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The Modern Authentic Catholic

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Perhaps at one time in history, being "Catholic" may felt much like a death sentence. To declare one's allegiance to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church meant risking the label of papist or traitor, and succumbing to trials, torture or execution. Even in parts of the United States, Catholics have, at times, been barely tolerated. Yet if one was fortunate enough to live in a geographical location and during a time period that did not employ enmity against Catholics, it was fairly easy to, well, be one.

What does being Catholic actually entail?

  • Attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation
  • Receiving the sacrament of reconciliation on a regular basis
  • Receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist on a regular basis
  • Praying and almsgiving
  • Reading the Bible and the Catechism
  • Following the bishop's directive about fasting, mass attendance, and the sacraments

If one is able to set aside the culture in which one lives, it seems relatively easy to be a Catholic by these standards, however, if one wishes to be more authentically Catholic, what must one do? Our primary duty to love God and neighbor is often met with challenges in the real world. When moral teaching comes into direct conflict with loving our neighbor, most Catholics feel that there must be a middle ground somewhere.

  • To be Catholic means to be pro-life
  • Catholics believe that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman
  • Divorce and remarriage is not acceptable in Catholic living
  • Euthanasia goes against Catholic teaching

Confronting modern social and moral dilemmas is not easy for Catholics because somewhere along the line we've encountered a loved one who is pregnant and wants an abortion; we've been touched by the conflicted son or daughter who says "I'm gay"; we've been divorced and then meet the person who shares our values and faith and we wish to remarry; we've watched a loved one suffer in pain and agony and we wish to do the merciful thing and end their suffering.

How do we love God and neighbor, follow the Church's teachings, and call ourselves Catholic if it means

a) enabling the ones we love to sin against God's commandments

or

b) counteract the sinful behavior by not giving our support?

The answer to these heart-wrenching dilemmas can be found in the gospels. Jesus did not come into a perfect world. He didn't wear a bright blue t-shirt, hold up a blue flag and guide a group of followers that were all headed for the best scenic tour. "I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners," (Mk 2:17) he said. Jesus went into the fray. He preached about love, not about love that supports sin but love that supports sinners and he showed them the way to salvation.

A modern authentic Catholic has Christ's example to follow. Love God and neighbor. Help neighbor turn away from sin, not by condemning the sinner but by loving them away from harm, being available for encouragement, offering assistance, and providing a shoulder if that is all one can do. Being a modern authentic Catholic means the same today as it did when Christ physically walked this earth.

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