Sadly, many "lazy" Catholics have never, ever taken the time to learn what the Catholic Church believes & teaches. IF they did, they would come to realize the beauty, the richness, the love affair with Christ that is the foundation of the One, True Faith. As the beloved Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said, "Not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is." Unfortunately, there are many baptized in the Catholic faith that can not defend her.
At the age of 8, I was given the St. Joseph's Missal to follow the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Introduction, it explains the principle parts of the Mass. This red bound book paved the way to my understanding why Catholics do what we do every Sunday of our lives. This journey continues and I hope never ends. So what makes someone thirst for knowledge and others not?
Parents: My parents are/were devout Catholics. Mom at the age of 91 still attends Mass on a daily basis. She prays for hours each day and is an avid reader of Catholic literature. My dad, who has died, prayed the rosary, attended Mass and was unashamed of his love for Our Blessed Mother. He wore a gold Miraculous Medal for forty years. One day, I saw him go to his garden and pick a yellow rose. I asked him where was he going with it. In a reverent tone, he said, "I'm bringing it to Our Lady." This big, bear of a man gently placed it in a bud vase by the statue of Our Lady of Grace on mother's dresser. This kind of gesture helps a child realize there is something wonderfully special about his/her faith.
Example & Tradition: All Catholic holidays/holy days were made special in my family. The focus, unlike today, was on the religious aspect rather than the secular. Midnight Mass....a church filled with poinsettias, choir singing its heart out to Emmanuel. To this day, I sing "Happy Birthday" to the baby Jesus as I place the tiny statue in His manger. Easter....shhhhhh, the vigil Mass....a dark church suddenly alive with hundreds of lit candles to welcome the Risen Christ, Alleluia! With a palm dipped in holy water, the male head of our household blesses the family gathered around our Easter table. Regardless of what friends we are with...what restaurant we are at, we are unashamed to make the sign of the cross, bow our heads and say grace before our meal. Growing up, saints were honored in neighborhood festivities....St. Joseph feast, a fair in remembrance of St. Marie Goretti. The story of this young saint who was raped and murdered, but who forgave her assailant before she died, was recounted each year. It set the example of forgiveness and grace for the children who heard it. Remember incense? For me, it was a hint of what God might smell like. Okay, now I associate Him with the scent of pine. (Scent of God ) But as a child....God wore incense cologne.
Get Involved: It's amazing how many think that Catholics are ignorant of the Bible. Poppycock! Pick up the Mass Book at church. When cycle A B C of this book is completed, the whole Bible has been read. There are plenty of Catholic Bible study guides, countless CDs & DVDs explaining the Bible by Catholic authors. Classes are full with Catholics wanting to learn more about Sacred Scripture. Renew programs, Cornerstone retreats, Charismatic Conferences abound for those who hunger for knowledge of the faith. I took a friend to a charismatic prayer meeting....in no time she was clapping her hands as we sang God Is An Awesome God. Grinning she asked, "Why hadn't I known about this?" Not all Catholics sit at the back of the church and look like the "frozen chosen". Get involved. Make an effort. Join. It can be something as fun as helping with the church carnival. Being active in a church program puts you together with other Catholics. There is nothing more deeply spiritual than sleeping on a carpeted floor in front of a displayed Monstrance with other adoring Catholic women. I actually had this wonderful experience at a Woman's Cornerstone Retreat.
Friends: Birds of a feather flock together. Befriend a priest or nun. They are often separated from family. Invite a religious to share a meal at your home. Is there a visiting priest in your parish? He most likely hails from another country. What a wonderful opportunity to hear how foreigners celebrate the Universal Faith. And boy, do they! My life has been enriched by the friendships of priests, monks and sisters. I sat at the feet of Benedict Groeschel C.F.R., a Franciscan author, psychologist & activist, and listened to him speak. The nuggets of truth and wisdom he shared brought me closer to Christ. Truly, he is a living saint. My circle of Catholic friends is forged with the spirit of love and familiarity. We intercede for one another, we grow in our faith as we learn together and edify each other. Through these relationships, I have grown spiritually stronger. They have made me a better person in countless ways.
Read, Read, Read: Many voracious readers will go from one romance, mystery or self-help book after the other and never think of picking up a book about his/her Catholic faith. I know a Catholic man who reads many books on "spirituality"....A Course In Miracles, Power of the Subconscious Mind, The Secret, but has never picked up one written by St. Augustine, Dorothy Day, John Henry Newman, Peter Kreeft or St. John Paul the Great. He can talk for hours on what makes a person a good Christian, a good person, but is clueless about the Catholic faith he practices. I believe there would be fewer disenchanted Catholics if they educated themselves in the most beautiful faith on the entire earth...the one created by Christ. Yes, there have been scandalous popes, priests, nuns and situations, but if we looked at the lineage of Christ.... murderers, adulterers, schemers, cowards....we might wonder....how could someone so perfect come from this? And so it is the same with Catholicism.
I cringe when I hear, "I don't get anything out of the Mass" mainly because the homily wasn't riveting. A stirring homily is nice, but that's not why I'm there. I love the prayers, the hymns and liturgy, but most of all the Eucharist. It takes my breath away. How can you not fall in love with the Holy Mass when you know the true Presence of Christ is in your midst? This knowledge brings me to my knees and tears to my eyes. Everything from the vestments the priest wears, to the beauty of the chalice, the stained glass windows, the awesome statues makes me aware that I'm on holy ground....I'm in the home of the King of Kings. I'm there to spend an hour with my Savior. Every gesture, every word, every part of the Mass has a special purpose. Knowing what that meaning, that purpose is, gives us a glimpse into the eyes of God.
Converts: No one is more on fire than a convert to Catholicism. They put most "cradle Catholics" to shame. These men & women didn't convert because their future spouse asked them to...no, they systematically xed off all the "obstacles" that prevented them from converting. Intelligent, Bible believing people seeking the Truth listened to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. They heard Christ's call to leave all behind and follow Him...straight home to the Catholic Church. The books converts have written explains Catholicism in a no-nonsense approach. Some are: Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home, Jeff Cavins', Great Adventures Series, Kim Hahn's, Catholic For A Reason & If Protestantism Is True by Devin Rose. The most riveting testimonies come from Jewish converts, Hebrew Catholics. It is said that Judaism is the root and Catholicism is the flower. Want to better understand and appreciate being Catholic, then read, Honey From The Rock: Sixteen Jews Find The Sweetness Of Christ, complied by Roy Schoeman. Hebrew Catholic Association.
I just don't get...When They Just Don't Get The Catholic Faith. For me, my heart bursts with pride-I feel privileged to be a Catholic, an enchanted Catholic. Thank You, Jesus!