How To Be An Authentic Catholic

Last week I wrote a post: We Need More Authentic Catholics Online, We Need You.

I got a number of people asking in response, “so what now? What do we do?” One such person wrote to me saying:

Thank you [for the post]. It left me wondering with two questions: “OK. Now what?” and “Am I an authentic Catholic?”

I have always looked at those who are more knowledgeable on issues of faith with admiration, which is most Catholics. How wonderful it would be to have a memory that could hold onto a quote from a saint, or a scripture, or Church encyclical. Or better yet, to have an interior life that leads me to the foot of the cross with intense closeness to our Lord.

The sad reality is that I fumble through, constantly trying to find just the right mix of prayer that will get me as close to Jesus as I think I need to feel. [...]

And sin? I do sin really well. Life is messy. I have worn a path to the confessional. [...]

Oh, I have the pictures on the wall and we go to church on Sunday. We do Catholic things, but not too Catholic. No family rosaries around here, but we do pray before meals. That must count for something. And we homeschool. Now that should get us some brownie points with the orthodox crowd. (We just won’t tell them we don’t pray the Angelus at noon.) Heck, the bishop even knows my name. Surely, then, I must be an authentic Catholic. Yeah, right.

I am a sinner. I betray Jesus. Regularly. I am not worthy to kneel before our Lord on the cross, or to approach His table at Mass. I am nothing, yet He sticks with me, pours out His mercy upon me and calls me back home. This is a love I do not understand and so desperately need to be able to receive. I take it in faith, but cannot internalize it.

So tonight I will say my prayers. Tomorrow I will get up and offer myself to Jesus. If I drag my rear out of bed in time, I’ll get to Mass and take any[one] who wants to go with me. If I’m really ambitious, I’ll get some of those homeschool papers graded and “live out my vocation” – dinner and laundry.

I don’t know if I am an “authentic Catholic,” or have anything to offer the world online, or how on earth I would even go about doing that. There’s no stained glass in my house and it’s messy inside. But somewhere in all of that is a heart that longs for Jesus and is trying to find its way to Him.

That, my friends, is an authentic Catholic. That is what we need more of. And it’s not a matter of formulating all of that in some hip way and posting it online for mass audiences to consume. It’s just being real with the people you come in contact with - wherever you are. And as you interact online, maintaining that authenticity.

Too many people lose that when they get online. They turn into the people they think that they wish they were. Or into the people they think others think they are. Or into the people they think others want them to be. It’s all a form of lying. And guess what? Every single one of those counterfeit personas are nowhere near as good as the real you…the same “you” that God wants to use in unimaginable ways if you’d just get out of the way and let him.

Additionally, many people think that being “an authentic Catholic online” means they need to push their faith onto everyone around them a little more. Or they get all pumped up about it and want to reach massive audiences with a popular blog or twitter profile. And that’s okay. For a very small few, they’ll find their place there and serve us all in their unique way. But for the overwhelming majority of us, using social media and being online means simply connecting more effectively and more genuinely with the small, yet important, number of people who are already in our lives in one way or another.

That’s the real opportunity here. And it’s one that many of us miss amidst the glitz and glam of using new technologies in the first place.