Recently, I had coffee with a fellow Catholic who gloomily shared his ongoing struggles with living out his faith openly in the world and his reluctance to discuss his faith with others. He made it clear that going to Mass on Sunday was all he could or should be doing. After a few minutes of discussion, it became obvious that there was a connection between how my coffee companion presented his faith to the world and how others view the Catholic Church.
Why do some Catholics lose their enthusiasm for the faith? Why do some leave the Church? Why do those curious about the Church have reservations about converting? The unfortunate truth is that many (not all) of us make being Catholic look about as exciting as having a root canal. Non-Catholics may be looking for inspiration from people who are truly joyful about Christ and the Church he founded. They want to see in us genuine passion for the Eucharist and the other sacraments. They would love to see us have prayer lives worth emulating. Does the thought ever occur to us that our actions as well as our words are being observed by others and this places an important burden on our shoulders?
So, let’s ask ourselves: Are we “mirrors of joy” reflecting the light of Christ to others or have we lost our Catholic identity and become completely assimilated into the secular culture?
We have so much to be truly thankful for in our relationship with Christ and the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith. But being truly joyful should lead to sharing that joy and the ability to express the truths of our faith in a way that shows the depth of our sincere belief and love to others. Consider this quote from writer Cormac Burke:
“A Christian who is not convinced he has the truth is not convinced he has Christ. Only convinced Christians have any chance of convincing others. Half-convinced Christians won’t even half-convince anybody. They won’t convince at all.”
It is so easy to get lost in our problems and fail to be joyful. It happens to me and just about everyone else I know. But, remember that we are surrounded by people who are watching us. They may be seeking Christ and looking for someone, anyone, to show them the way. They could learn from our good example, be inspired by our joy and be encouraged by our faith if we will only remember that we are called to share the Good News. If we are gloomy, frustrated, inward-focused and critical of the Church, we will never be able to help anyone and may risk our own salvation.
Six Actions Leading to Joy
Let me leave you with six simple actions which I try to follow in my desire to be joyful:
Surrender to Christ. Every day I recommit to putting him first in all areas of my life.
Give up burdens to Jesus in daily prayer. I can’t do it alone and I need his help!
Go to frequent Reconciliation (Confession). Unburdening my soul of sin in this sacrament brings me peace and joy.
Be thankful for my blessings. I can gripe about my problems or I can focus on all of the incredible blessings in my life and express my gratitude to the Lord in prayer.
Stay out of the “Cafeteria Line.” I fully accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and follow the magisterium. I don’t follow the parts I like and reject those I do not like. I know that what I may not understand will be revealed to me over time if I have faith.
Start with the end in mind. Are my actions each day serving him? I hope to hear Jesus say at the end of my life on earth, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” My goal is heaven and I must live a life that leads me there.
I am not sure where you are on the “joy spectrum,” but please reflect on these points and take them to prayer. Ask yourself if you find it difficult or easy to share your joy. Reflect on the obstacles between you and the fuller, engaging and joyful Catholic life which awaits us all. As for me, I personally subscribe to the thinking of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York who once said: “Being Catholic is not a heavy burden, snuffing the joy out of life; rather our faith in Jesus and his Church gives meaning, purpose and joy to life.” Amen.
Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of three books by Liguori Press: The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith and Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life.