What Makes Me a Catholic?
What makes me a Catholic? I understand that by my baptism I have a spiritual life and the spiritual journey of a Catholic soul. But how can I be defined? What is it that sets me apart from the rest? These are questions that frequently arise when I go out in public or when I interact with those around me that are not Catholic or even Christian. I know that I am meant to be different, but what is it that should make me different?
The Master of all things.
I believe in body and soul. I believe that both these realities play a part in deciding my ultimate fate. Together they make a whole that will form a path towards heaven or hell. I don’t look to the perfection of only one of half of me – I seek after the perfection of the two of them combined. And this is what makes all the difference.
Everything matters. There is no insignificant part of my life, no aspect that can be neglected or overlooked. There is no moment that I can shrug off saying that it won't have an impact on who I am or what I am about. This is no small thing. In fact, this is such an important outlook on how I live, that the devil is constantly trying to undermine it by asking me: “What’s the big deal?” The answer is everything – every detail is a big deal. Every movement of both my body and soul plays a part in the outcome of who I will become. Every momentary decision, no matter how insignificant it might seem, moves me closer or further away from that everlasting goal. And for this reason, I must be the master of all things. I must desire not only to perfect one part of me, but every part of me. Every day is a training ground for my body, every day a training ground for my soul. I wake up and I must fight the desire to let go of myself in my diet, in my work, in my exercise, and in countless other tasks. But I must also wake up desiring to seek after a greater excellence in prayer, in meditation, in intellectual discovery. I am not like the one dimensional athlete who simply seeks excellence in his play, nor am I the self-conceited pious soul who thinks he is blessed for having given everything in his rituals under the hall of a darkened chapel. I am neither. I am a soul thirsting for an excellence that the world has forgotten, a marked heart that will only be content when I have achieved the mastery of all things.
Heart of desire.
The greater the goal, the greater the desire needed to achieve it. It does not take great desire to mount a stepping stool, but it does take great desire to reach the summit peaks of Everest. Desire drives a man either to madness or to magnificence. I am here for the latter. I cannot be the man who seeks a small prize. I seek the ultimate object, the greatest of all summits, and if I intend to reach it then my desire must be such that my will does not grow cold while in pursuit of it.
Yes I have desire. But it seems so often that desire only exists in the search for those things that come easy to me. I find myself falling short in desire when working on an endeavor that is not personally enjoyable. But the reality is this - I am nothing until I can give myself 100% to something that is hard, and something that I do not really have a natural attraction towards. It is in this that I will prove my worth. Certainly I give everything I have in sports and in games, in conversation with friends and in working, but what happens to me when I kneel in the church or when I go to say a daily prayer or am faced with a temptation? Where has that desire gone? I must be a furnace, a breathing fire of desire that consumes my heart and fuels my mind and body to reach the limits and beyond in the daily activities of my body as well as my soul. I must give everything in all that I do. I am tired of being the weakling that only selfishly gives when it is expedient for me to give. No longer. I should be known by my friends and coworkers as the one who, no matter the event, no matter the moment, and no matter the cost, will give my all.
I am here to learn. At all times, I must listen more than speak. Listen and observe in order to understand what more I can do to excel. I must always see myself as only halfway up the mountainside. There is always a chance to improve, to be more excellent, to be more kind, more patient, more pure, more caring, more disciplined, more merciful, more generous, more virtuous. I never attain my goal. I am always striving.
And why am I so selfish? This is not about me. This is about us. Too often I see everything as it pertains to me and my life. But all that I do affects us. I will not arrive to my final destination alone, but rather I will be carrying or leading many behind me. Right now there are men, women and children that are depending upon what I decide to do with the free moment that I have. Do I cower and fall, risking losing the chance to help someone out there save their precious soul? Or do I step up to the challenge and forge a path for some other soul to follow in my footsteps towards the Gate of the Eternal Sun? I must stop my selfish ways, cease my prideful yearnings and work tirelessly for those that do not yet have what I have. It will not be easy, for I have been spoiled by the Eternal and I see myself as being entitled to everything. But who am I? Nothing yet. Not until I let go of myself and fight for something that transcends my little life. I have to stop being so mad and upset at every little negative thing that befalls me or is said about me. Why am I so saddened? Because I still have not let go of the selfish monster within that cares only about me although it feigns care for those around. Is this some negative outlook fabricated by a religion set upon chaining mankind into submission? No. It is the liberating mindset of a soul that realizes that it is only by stopping all of my spoiled concerns that I can truly be what I was destined to be.
So who am I? And more importantly, what must I become? What must I be so that I may carry worthily the fire that is within me. How must I walk? How must I dress? How must I speak? How must I act? How must I think? How must I be in all things in order to live up to the tremendous honor that I have been given? I must be humble enough to learn, desirous enough to be disciplined, and generous enough to be the master of all things. In a word, it is time that I be Catholic.