Defining who is a “real” Catholic or what makes a “real” Catholic may be more difficult that we imagine. If it isn’t a difficult to do, then I would certainly worry ? Yet I still ponder answers. Are real Catholics dedicated mothers and fathers , devoted cloistered monks, newly baptized infants or is it only Pope Francis? All the above are certainly worthy candidates for the title “real” Catholics. But are there others?
For example, is Margaret who goes to Church every Sunday or Xavier, a soup kitchen volunteer real Catholics? How about Emily, a newly confirmed middle-schooler or Terry, an enthusiastic senior churchgoer, who sings from her heart in the choir every Sunday? The list of potential candidates for “real” Catholic is endless.
When considering our options, we begin to see our many prospects. We know it isn’t just naming seven sacraments or including the Letter from St James in our Bible or even believing that the Pope is the visible head of the Catholic Church.
Recently Pope Francis has given us other parameters to help us define a “real “ Catholic. He may see a real Catholic as someone who in her past life has had an abortion, felt the throbbing inner sadness, since that fateful day, receives absolution, does penance and begins her life again as a “real” Catholic.
Pope Francis may see a “real” Catholic as someone, hurt painfully by betrayal from a loved one, finds in his heart the courage and humility to let go, forgive, and move on.
Jesus too offers us his own measurements for a “real” Catholic. He suggests a “real” Catholic love God, His Father, with the whole heart, the whole mind and the whole soul, and love neighbors, no matter who they are, where found or what they look like. Then Jesus asks that we love neighbors in the same way we love ourselves. For Jesus these acts witness gratitude for His great gift of salvation.
After these considerations, it seems becoming a real Catholic takes
determined “heart work.” For becoming a real Catholic can only happen through a softened heart.
This softened heart allows the free flow of Jesus gifts of love and mercy to permeate everything about us. And when they do, we may soon become a “real’ Catholic.