I have to be honest. When I heard that the Catholic Church had declared this year the “Year of Faith”, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Maybe it’s my ‘convert’ status rising up again, but while those around me were excited about the upcoming Year of Faith, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with myself. Faith is so huge! Such a giant topic! How am I supposed to focus on ‘faith’? To me, that’s everything there is. Too big, too vague, too much. Could they give me a little bit smaller bite to chew?
So, after being stubborn for a few days, I realized that the Church, in Her wisdom, would not proclaim a Year of Faith and not include little ol’ me in the plan somehow. By God’s grace, there must be something in this for me. I was not excused from the party. So, I started pondering… Faith… what can I do this year to increase my faith, and the faith of those around me?
Some thoughts have risen to the surface.
“Authenticity” is what echoes throughout everything.
For me, I realize that being an authentic Catholic is something I am called to. A Catholic in everything, not just on Sundays, not just when I pray in the morning, not just when I drive by a church and make the sign of the cross. But at every moment. If I don’t let the “Catholic-ness” of my life overflow into everything, then I am probably just a fraud. And, in this world of increasing atheism, I believe that it is only this Catholic authenticity that will reach through to anyone.
So, how can I be more authentic? Sounds nice, but what does it mean?
When I was a new Catholic, I thought my “Catholicity” could be demonstrated by the books on my bookshelf, by the crucifix around my neck, by the saints I could quote. All this is good and well, but I don’t think that is what God was after when He sought for me a true Catholic life. Over time, I’m figuring it out. I’ve learned a few things. And I’m sure I’ve much more to learn.
I’ve decided that I will not compartmentalize my life. Don’t misplace me, I am not an “in your face” type of Catholic. I’m not going to lecture old Aunt Agnes on the Just War Theory or preach to little cousin Sammy about why he should wear a scapular. But, in the same way, I won’t be afraid to tell my atheist nephew that I pray for him every day. I’ll keep inviting a struggling friend to Mass, even if he keeps saying no. I won’t relegate certain Facebook posts to my “Catholic” friends and not to others. I won’t hide my faith or Catholic accomplishments on professional descriptions like Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. I will be me, 100%, all the time.
For me, this is not natural. On one side of my heritage, I have my Irish solidity – “keep stuff to yourself, already!” On the other side I have lots of Victorian propriety – “There are just some things we don’t talk about.” Put these two together, and you’ve got a girl who really would rather keep most of what she believes behind closed doors. But, that’s just not being true to who I am.
In this world of media, of constant updating, status (statii? is that a word?), profiles and images, people can recreate themselves every few minutes. Being authentic is even more important. It stands out. It’s actually kinda different.
And, for me, authenticity means being honest. I can’t live safely within a Catholic bubble. I can’t hide behind what I want people to think I am. I have to be honest about things that are hard for me. I need to be willing to be seen as an imperfect person. Whether it is in my marriage, my friendships or even my writing, I need not put on airs or make light of challenges in my life. If I can help someone else see the life of faith as something doable, because my struggles are something they can relate to, then God can serve others through my weaknesses.
“These two facts balance the scales of trust: our nothingness and our allness.”
We are real, we Catholics. And faith is hard, sometimes. But it is real, too, or we wouldn’t keep striving, day after day, to get one tiny step closer to Jesus. We can see in this world, in every corner and in every person, some goodness that points to the realization that God exists, and that our Faith is true, tangible and worth living for. We may be pretty insignificant in the eyes of the world. We may not make headlines. But, by living out our faith completely and holding nothing back from the world, we never know who might be encouraged, might take a second look at Jesus. For me, this is what the Year of Faith is about.
“The acceptance of life as it is must teach us trust and humility. This is because every real experience of life is an experience of God. Every experience of God makes us realize our littleness, our need, our nothingness, but at the same time the miracle of Christ in us. Not only are we one of God’s creatures — which is in itself a guarantee of His eternal creating love — but we are also His Christ, His only Son, the sole object of His whole love. These two facts balance the scales of trust: our nothingness and our allness.” – Caryll Houselander