When I did campus ministry at two colleges of another religious denomination, I always admired the fact that the students, faculty and staff openly expressed their faith and were not embarrassed to talk about their relationships with Christ.
Unfortunately, the majority of Catholics do not feel so free when it comes to evangelization. Many of us are what I call closet Catholics.
Few closet Catholics would say grace before or after a meal in a public place for fear others may think they are too holy or religious. Then there are others who, when they go on vacations with friends, feel embarrassed to bring up the topic of going to Mass on the weekend for fear of what the group might say or think about them. Still others rarely admit they are Catholic and are all too ready to join in when people tell Catholic jokes. It is as if they are ashamed of being a member of the church.
Many Catholics believe religion and faith are a private affair. They obviously do not recall Jesus telling his followers not to hide their light under a bushel basket and that we are called to be the light of the world.
True faith is by nature outgoing. Catholicism is not a God-and-me religion. Our relationship with Christ should overflow into the lives of others. It is like falling in love. Can you remember your first time? You probably wanted to tell everyone about that wonderful person in your life. Most of us would find it a bit strange if someone fell in love and did not talk about his or her beloved to anyone else. When we love someone we want others to know about that person. When Mary Magdalene returned from the tomb after she saw the risen Lord, she ran back to the disciples shouting that she had seen Jesus, that he was alive as he promised.
When we truly love someone we don’t hide the relationship. To do so would say that we are ashamed of that person. On the contrary, we want to talk about our love to anyone who cares to listen and sometimes those who don’t. We want others to know just how great we think this person is. We are almost compelled to share the love we have with others.
It would seem logical that if we truly loved the Lord, we would want to get to know him better and to share that knowledge with others. We would be excited about our relationship and want others to share our joy.
Christians are disciples of Christ. This means we follow Jesus and try to live by his teachings. He never promoted a God-and-me religion. He taught and showed by his life that revealing his Father’s love was his main mission. He loved his Father and was not embarrassed to tell everyone about him. He was not worried about what the Jewish or Roman leaders thought about him or what they would ultimately do to him.
If you are one of these closet Catholics, it would be helpful to reflect on why you hide your faith from others:
What is it about being a Catholic that bothers you or makes you ashamed? Are you unable to speak about Jesus because you don’t really know him and don’t take much time for prayer? Are you afraid someone will ask you questions about Catholicism and you won’t know the correct answer?
Once you determine the reason you are not witnessing about your faith, you can do something about it.
- Start reading the Bible
- Take a course in Catholicism
- Attend RCIA classes
- Read a book about the faith or the life of a saint
- Spend more time in prayer
It’s time to live out the baptismal promises we renewed during this Easter season.
Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind., and writes “The Cutting Edge.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.