A few of my Catholic friends and I are reading Matthew Kelly’s Resisting Happiness this Lent as a way of sharing our faith.
Today, as we got underway on Ash Wednesday, we encountered what Kelly calls “resistance.” The concept is at the center of the book, and in many forms, it is what ails the Catholic church itself right now.
How does resistance impact the Catholic faith? The answer, I believe, lies in the idea that many of us fail — on a daily basis — to truly make the faith our own.
Through the years, I’ve seen several people I’m close to — inside my own family and out — leave the Catholic faith “in search of” what they term “a better fit” for their spiritual needs.
As Catholics, they met resistance in its many forms and chose to deal with it by seeking out something different — instead of using that resistance as a call to change themselves, or how they experience the faith, in a way that would allow them to remain part of the church in which they were raised.
Through my recent dealings with some extremely talented young people at K-State, I’ve heard a common refrain: the Catholic church doesn’t meet all of my needs.
Here’s where I’d love to see them — and the older Catholics who may have “faith shopped” and left the church — undertake a process in which they overcome that resistance and make the Catholic faith truly their own.
Here are a few examples of how they might do that:
- Volunteer to be part of the Mass. Usher. Be a lector. Sing in the choir. Distribute communion. During my days at St. Isidore’s in Manhattan, I was as close to God in every facet of my life as I’ve ever been. And I think that was, in large part, because I was completely immersed in the “process.” I absolutely loved lectoring, and need to get back to doing it again!
- Get “into” the weekly readings…and maybe into the Bible for the first time. One of the things I’ve attempted to do with some of my K-State friends is to provide them a Missal so that they might have the weekly readings at hand prior to…and during…the Mass. In too many Catholic churches, attendees sit idly by during the First and Second Readings — and the Gospel reading, for that matter — rather than fully engaging in what is being shared. And for years, those of us who grew up as “old school” Catholics resisted reading the Bible. It was “something those of other faiths” did on a regular basis. I really spent little or no time in reading the Bible myself until my participation in Christ Renews His Parish while living in Lenexa. It was then, in 2012, that I “gave myself permission” to do something that I had heretofore considered to be “un-Catholic.”
- Seek out Homilies worth listening to. If you’re not hearing a Homily each week that moves you, get online and find one! Several of the best Catholic priests in the country post their Homilies, and time spent listening to those podcasts or watching those YouTube videos is time well-spent!
- Put together a small group of Catholic friends…and grow the group naturally. It doesn’t matter what brings you together. It could be the desire to really break down the four Gospels. It might be the need to find someone to work with on a philanthropic endeavor. Or it simply might be a need to remind yourself of how beautiful the Catholic faith was when you first learned of its rich history and traditions.
What “overcoming resistance” comes down to, in regard to how we grow our Catholic faith, is really fairly simple.
We each need to remember what drew us to our faith in the first place. We need to take a trip back in time to when that faith was fresh, when it was exciting, when it was filled with wonder. We need to celebrate the traditions that make our shared Catholic faith unlike any other, anywhere.
In short, we need to resist the notion that it’s better to leave our Catholic faith than to work at making it our own, where we’re at TODAY.
Resist no more, my Catholic friends. Our faith is there in all of its beauty, to be rediscovered and redefined — for you, and by you.