By Randy Hain
If you are a convert to the Catholic Church, currently in the RCIA program or considering joining the Church, what is Christ leading you to do with your faith? As a recent convert to the Church, I have frequently asked myself that question over the last few years. I have humbly prayed for discernment, wisdom and revelation coupled with a passionate desire to follow Christ’s will and not my own. I have also spoken countless times with our priests, deacons and other members of the Church for guidance and help. The two key points that have emerged from prayer and discussion are very simple: 1) Your Catholic faith is a lifelong journey and 2) Get involved, make a difference and do something with your faith.
Anyone who makes the decision to join the Church realizes the enormity of the commitment they have made. The hours of study in RCIA, exposure to new ideas, risking alienation of friends and family and embracing the Church are all components of what is one of the most important decisions in your life-entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. I have met many converts (like myself) who come from backgrounds with little or no faith whose decision to join the Church clearly reveals God’s grace and plan for our lives. So, if we can agree that our decision to join the Church is Christ’s will and we are committed to follow Him and the teachings of the Church, I ask the question: Is becoming Catholic enough?
This article is meant to provoke some critical thinking and prayer around the question of what we do with our Catholic faith after we join the Church. This is an important question and one that needs to be answered. It would be a terrible waste to join the Church and then……do nothing. The Book of Revelations tells us, "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." -Revelation 3:15-6. A new world has been opened for us and Christ has expectations of us as Catholic Christians in terms of how we worship, live and spread His message. Our Lord says in the Book of Matthew, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” -Matthew 5:13-14 and 16. Our challenge is to answer Christ’s call, be good examples to others and glorify God.
Glorify Christ and give him thanks for every grace and blessing. Put Him first in your thoughts and prayers and His will is more likely to be revealed. "The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted." -Matthew 23:11-12
Daily prayer is essential to every aspect of our lives. Humbly thanking God and praying for guidance, wisdom and help every day is critical to our spiritual well being. Carve out time daily to read scripture and other books to more fully experience the lessons God has for us.
Commit yourself to following the teachings of the Catholic Church
It is also critical to follow the teachings and rules of the Church and the Magisterium. Why invest the time in becoming Catholic only to reject the teaching and guidance of our Church? Christ promised to protect the teaching of the Church: "He who hears you, hears me; he who rejects you rejects me, he who rejects me, rejects Him who sent me” - Luke 10: 16
Frequent confession is one of the best ways to continue receiving God’s graces and avoid sinning. A thorough examination of conscience cleanses you and lifts your spirit. It keeps God’s commandments firmly planted in your mind and becomes a road map for living a life that helps us to get closer to Christ. “He said therefore to them again: Peace be with you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” -John 20:21-23
Do we think about Christ throughout the work day or only during the mass? Are we living out our Catholic faith at home? Striving to integrate the 3 areas of our lives where we spend most of our time should be easy, but it poses a significant challenge for many. Put Christ first….and everything else will follow.
Become a lifelong student of our Faith
We have countless opportunities to continue our education as Catholics beyond RCIA. Our parish has a wonderful website (www.stpeterchanel.org) that is rich in learning resources-go to the Catholic Links page for a number of excellent website links. The amount of information may feel overwhelming, especially if you are new to the faith. View it as a marathon and not a sprint-we are dedicating our lives to knowing Him better and you will never learn everything (and that is ok!). Take a catechism class. Participate in adult education classes like apologetics or bible studies. Read from the extensive number of books available on our Catholic Faith from authors like Scott Hahn, G.K. Chesterton, Jeff Cavins, Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft and others. C.S. Lewis is also a wonderful author on Christianity in general. "For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God." -Colossians 1:9
Be a good steward of your time and talent. There are countless ministries that desperately need our help. One of the best ways to live out our faith and honor Christ’s words in Matthew (3rd paragraph above) is to selflessly help others in need. Pray that Christ will lead you to where you are most needed. "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." -1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Please find time every week to pray, reflect and meditate in the true presence of Christ in the Adoration chapel. Even better, become an Adoration Guardian-this fulfilling ministry requires guardians 24/7 for the Eucharist except during mass. It is a service to Christ, the parish and you that is incredibly rewarding.
Being a good steward of your treasure is also important. Too often we look at charitable giving as a way to save money on taxes and not as a gift to those in need. If we can all act more out of charity, make necessary sacrifices and give meaningfully to the charities in need of help, we can begin the journey towards detachment and away from materialism that can be a daily struggle for all of us. Consider Christ’s observation of the Woman and the Two Coins in Mark, “He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." -Mark 12:41-44
2. Participate actively in the liturgy
5. Participate actively in community life
5. Reach out to others
With striking clarity, the Bishops help us understand our basic and yet critical responsibilities as Catholic adults.