Thursday, June 16, 2011

What is a Practicing Catholic?

And old friend asked me today if I'm a practicing Catholic now.  I wasn't sure how to respond.  I guess so, seeing that I identify myself as a Catholic.  It's that whole practicing part that throws a wrench into my thoughts.  Do I practice something?  Do I need to practice?  What should I practice?  If I'm not a practicing Catholic, am I a perfect Catholic? a non-practitioner? or just not Catholic?

What is a lapsed Catholic?  Is that someone who misses church every week due to work or other obligations?  Is it someone who doesn't care anymore about their faith?

What does it mean to practice a faith?  Does that mean just praying?  Does it include going to church?  Does it mean discussing and sharing a faith?  Do you have to evangelize in order to be practicing?

And what does it mean to be Catholic?  Is it a title bestowed upon someone at their baptism that means they're part of the in- (or out-) crowd?  Does it mean someone goes to Mass every week?  Does it mean they pray the rosary each day, know volumes about church history and Tradition, and visit the imprisoned monthly?

Are you  practicing Catholic or a non-practicing Catholic or a practicing non-Catholic or a non-practicing non-Catholic?  What are your opinions here?


cm0978 said...

Good questions and much to ponder. I think of myself as simply Catholic. It seems that there are many former Catholics who have either joined another faith or who no longer participate in any faith. Some of these people still define themselves as Catholic. Perhaps being baptized lets you keep the title without actually having to do anything.

The practicing part has a fluid definition and means something different to each person. My version is going to weekly Mass and receiving the sacraments, going to confession, praying regularly, living the faith in daily life. If we all lived in small villages, it would be obvious who was "practicing" and who was not.

The word "practicing" is an odd choice, I have always thought. Is it like learning a musical instrument or participating in a sports program?

`Adrielne said...

I'm a practicing Catholic (well, my views slightly differ from those of the Church, but let's not get into that now), and my take on it is this.

Catholicism is about Jesus - His death, resurrection etc. bringing us the chance to live forever (after death, as a soul in Heaven). So the most important thing for us to do in our religious life is to get closer to God so we can go to Heaven ASAP once we kick the bucket in the mortal world. Right? And the way to do that is through sacraments. Eucharist (and Confession) is what I'm talking about here. Communion is the closest you can physically get to God while still on Earth.

Hm. Let's say you're happily in love. You WANT to see your partner as often as possible, right? Because you love them. And you want to spend every bit of your time with them and share your whole lives. Well, you love God, right? So assuming that's true, you want to share your whole life with Him - and the best way to do that is the one offered by Church, through Communion at Mass. And since Sunday is a holy day, God would appreciate you coming over then, if you don't have time for it in other days of the week, too. It's like... When you visit the grandparents or parents - they love you no matter what, but if you visit, they get to care for you and it makes them happy.

Some say that if you don't practice, you're not REALLY a Catholic. And I must say, I sort of agree. There's a million light years between believing in a god and identifying that as the Catholic God, and being a true Catholic. It's not a thing of "going by the book" and going to Mass, it's... Well, when you have this feeling that you SHOULD be at Mass every Sunday or you're missing something from your week - like what you'd have if you didn't get to visit that love of your life we talked about earlier - then you know that your relationship with God is much closer.

(this comment was originally longer, but it appears Blogger only allows 4096 characters per comment, so I'll just add a second one with the rest of what I wrote. Hope that's okay!)

`Adrielne said...

(part two of my comment - sorry for writing it out so much...)PRACTICING A FAITH. It means going to the respective place of prayer at intervals dictated by the rules of the faith, it means feeling a relationship with the deity the faith assumes belief in, it should also mean wanting to improve your religious life by trying to do MORE than you're doing with your faith.

I consider myself to be a practicing Catholic because I go to Mass every week (because I feel the need to and it gives me an hour of complete calming-down, helps me think through my problems etc, not because someone tells me to), I try to pray/meditate every day (not always in prayer itself - for the most part, it's more like a one-sided conversation, asking for help or advice or thanking for what I have, but I do use the rosary often, about once or twice a week if I have the time). I'm open to talk about my faith or any faith, as you can see by the length of this comment, but I don't make a point of expressing it everywhere I go (so no "Love Jesus or die" t-shirts, no bumper stickers, no blog posts trying to convert people - but if someone asks, I do try my best to give an answer, like here).

BEING CATHOLIC. To be Catholic, you have to be baptized, but being baptized does not mean you're Catholic. A bunch of my atheist/agnostic friends were baptized as children, but they no longer consider themselves as part of the faith. I think that to be Catholic, you have to believe and try to participate in sacraments.

I know a few people who have recently converted to catholicism, who don't go to Mass weekly YET, because they're working on understanding where the need to go should come from. And I think they're "better" Catholics than those, who go to Mass weekly just to be there, to show people they ARE in Church. And by "better" I mean making more of an effort to broaden their horizons in faith. Being Catholic means working on your faith in the way you see fit (the Church says you should work on it in a certain way - and they give you a list - but I think it's too personal a thing to make rules about).

I'm not sure how much that made sense - I personally don't think I'm all that great at expressing my views... But I'm willing to talk more about this, if you want to :)

Jules said...

Someone once told me, Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. But I have to disagree, since I no longer go to a Catholic church, no longer identify myself as still Catholic; Christian, yes, just not under the Catholic banner. So I guess to practice it means to do it, and so anyone who does the Catholic way of faith would be a practicing Catholic. And those who don't could be called lapsed I suppose. Interesting subject.