I was recently asked to sum up my Catholic perspective on faith in a short, pithy article for the Arizona Republic.
What I came up with was that my religion is first and foremost about actively bringing love and peace to a world that always seems to be in the middle of some kind of strife and conflict. That’s probably why Pope Francis handed a medallion in the shape of an olive tree to President Donald Trump.
But after I wrote that article it inspired another thought: What do those oft overused words — peace and love — really mean inside the Catholic world?
It struck me that we Catholics don’t talk much about what we believe being Catholic means, unlike many of the non-denominational varieties of Christianity.
So as we celebrate Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, I thought it might be a nice time to visit the concept of what inspires me about being Catholic. And maybe it will inspire you to tell everyone you know why you love being Catholic.
Here is some great fuel and fodder for that conversation.
First, the Catholic Church is all about doing good works as a response to the gift of God’s grace and salvation. In fact, that concept is at the bedrock of what it considers its mission to be in the world. Jesus calls us to make disciples of the nations (Mt 28:19) and that we will be known by our fruits (Mt 7:16). We Catholics wholeheartedly believe that we have the ability and responsibility to do good and be Christ to others.
What that translates to in the practical world is that in the United States alone the Catholic Church spends over $150 billion annually on everything from soup kitchens and shelters, to schools to healthcare, and a whole lot of other charities which live the life and love of Christ.
That runs the gamut from the pope at the top down to every Catholic affiliated non-profit, to parish priests and counselors, to the lay volunteers who do everything from grief counseling to home visits for the infirmed. Case in point: my own mother, who gets a visit from an extraordinarily loving parishioner every week to give her Communion. Then there are the nuns who minister to the poor and the sick, and the educators who teach our children their faith as well as the rest of their studies in thousands of schools.
Together all these allies in love fight the forces of greed, hatred, violence and insensitivity in every corner of the world every day.
That is what the Catholic Church is about. Now let’s reflect on what it’s not.
Our Church is not about being judgmental and spouting doctrine at people, but instead it is about putting those doctrines into practice and encountering the Christ within each and every one of us, or in the words of Pope Francis, “A Christianity which ‘does’ little in practice, while incessantly ‘explaining’ its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced.”
And his commitment to stand by Jews, Muslims, Tibetan monks and all those persecuted for their faith has sent a powerful message that the Catholic Church rejects all forms of hatred.
If we love our Church, it is our duty and our awesome opportunity to stand up and speak up for it. So hopefully something you read here today inspired your Catholic zeal to go out like the Apostles did on Pentecost Sunday and joyfully proclaim your faith to all those around with your words AND your actions.
Possibly you can open a few hearts and minds.
And maybe you will spread a whole lot of peace and love in the process.