a member, has a basic plan of action for changing the world toward Christ. It’s a simple plan and an attainable plan. Simply put, the plan states that we are to change our environments toward Christ. That is, we work in a very limited area, those areas that we come into direct contact with. The areas might be our school or workplace, our family or town. These environments may have few or many people. The important point is that we can bring Christ to those environments and if we do, if we live as Catholics, we can actually have an effect on the environment and it will become more Christ-like. If we change enough environments, we can begin to have an affect on the world. 

Yes, we can do that! You need only to look around to find environments that you are involved in and you can begin to work today to make those environments more Christian. If we all had an affect on our own environments, ultimately we might very well change the world one person at a time. Now that seems doable —right?

But we need to get to work. We can’t just throw up our hands and say it’s crazy out there. If we only dwell on the current world situation, we may very well give up. But let’s not give up, let’s look around and see where we can make a difference and then make a difference!

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in an address to young people a few years back, “To build your life on Christ, to accept the Word with joy and put its teachings into practice: this, young people of the third millennium, should be your program! There is an urgent need for the emergence of a new generation of Apostles anchored firmly in the Word of Christ, capable of responding to the challenges of our times and prepared to spread the Gospel far and wide. It is this that the Lord asks of you, it is to this that the Church invites you, and it is this that the world — even though it may not be aware of it — expects of you!”

In this Year of Mercy, let’s take a closer look at what it means to be Catholic. Being Catholic is not just about the rules. It’s not just about what we can’t do. It’s about what we should be doing. 

I think Cardinal Timothy Dolan put it beautifully in an interview about vocations. “The Church,” he said, “is always looked upon as saying ‘no’ to everything. And, we aren’t saying ‘no.’ The Church is one big ‘yes.’ Yes to anything that will make us truly happy in this life and the next.”

Join us on the Choosing to Be Catholic Retreat to reflect on what the commitment to being Catholic looks like in your day-to-day life. Or, if you can’t join us on the retreat, continue on a joyful pilgrimage of faith and action in your own life. Let’s work together, young and old, to embrace the fullness of our Catholic identity at a time when many may be wondering what it means to be Catholic. Let’s share with each other the various beliefs, traditions, and practices that externally mark one a Catholic that we may discover the richness and deeper meaning of our own Catholic identity in today’s world. Let’s discover what it means to be Catholic! Then let’s live our lives as fully committed Catholics.

From the prayer that was prayed at a past World Youth Day, please keep these words in mind as you go about your day: “We believe in the Church, the people of God, who brings this faith to life through word and deed. This is our Catholic faith. This is who we are.”

And we are proud to profess it through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen

For more information or to register for the Choosing to Be Catholic Retreat, visit umassdcatholics.com, or call Deacon Frank Lucca at 508-999-8872.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts