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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Catholics knowing and/or living their faith

by Catherine Frakas 21 Sep 2001

Catholics knowing and/or living their faith QUESTION from Dave Conger on June 12, 2002 I have a friend, John, who was considering becoming Catholic for a while but is now no longer interested. I'd say the main problem he has is the Real Presence. Despite all the apologetics arguments there are, he says, If Jesus is really present, then why don't more people ACT like it?
John also adds that so many young Catholics he's known, as well as their parents, know little about what the Church teaches. I'd like to add that John has also said that at no Catholic parish he's ever been to do the people there seem to live their faith. How would he know that? For that matter, even if that were true, then if you were me, what would you say to John to show him that just because there are Catholics who don't know and/or live their faith does not mean Catholicism isn't true? By the way, John is a Protestant and basically claims that Protestants live their faith much more so than Catholics. How would you respond to THAT?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on July 6, 2002 Dear Mr. Conger:
What would I say to that? Well, I would say that John is copping out.
I grew-up as a Protestant and was a Baptist and later a non-denominational preacher for 15 years before I became Catholic. I have seen just as many non-practicing or lazy Protestants as I have non-practicing or lazy Catholics.
One of the questions that struck me when I converted and began to study the lives of the Saints is Why are there not more Protestant saints who lived holy lives and died a holy martyrdom?
There are Protestants who have been very holy and who have died holy martyrdom but not in the numbers as in the Catholic Church.
Even when Protestant martyrs have died noble deaths it has often not been with the same holiness as with Catholic marytrs.
I can think of a great example of this with two martyrs of the concentration camps of Nazis Germany -- Bonhoeffer (a Protestant minister) and Kolbe (a Catholic priest).
Bonhoeffer was a great man. I have used his life and have quoted him in my reflections and sermons. But he did not die with the same sanctity as did Maximillian Kolbe.
Bonheoffer died for a cause -- the noble cause of Christ and the cause of fighting against the Nazis.
This is a great cause.
Maximillian Kolbe, however, died to save a specific man. Kolbe could have died in the camps like all the rest and would have been considered a hero for the cause of Christ and the cause of fighting the Nazis. But he took an extra step.
The Nazis were going to kill 10 men in retribution for a man trying to escape. One of the 10 was a family man with wife and children. Kolbe stepped forward from the crowd (an act that could have gotten him killed on the spot) and asked to take the place of this man. The Nazis officer agreed.
This act is of higher sanctity than dying for a cause in general (as great as the msrtyrdom for a cause and for the faith is). This act of Kolbe was not just an act of dying for his faith, but dying for a stranger specifically and personally.
I wonder why there are more cases like Kolbe in the Catholic Church than there are in the Protestant groups?
Just some thoughts!
Anyway, the reason why non-catholics think that Catholics do not live their faith is that Catholics are more compassionate than Protestants.
For illustration I will speak of the Baptist Church since that is what I know from personal experience.
In a typical Baptist Church you will not find very many impious people (at least openly). That is because the culture of the Baptist Church is such that it does not accept people who do not at least live the faith publicly. Baptist will be concerned for a person as long as they are on their way to repentance, but anyone who is backslidden and not repenting does not feel that welcomed in a typical Baptist Church.
In other words, the active parishioners of a typical Baptist Church are active and practicing Baptists. Those among the Baptist ranks that are not living a good Baptist life either stop coming to church altogether or find a very large Church where they can be unnoticed.
The culture of the Baptist Church and most evangelical churches is that of a born-again fraternity of active members.
This is not the case in the Catholic Church. The culture of the Catholic Church is that a family and when the family meets for a meal ALL the family are welcomed -- even stinky uncle Joe who is an embarassment to the rest.
We Catholics hope that by being compassionate toward the stinky Uncles Joe's and allowing them to come to our Mass (meal), that the good Catholics and the lives they lead will rub off on him.
The good Catholics are a testimony to the lazy Catholics. But this cannot happen if we have an environment where Uncle Joe feels he cannot come to Mass because he is not as good a Catholic as the others.
Thus, in a typical parish one will see FAR more lazy parishioners, or even bad parishioners, than one will typically see in the more exclusive culture of the Baptist parish.
As for your friend judging an entire parish or parishes as not living out their faith, this is sin on John's part. He cannot possible know that from a visit or two, or even multiple visits.
This is called the sin of rash judgement. John will be held accountible before God for this sin.
Pray for him. The bottom line is that he is excuse making. All this is a dodge and not the real issue.
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