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To smack (some sense into) a Catholic

I, along with many before me, believe that there is salvation in other religions. I know there are those out there that believe that you have to be insert religion here to be saved, but I am not one of them. Catholicism, believe it or not, is a pretty tolerant religion when it comes to seeing and borrowing the good in other faiths. As a result, we do believe that heaven may be full of people from other faiths. Don't believe me? Check out the instructor's book at your local confirmation class meeting. During my brief stint as a CCD instructor, one of the things I highlighted in that book (and made sure to stress during class) was a passage that said that there are good aspects to other religions that can be borrowed by Catholics seeking to improve their religious life. I myself have already borrowed a few things here and there from a few other faiths.

 I will say, however, that Catholicism, is the most complete religion for me.  Based on what I have learned about Catholicism and every other religion in all those gen-ed classes I've had to take, my very colorful collection of friends from every faith group imaginable, and from my own research...I have come to the conclusion that the Catholic faith is the only one that could work for me. I do not mean to say that other faiths out there are somehow worth less than Catholicism....far from it. I am of the same mind as St. Francis of Assisi when it comes to other religions (or at least I try to be...unless it's the WBC or some other nutty cult). As long as your particular religion calls for you to live a virtuous life full of faith, hope, and love...while respecting my own religious beliefs...it's okay by my book.

St. Francis once took it upon himself to break through enemy lines during the Crusades in an effort to convert the Sultan and anyone who would listen. He sought to preach the good word and figured that he could help these people become Christians...or at least become a martyr in the process. He did not succeed in either mission. He did, however, leave on friendly terms with the Sultan and his men. After his encounter, he even attempted to get Christians to respect the beliefs of their Muslim brothers and sisters. He saw the faith of these people and could not help but appreciate it. He was impressed by their reverent treatment of the Qur'an, their daily calls to prayer, and their constant acknowledgment of God. Though it was popular in those days for Christians to speak out against Muslims and Islam, Saint Francis encouraged Christians to live among Muslims and to respect them.

He did this because he believed that there were lessons to be learned from our Muslim brothers and sisters. He believed that these lessons could improve the prayer lives and faith of Christians. I think he's right. There is certainly a lot we can learn from people of other faiths...just as I am sure there is a lot to learn from our own faith. There are lots of  great nonCatholic role models out there (like C.S. Lewis)....just as there are plenty of great Catholic role models (like Bl. Mother Teresa and JPII).

Truth is, even though I know a lot of great Catholics...I know some "they-can't-be-serious"/"this-must-be-a-cry-for-help" Catholics too. Unfortunately, I have the toughest time biting my tongue when it comes to these people. I personally know a Catholic who stopped going to mass and I came dangerously close to smacking (some sense into) them. No, I didn't want to smack them for not going to mass anymore. I wanted to smack them for all the bad habits that followed their departure from mass. You see, though this Catholic created a gaping hole in their faith life by not attending mass, they found some pretty crappy replacements for this hole.

A few examples of crappy replacements:

Instead of going to mass and listening to some padre's sermon,  this person had the genius idea of foregoing any such sermons. No, this person knew a lot more than any seminary-educated padre in matters of religion. Therefore, they started doing that whole "spiritual, personal relationship with God" thing. Hey, this may actually work for some people. Unfortunately, however, it doesn't seem like this approach is working for this particular person. I get the impression that this person's journey to God has led them farther away from Him and closer to nonsense. You see, this person started listening to Harrold Camping's "RAPTURE 2011" BS and BELIEVING IT. Though they weren't foolish enough to sell all their possessions, quit their job, and spend their life savings in anticipation for the end of the world... they were pretty scared to death about the rapture that never came. They were ABSOLUTELY convinced that this rapture would come even when other Catholics attempted to reason with them.

Was this experience enough to knock some sense into them?

Nope.

Prof. Trelawney doodle from one of my older sketchbooks
You see, this individual consults pay-by-minute psychics to interpret dreams and who knows what else. This kind of thing really bothers me. I mean, you go out of your way to live a more "spiritual" faithful life with the intention of bringing yourself closer to God. You do it so that you can improve your religious life and become a better person. Why the hell would you need a psychic to tell you everything is okay when you supposedly have everything under control? Why would you need a psychic to tell you everything is okay when you supposedly have gotten closer to God by being more "spiritual?" Why do you trust someone over the phone (who's charging you money!) more than you would trust a mass service? The Eucharist? A good sermon? Scripture readings?

The sad thing is, this isn't the only thing amiss in this person's life. This person lives by so many superstitions, that I may just make a book out of them...or get some anthropology PhD to use them all for a dissertation topic. In this person's presence, the smallest things can lead to a Professor Trelawney-esque doomsday prediction. Don't do this, or it will mean a death in the family. Don't do that, or there will be 3 years of bad luck. Don't do that other things because it will disturb the dead. How can anyone live like this?!?

Am I missing something here? The way I see it, these are all steps back from a genuine life of faith...from a genuine state of grace (friendship with God). If you live a life of good faith (regardless of the faith), you trust in God. You don't put your trust in nuts like Harrold Camping. You don't put your trust in Miss Cleo. You don't put your trust in superstitions. You put your trust in God as a father, as a creator, and as a friend. You actively seek God without ever needing to resort to half of the garbage that this person seeks. If you truly wish to speak with Him, He will listen...and will be willing to answer you (just not always in the way you expect and not always in the way you want Him to answer you).

 I truly wish I could take this person aside and smack some sense into them. However, it's never that easy. There is a limit to what one can say to people like this without offending this other person or just having them ignore you. Somehow, I feel like this person will probably never change. It's sad, but it's true. This person will probably never truly accept God into their lives in the way they wish to accept Him (or even claim to accept Him). They're just too busy focusing on uncertainty, omens, good luck charms, you name it...to ever spend enough time on God.

Quasi-disclaimer: There is a chance that I am wrongfully judging this individual. In all truth, they may just have a good relationship with God. There is a chance that they may actually live a good "spiritual" life. It is possible that I just don't see their faith as well as I do the faith of other individuals. However, I truly see the use of psychics, avoidance of omens, and complete trust in Camping as signs of a weak faith.

Pax Vobiscum

2 comments:

  1. Great post, good points! Especially about learning from other religions- they can serve as ways to strengthen!

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  2. Sounds like the person is just thrashing around, trying to avoid something in Mass. Not every sermon is going to be a winner for you, you just have to accept it and see how to apply it to your own life as best you can.

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