Judgment and Evangelization

I’m not precisely sure what my goal is for this post. I haven’t fully reached any conclusions about the issues I’m going to raise, hut I think this topic is worth thinking about: how people perceive us and how that impacts our evangelization efforts.

For a long time, I never gave a second thought to how non-Catholics (who knew I was Catholic) viewed me. I was aware of the prejudices some people have against Catholicism, but the people I was dealing with are reasonable people: they wouldn’t have those prejudices, right?

Upon further reflection, I think many do have these prejudices, but they are either too polite to verbalize anything or don’t really realize that they’re making assumptions. Honestly, “assumptions” is a much better word for my purposes than “prejudices.” The term “prejudices” implies some sort of malicious intent, which often isn’t the case. People are very subtly fed lies about the Catholic Church by the media and the secular world at large. (I think this is also a reason why many people in my age group are turned away from the Church; we are exposed to a great deal of secular media all the time, and if you aren’t well-versed in your faith, it’s easy to be fooled by lies, often unintentionally told, about the Church.)

What do I think is one of the biggest problems plaguing innocent Catholics who are trying to evangelize? The perception that Catholicism is somehow inherently judgmental. We certainly can learn from this perception; after all, I don’t think that perceptions come from nowhere. Some Catholics are blatantly judgmental. Many of us can think or act judgmentally without knowing it. Also, the mere act of striving for sainthood might give you a “holier-than-thou” image.

We want people to know we’re Catholic, right, so that we can witness to them? But the minute you say you’re Catholic, people start subconsciously assuming things. In the past, I used to basically be like, “Hi, my name is <my name here> and I’m Catholic!” because I am so excited about my faith. Bad idea, guys. Let them know you’re normal first. Make sure they find out for themselves what type of person you are before you say you’re Catholic. Then, when they find out you’re Catholic, it might challenge the perceptions they have about our faith.

 

Oftentimes people whom I know swear will clean up their language around me. Guys, it’s really not necessary; it’s sweet of you, but I can handle it. I’ve even had one person say to me, “I tend to cuss a lot. I know you’re Catholic; will you be offended if I cuss around you?” I honestly don’t understand these situations well. Do people think I’ll judge them if they swear? Do people think I’m some goodie-two-shoes whom they can’t relate to? Either way, for the sake of evangelization, I’d rather be perceived as (and authentically be) non-judgmental and relatable. Amusingly, some people will accidentally say something scandalous (not really that scandalous) around me, and then they’ll look over to me first in a kind of panicked way. I try my best to just laugh it off. If I’m silent with regards to what they said, I automatically seem judgmental. If it were super scandalous and harmful, it would make sense to say something, but usually it isn’t that bad.

I feel like I’ve been doing something right lately because people swear around me now and talk about being drunk. Seriously, this is a good sign! I know there’s some irony in that, but it shows that people don’t think I’m going to judge them.

To an extent, we can’t really do anything about how people perceive us based on our Catholic identity. But here’s what I think we can do:

  1. We can pray for humility so that we are authentically not as judgmental. We can also pray to be self-aware enough to realize when we are being judgmental. Good for the soul as well as evangelization.
  2. We can always give people the benefit of the doubt. I think that the more we realize how broken we are and the more we experience our own hard times, the more we realize how much people’s circumstances impact their actions.
  3. We can genuinely love others even if we disagree with their lifestyle choices.

In summary, don’t be this guy:

Matthew 7:3

Matthew 7:3

picture credit: http://www.newsrealblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/eyelog1.jpg

 

 

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Mass add-ons

One of the many wonderful features about Catholicism is the fact that our form of liturgical worship is the same wherever you go. You really realize how wonderful this is when you’re a college student going to Mass both at school and at home. In the stresses of college life and the in the turmoil that comes with not really living in one place ever, it’s really nice to have the consistency of the Mass.

At home, there are three parishes that are very close by; depending on Mass schedules, I go to one of these three churches when I’m home. At school, I go to Mass mostly at the Catholic Center on campus, but I’ve occasionally gone to the parish in town, which isn’t too far from campus. As consistent as the Mass is at all of these places, at school I’ve noticed some “Mass add-ons”–some extra gestures that parishioners make during Mass in an effort to enhance their worship, many of which I’ve adopted because I think they enhance my reverence. (Interesting note: my home parishes are diocesan, whereas my school parishes are all Dominican–I don’t know if these practices are somehow Dominican or if it’s just a coincidence.)

  • Sign of the Cross during the Penitential Rite – When the priest says “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life,” many people make the Sign of the Cross.
  • Sign of the Cross when Gospel is announced – I’ve noticed a couple of people who, after tracing crosses on their forehead, lips, and heart, will make the Sign of the Cross.
  • Striking your chest during the Penitential Rite – I’m mostly noticed this one among the daily Mass crowd. Basically, some people will strike their chest on “you take away the sins of the world” in the Penitential Rite. There’s one man at daily Mass who strikes his chest so hard that it makes an audible noise. That’s how I was first alerted to the fact that this was going on.
  • Bowing your head during consecration – The churchgoers at both my home parish and at my school parish usually bow their head at some point during the consecration of the Eucharist, but the timing, interestingly, varies. At home, people bow their heads when the bells are ringing. At school, people look at the Eucharist as the bells ring and then bow their heads after, as the priest is kneeling behind the altar.
  • Leaning over to pray during the presentation of the gifts – I once knew a priest who said that the presentation of the gifts was an ideal time to pray and make your own offerings to God — like maybe offering him your day or your classwork or whatever you have to offer him. I’m not sure if those who lean forward to pray at this point in Mass are making their own offerings to God or if they’re more generally praying; either way, it’s a thing.
  • Genuflecting before receiving the Eucharist – Most people bow before receiving communion, but I’ve noticed some people do a full out genuflect. Props. Your quads will be stronger than the rest of ours. (Haha; but seriously, that is super reverent and cool.)
  • Praying the rosary throughout Mass – Not really sure how this one goes. For me, anyway, that seems like too much to focus on at once, but apparently some people are capable of this and find it enriching.
  • Kissing your fingers after the Sign of the Cross – Some of the students at the Catholic Center of Hispanic origin do this. I looked it up online one time, and it signifies kissing the cross–those who do this make a small cross with their thumb and index finger and kiss that after making the Sign of the Cross.
  • Kneeling to pray after Mass – The majority of people at home do not do this, but a lot of people do this at school. After the Mass is over and the priest has exited, many people kneel back down to continue praying.
  • Not using the kneelers – Some people go sans kneelers, particularly during Lent.
  • Receiving communion on the tongue – Comparatively more people do this at my school parish than at my home parish.

I’ve found that several of these enhance my worship. Maybe you’ll like some of them too!

Have you observed other cool or interesting Mass add-ons that I’ve missed? Comment below!

My Top 3 Media Pet-Peeves

Recently I’ve been growing more and more skeptical of the media. Prior to my conversion experience, I was more on the liberal side of things (although, really pretty apathetic towards politics in general). When you see the world through liberal eyes, you don’t really notice the biases of the media because, well, the media definitely has a bias towards the left.

The media really does a great disservice for the Catholic Church. It’s no wonder that people don’t see the Church in a favorable light.

Here are my Top 3 Media Pet-Peeves:

3) The insistence that employers should provide contraceptive coverage for their employees (i.e. news on Hobby Lobby). This is just ridiculous. EVEN if you believe contraception is fine, it’s still ridiculous. Why do employers have to include any particular items in coverage plans? If you don’t like your employer’s insurance coverage, get a job somewhere else!

And to the protesters holding these signs: Hobby Lobby would be more “in your bedroom” when they ARE giving you contraception. They aren’t saying you can’t use it. They’re simply saying they aren’t going to buy it for you.

(Image from: http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/06/30/want-birth-control-go-buy/)

2) Talk of those raging protesters in front of abortion clinics. Ever since the Supreme Court decision that struck down the buffer zone in front of an abortion clinic in Massachusetts, my local news channel has been covering how that ruling will affect Planned Parenthood in my area. I come from a REALLLLLLLLLLY liberal place, and the news is just SOOOO incredibly biased. I expect a more professional presentation from a “news source.” The anchorwoman said that the buffer zone protects women seeking “health care” from “harassment by protesters.” I fully understand that “health care” is a subjective term. But “harassment.” Then the news show flipped to a video of said “harassers.” It was one old lady praying under a tree near the Planned Parenthood door. Harassment? Oh come on. Yeah….she looked pretty threatening.

1) Acting like the Catholic Church has changed, AND how this “change” is an improvement upon the Church’s old backward ways. Several things bug me about this. First, the Catholic Church hasn’t changed. Pope Francis, though his demeanor is much different than that of his predecessor, hasn’t changed doctrines. The media either misrepresents what our Holy Father has said, or they act like what he said goes against Catholic doctrine. That “new” Catholic doctrine?—That’s simply Catholicism, as it always has been. What bothers me most about the media’s portrayal of Catholic “change” is that they act like the Church was awful before. *rolls eyes*

Seriously, I expect so much more out of the media. They should be researching their topics and presenting a balanced look at issues.

Defining Maturity

During my preteen and younger teen years (i.e. middle school and perhaps freshman year of high school), I always thought I had a sound moral compass. And, relatively speaking, I did.

But now, in retrospect, I see the areas in which I was lacking. (And golly, I’m sure I’m still lacking today, as we all are!) Today, I have some young friends who are at this awkward age of discovering the self. And I see in them the same exact things I see in the younger me.

The maturity modern society teaches is very different from the maturity we can infer from the teachings of the Church. Preteens and young teens are at such a susceptible age– they’ve gotten their first taste of self-awareness: they want to figure out the world and their place in it. And where do they find answers? Well, they start with the world around them, which is NOT a good influence. But they don’t always realize that. I didn’t, anyway.

Marks of Maturity According to Society:

-crass language, swearing even (While I never actually swore around others during this awkward time, occasionally I would swear in private and in my diary. LOL- I can’t see myself ever doing that today! That kind of talk just doesn’t give glory to God!)

-girls, show off your bodies (I didn’t do this because I knew it was wrong…but I sort of wished I could. Never acted on it though.)

-Sense of Invincibility (The modern world does NOT teach that you need God.)

-Strive to be rich and famous (This was probably what I had the most issues with at that vulnerable age. The fame part mostly. I felt like if I didn’t do something amazing in my lifetime, I wasn’t special. But everyone has a purpose even if it isn’t something that makes you famous. And God loves you anyway.)

Society doesn’t teach us true maturity. I think you have to undo the “maturity” of the world in yourself to attain actual
maturity. (Or if you’re super-fortunate, you never even embraced the world in the first place.)

Marks of True Maturity:

-You realize how much you need God.

-You have clear and unambiguous morals. You don’t have to decide on the spot how you will handle certain sticky situations. Instead, you know what you believe in, and you follow that.

-You can withstand the pressures of the world without falling into them.

Can you teach someone to be truly mature? I honestly don’t think so. I think that has to come from the Holy Spirit working in that person.

The DOMA Controversy

So. About that Supreme Court ruling today.

In case you haven’t heard the news, the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), an act that denied same-sex couples Social Security in the event a spouse died and other benefits married people receive. The Court voted it down 5-4, so it was a pretty close one.

My feelings are somewhat all-over-the-place regarding this situation. As a Catholic, I don’t stand for gay marriage. I love gay people, but there’s no way around that fact that homosexual acts are sinful. (Gay themselves are not, I repeat ARE NOT sinful based on their orientation.) Permitting gay marriage pretty much implies that these acts are acceptable.

For those who think the Catholic Church is homophobic, here’s what the Catechism ACTUALLY says:

1) Being gay isn’t just something people claim to be in order to get attention. There’s really something there. The Catholic Church doesn’t deny it.

Catechism evidence: “Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.” “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.”

2) Homosexual acts aren’t good, but the homosexuals themselves are God’s children too!

Catechism evidence: ” ‘homosexual ACTS are intrinsically disordered.’ … They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.”
-AND-
“They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

So why are my feelings complex regarding this situation?

Well, I don’t even get why the state is in charge of marriage in the first place. In most cultures, marriage is a religious act. I don’t care if you’re Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, or a follower of an animistic religion in Africa: marriage is religious and sacred. And now, as the United States has become increasingly secular, marriage has become increasingly secular. Marriage has become more of a legal instrument than a religious sacrament.

The state can legalize gay marriage, but it isn’t even really marriage in its true religious sense. I mean, seriously, even if a heterosexual couple is married by a justice of the peace, what does that even mean? It seems to mean that the couple is a unit financially and legally. It doesn’t mean they are united by God to be married to one another as Christ is married to His Church.

So, as far as I’m concerned, when a couple isn’t married in a church, it’s only technically a civil union. So marriage isn’t really being threatened because the Church won’t marry gay couples anyway.

God gave us free will. If some people want to sin via homosexual acts…I guess we can’t stop them. Individuals have to make the right decision, the decision to choose God over temptation. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to fight against the legalization of same-sex marriage, but if we fail, the onus is not on us. It ultimately comes down to the individual.

And as a side note, I have a pet-peeve about the Supreme Court— just have to get it out:

Americans hail the decisions of the Supreme Court as the ultimate right. It’s like there are nine prophets in D.C. who stand on some high moral mountain receiving revelation from God. Sorry Justice Kennedy, but you ain’t no Moses!

It’s almost sickening. Just because the Supreme Court says so doesn’t mean it’s actually morally right. The justices are just sinners with opinions like you and me.

Sometimes I feel like people worship our wonderful country more than they worship out infinitely more wonderful God.