I thought the Catholic Church was “too political” for me. Not only did I think it was political but also unpopular and old fashioned. Old fashioned in the sense that the Church didn’t understand our modern times and refused to see the challenges of the various individuals struggling in our world. As a young social worker (yeah I know, I still am) early in my career and really even during my education I was faced with a few people who were vehemently anti-Christian. We had a professor who was Catholic (which we assumed because of her awesome rosary tattoo). She was completely ripped apart one day during a class for being Catholic. It was a class on diversity and culture. The thought process was that because she was Catholic, she couldn’t possibly understand diversity. She couldn’t understand women and their needs or the LGBTQ community or really any ‘group’ from a realistic standpoint because she had this Catholic lense. I faced a similar situation in a class about grief and loss when a Christian professor admitted to being pro-life.
I interpreted these experiences and others to mean that people who claim to be Christian are basically closed minded and if I wanted to be a social worker and advocate for the marginalized, I could not be Catholic. I became Catholic in 2010 and this is maybe around 2011. I didn’t know enough to speak up and quite frankly, I was really afraid to. As recent as probably about a year ago I began to feel more equipped to speak on this because the truth is, Jesus is about the dignity of all humans. He is about real, deep and genuine love regardless of any political line, contemporary opinion or personal thoughts on a given person or group. Honestly, I don’t think I really realized that at the time. I had been told as much but in my personal experience with Catholics there seemed to be more of an ‘us versus them’ mentality and anything that didn’t fit under some segment of the Catholic rulebook wasn’t allowed.
It is with time, research, and books as well as particular podcasts and bloggers that helped me to challenge the idea of what it means when people say Jesus is love. Instead of seeing Catholics as people who on one occasion feed a homeless person and then pass them by every other time, I came in contact with people who actually lived the word. People who identify as Catholic and truly believe and fight for the dignity of others. They paid special attention to those who are not Catholic, who do not look or think like us, who do not identify as heterosexual or maybe pro- life and I did not think that would be the case. To take it a step further… I am meeting Catholics who invite in the stranger, talk to their neighbors, and build community wherever they are.
Guys, this is the meaning of being Catholic. Because we believe in the inherent dignity of others, because we try to love those who challenge us and because we live out each day in the way that Jesus had. We need to always remember our core, our heart and what our purpose is. Being Catholic to me means being radical. I am going to work hard to advocate, love, and challenge popular opinion if I need to. Again, we as Catholics are radical and sometimes (or maybe most of the time) that means we are called to be unpopular.
I will end this by asking you, are you really living like Jesus did or at least trying to? Are you loving, supporting and serving others as best as you can? And if you aren’t, how can you change this?
I personally need to take a good look at myself and make a lot of changes to better live the way I am called to.3