Rediscovering Catholicism

I just finished reading Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. I’m not writing a book review. I love reading, but that’s totally not my thing… so I won’t even try. What I WILL do is comment on some of the awesome things I picked up the first time through! I didn’t know you could get a free copy here, but I’m glad that if you can’t afford to purchase a copy, you can still get your hands on it.

This book is full of questions and challenges for WHY we aren’t the people we ought to be. Of course, that’s a question we’re always trying to answer. But especially as the Catholic Church, where is our vigor? Our zeal? Our passion? It’s something that I have been struggling with for almost 9 months now.

Sometimes, I felt like Matthew Kelly was taking thoughts right out of my head… as if we had just spoken and he had recorded what I said on paper. Sometimes, his perspective is something I wasn’t seeing.

“Holiness brings us to life… it elevates our emotions. Holiness doesn’t stifle us, it sets us free. Holiness is to allow each moment to be all it can be.”

“The surest signs of holiness are an insatiable desire to improve oneself and an unquenchable concern for unholy people.”

“There is nothing more attractive than holiness.”

Wow. Maybe that’s old news for you, but in my journey… coming from the the community where I grew up and the Church as she interacted with me up until last summer, this is big news. I have said it a billion times since moving back home: I don’t feel like anyone ever called me to holiness here. No one called me to be the “best version of myself,” as Kelly puts it. No one made it so simple!!

“If you went into an ice cream store and there was no ice cream, you’d say, “There’s a problem!” If you went into a chocolate store and there was no chocolate, you’d say, “There’s a problem!” The mission of the Church is to share the Gospel, and to teach, challenge, and encourage people to become more like Jesus Christ. So how is it that we can belong to a local church community that goes on year after year with almost no outreach to the unchurched in the area, and with very few people really becoming more Christ-like (i.e. working to be holy!), and yet think there is no problem?! Let me tell you, if this describes your church community, “There’s a problem!!”

I suppose what it really comes down to is whether or not we sincerely believe that knowing and following Christ is the best way to live. I suspect that, on some level, most Catholics don’t. Because if we did, we would most likely be more excited to share it.

What an achievable, easy thing to do. It’s not new age. It’s not complicated. It is exactly what the mission has been from the beginning. Be holy, as Christ was holy! Then WHY is it so difficult? Why have our communities forgotten to keep working towards holiness?

“The questions we ask in life are just as important as the answers we find. When we ask the wrong questions, we always find the wrong answers. Our modern culture is asking all the wrong questions, and that is why so many are living lives of quiet desperation. These are the questions we are encouraged to ask by this so-called advanced culture:
What do I want to do?
What’s in it for me?
Will it feel good?
How can I get more people to serve me?
How can I do less and get more?
How can I get more power?”

Maybe we’re paying far too much attention to answering those questions. I know I need to work harder to keep asking the questions that matter, not the garbage that drives my actions and efforts to be insignificant and selfish.

Recently, I have read more anti-Catholic hate about the examination of conscience app than I care to remember. It hurts me, personally, because I feel so connected to the Church. I know that is a self-centered notion, because it’s not all about me, but I can’t help it. I wish, though, that more people would realize this:

“Even before kindergarten, we are taught the governing laws of the universe. One of these is the universal law of cause and effect. Every cause has an effect. Every action has a reaction.

In a sense the universe has a perfect accounting system. This is the wonder and perfection of God’s creation. It is these laws that keep everything in balance and harmony. As a result, no debt in the universe goes unpaid. All debts must be settled.

This is where the ideas of penance and fasting are linked.

We practice penance not because we want to punish ourselves or destroy ourselves, nor is it because the Church wants us to feel guilty or have a poor self-image; but rather, we practice penance as an expression of sorrow and to be restored. We want to be all we can be. We want to be all God created us to be. We want to become the best version of ourselves.”

He expands on his thoughts about Catholic education… and, coming from a K-12 Catholic education, I readily agree with him. It has most certainly become less than its potential. Like I said… no one called me to holiness. I was told that God would give me real happiness, and I accepted that. Maybe this attitude would have gotten further:

“Young people want to give their lives to something worthy. They may not be consciously aware of this desire, but nonetheless, they are moved by this desire. Young people don’t want to be shown the path of compromise and least resistance. They want to be challenged to be all they can be. They want to be guided in the paths of truth, virtue, and happiness. They want to be coached to become the best version of themselves. In short, they want to know the Gospel.”

YES!!! That’s me! I realize that this is a challenge — this is a counter-culture lifestyle! And I WANT it because I don’t think there is anything better than this! The work, the suffering, the difficulty of all this will pay off, one day, in a way we can only imagine. It is WORTH it to love a God who loves me unconditionally, abundantly, and more deeply than I will ever know. And it took 22 years for me to truly feel compelled to live my life to the fullest, to strive to be the best version of myself.

I’m sure most of this seems like excerpt vomit, but I really don’t intend for it to be… like I said earlier, I honestly feel as though some of these things were my thoughts first!! I will end with the paragraph that made me order this book in the first place — an excerpt that was sent to me in the same way I am using them here… sharing what touched my heart.

“The Church doesn’t force people to do things. The Church is a lover who comes to propose to the beloved. The Church proposes to you a certain course of action for certain situations. The Church proposes to you and me a certain way of life. And each of us, like the beloved who is proposed to, must accept the proposal or turn down the proposal. But, whatever our decision, we must live with that decision forever.”

I believe that there comes a moment, for all of us, when we realize that Christ truly is our beloved. For me, it was little moments, glimpses of the truth. It was an afternoon before the Blessed Sacrament when I had to finally acknowledge that His heart was set on me. Life changes, in that moment, because we have to answer to the proposal. Do you love me as I love you? And the Church is constantly calling out to us — here is the way to love Him back! This is the way to say yes.

We can’t bring people to that moment. We can’t push them into an understanding. But we can and should live to inspire them to desire it.

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