At this critical juncture, a war raging in Ukraine, China and Russia maintaining accord, the quakes in Turkey and a world grappling to understand the colliding crises of climate change and economics, Lent has begun. Among many, memories of the failures of Catholics, of the Church and hierarchy, of the schools and the institutions wrestle their way to the forefront of conversation and social exchanges, easily burying so much of the good, of the positive and even of the possible. Today, in a series of exchanges about the ambiguities of faith in our time, of the seismic shifts in social communication and rapid redefinitions of gender, it was easy to forget the essence of faith, of Catholicism. Maybe we, as Catholics, are actually more ignorant of faith and spirituality and the Church itself than we realize.
Sunday Mass is often the touchstone for Catholics, the gathering place and the space for meeting one another and God. It is a handy harbor, a convenient place for making connections with other believers or others who are searching. The Mass itself, though, is a conduit for growth and becoming, a staple with its routine and symbolism, scripture and ritual. It is an opportunity to be part of a wider community.
Faith, though, is not confined to a Sunday morning service or a Saturday night experience. It is what pervades every interaction, choice and breath. Faith is the deep core sense that there is something more than we can see, a dimension of life that is beyond, somehow the intangible in what is so very tangible. Faith animates reason, comes alive in eyes and hearts, in relationships and in communities. Faith provides the sustenance that strengthens and secures in sorrow and certainty, in confusion and tragedy, celebration and humiliation. At every step, faith is the sense of “more”. Faith has the courage to entertain doubt and takes advantage of options. Faith is reconciling the reality of human life with the reality of intangibles and finding a way to live more fully. It is distinct from ritual, from devotions and practice and yet is visible in each. It is what transcends the variety of customs, ethnicities and cultures that form the mosaic that is Catholic.
Faith is the belief in something, someone, bigger than self. Inherently mysterious, it both defies and provides explanation. And in its truest form, faith is deeply personal and powerfully communal. Faith is alive and defined by unique lives in every generation. Today, faith bears the stigma of ignorance, mental illness and marginalization. People of faith bear a scrutiny for hypocrisy and intolerance; people who have rejected faith reprise the breach and injustice that sent them away. Too often, that anger targeted so sharply fails to recognize the reality that underlies all of Catholicism: human nature.
Being Catholic does not call me to perfection, but it does call me to forgiveness. Being Catholic is a reminder that we are all broken to some extent, including the ordained and the religious, and we are here to help each other. Being Catholic is a recognition of incompleteness and a chance to have support in doing the right thing even what that is abominably challenging. It is about the ways we choose to live and grow as human beings, nothing more and nothing less. It is the chance to acknowledge that the sacred and the divine mingle with the ordinary and mundane in daily life. Most of all, it is about discovering your own path, fellow travelers and strength to grow.