A big theme on this blog is the joy associated with authentic Catholicism. To the lukewarm or non-Catholic, it might seem like authentic Catholicism is punitive, dreary, and dull. The lukewarm Catholic cannot imagine fun, happiness, joy, or a sense of adventure existing outside of a lifestyle where the Faith is boxed in and set aside from typical worldly pursuits. To many lukewarm Catholics, faith is simply one part of many in one’s life and typically a part which serves functions other than joy, adventure, or beauty.
A recent offering on the Liturgy Guy blog makes the case why authentic Catholicism is the only type of Catholicism which fulfills the duty to evangelize. The logic is of course obvious to most people reading this but it is a rationale which escapes the minds of many Catholics who view authentic Catholicism to be boring or unattractive.
Quoting briefly with my emphases:
…authentic Catholicism is true, beautiful, and good. It is the furthest thing from a lukewarm faith. The Catholic living their faith authentically stands in stark contrast to the world around us. This authenticity is the primary means by which we evangelize an increasingly pagan and hostile culture.
First and foremost, the authentic Catholic carries with them a joy, peace, and confidence that comes from knowing, loving, and serving God. Presented with widespread chaos and confusion, the person of faith attracts others with an enthusiasm and sincerity that comes from grace alone. Of course this cannot be shared if we do not have it within ourselves…
The lukewarm Catholic, to the outside world, stands for nothing, believes nothing, and therefore, converts no one.
In the end, true joy and a peace which only comes from Christ naturally leads us to share this good news with others. Pope Benedict, speaking at World Youth Day 2005, said:
“Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on.”
Those who authentically live their Catholic faith have discovered Christ. Now they must share Him with others.
Again, this logic should be obvious. Why would a Catholic, lukewarm in their faith and perceived to stand for nothing, have a lifestyle attractive to anyone outside of the Church? You don’t get people interested in Catholicism by downplaying everything that makes it stand in contrast to prevailing culture just as you don’t sell more Teslas by downplaying what makes it different from Fords. Roman Catholics need to show that the Faith offers something unique. Some might be repelled by it, fine, but most will be curious, if not attracted, to the beauty and order it offers. It catalyses a reaction whereas lukewarm Catholicism doesn’t.
Evangelization is important of course because we are called as disciples to spread the Gospel to the “corners of the Earth”. The person living authentic Catholicism is excited to do this because the person who has truly found the joy of living a life in Christ cannot bear to keep it to themselves. While the exact quote escapes me, C.S. Lewis describes the source of this joy as a Christian’s taste of heaven. This might be hard for Catholics who haven’t yet experienced this conversion for one reason or another. They too easily are self-conscious about making vocal or obvious the traditions of their faith, they seek to suppress it so they don’t feel uncomfortable or different. This is understandable, and unfortunate, if their Catholicism is merely a going-through-the-actions chore.
The degree of happiness a human experiences is dependent on the extent to which their lifestyle is lined up with the three marks of the divine (God) on earth: truth, goodness, and beauty. Regardless of if the person is aware of these marks, people are moved by them when they encounter them. Most people can be moved by beauty in art or nature; it is why everyone loves weddings in an old Gothic cathedral (even if they claim to hate Catholicism). Most people can be moved by encountering true goodness; it is why videos of strangers helping those in need go viral (even if they don’t understand the sacrificial nature of the true definition of love). And most people can be moved by the encountering the truth; it is why those who seek it have a sense of adventure, those who conform their choices to it find a better and more healthy lifestyle, and those who avoid it frequently find themselves in bad situations. Once this is all realized, one can understand why authentic Catholicism is the antithesis to a punitive, dreary, and dull lifestyle. Catholicism contains, more than anything else on earth, the beauty, truth, and goodness humans require to encounter the divine. This is what is attractive to people. This is how you evangelize–not only by being able to articulate this in words but being able to live it in life.
‘Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.’
Colleagues or neighbors, in today’s culture, might think a church-going family with a lot of kids is a sort of shtick. However, soon, those who have been engulfed by secular culture will start noticing problems arising in their own families which seem to arise less in the family which they roll their eyes at. They will start noticing the family who is friendly and helpful, the family who always has fun stuff going on in their yard, the family who is inclusive and always hosts generous and boisterous get-togethers and parties. They will ponder if the aura of happiness and love surrounding them is merely a coincidence or not. They might start thinking, “odd, I always thought Christian families as parochial, kitschy, and introverted”. The when joy is palpable, there is a curiosity and draw. People might ask “what does that family have that we don’t?”. That is when it is the Catholic’s responsibility to express the purpose and convictions they cultivate, that everything they do is ordered in a specific direction instead of an aimless array of hedonistic pursuits.
At the same time, if people know you to be Catholic, it is quite problematic if you make jokes, say things, or do things which might cause scandal. It is a Catholic’s job to avoid scandal, especially to those whom we wish to spread the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Faith to. For instance, if a protestant sees a man who makes it known they are Catholic whom, after some beers with friends, comments about how he doesn’t really care where a politician stands on abortion as long as they lower taxes, the protestant will immediately think Catholics really are not united on important things and that there isn’t really any uniqueness to Catholicism, they might even view Catholicism to be quite putrid. Therefore, this Catholic man may have just repelled someone who otherwise would have considered the Catholic faith. This would go against the important mission of evangelization (and be sinful).
The point is, we should seek authentic Catholicism and project the joy, fun, and love outwardly. If one has yet to encounter a feeling of adventure and joy, they should start reading about the history of the faith, learn about the diverse array of saints, become familiar with classic philosophy, listen to talks on Lighthouse CDs, start expanding their prayer life, find a parish which offers beautiful and reverent Masses and begin contemplating the transcendent more often. If one has a question, they should seek an answer.
Live in this world…but don’t be of it. ☩