Recently I was speaking with a friend who had left the Church and converted to another denomination of Christianity. Growing up Catholic and having a firm faith in the Lord, I asked him why he would convert to another faith. His answer: “My relationship with Jesus was hurting and I needed a faith where it could be strengthened.” I did not understand. We are the one true faith - the faith that Jesus handed on to Peter, the Church that Christ married upon the cross. This faith, the faith of all the martyrs and saints, a faith of billions over the last 2,000 years… was not feeding a soul?
Of course, in my mind I was panicking. I love my faith, it means the world to me, and it hurts to see people walk away from it. I wanted to speak of our tradition, our many saints, our Mother Mary. I wanted to tell him about the faith of the martyrs and that our Church’s mission is nothing more than to bring all hearts to the un-failing love of Jesus Christ. But I didn’t. I stood there and wondered where I went wrong. I thought of the many people in my own life who have done the same thing. “Am I not holy enough?” I wondered. Are we, the Body of Christ, not fulfilling our mission to go out unto all the world and proclaim the Good News, first by living it?
It hurts to see good, God-loving people move to another faith because they feel as if they were not being spiritually fed through Catholicism. This all too often is true of many of our brothers and sisters who have left the Church - many of whom have found other faiths, or simply stopped practicing all together.
In my last column I wrote about the first and most important way of evangelizing… holiness. When we, by our daily example, demonstrate within our lives God’s love and mercy, the world is changed. With the conversation I recently had, I felt it needed to be reiterated. Without this life of holiness that we have all been called to our Church cannot survive. It has survived for over two-thousand years and we have seen the greatest people (saints) to have ever lived walking and talking the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So I continued to think.
Did people run away from Padre Pio and Mother Teresa when they preached the Gospel? When people saw John Paul II did they see a fake? No, they saw people, regular people, absolutely in love with Jesus Christ. This is what our mission as Catholics must be, to fall deeper in love with our Lord. When this happens, others will see and follow. Others will crawl to our Lord on hands and knees as they did when they encountered these saints, leaping into the arms of Christ.
We, the body of Christ, have been commissioned to share in His love, a love that demands of us to wear this “yoke” of our Lord upon our shoulders. A yoke of holiness and truth, of love and of dedication to the life our God has called us to.
When we strengthen our love for our God, our Church is strengthened. We are His body as St. Paul reminds us, and to be his body, we must first remain in Him. By remaining in Him, others will see, first hand, this indescribable joy that rests within our hearts. Then and only then, will we see this holiness transcend to the hearts of all.
Jon Leonetti is a Catholic radio host and speaker, providing keynote presentations and parish missions in churches, schools and conferences across the country. You can find more information on Jon at his website: www.jdleonetti.com