I am Catholic, but I want to be “more” Catholic. What do I need to do?
You are not alone. There are many who share what you are feeling. Sometimes, we reach a certain point in our lives when we realize that something is missing. While we may have all the things we thought would make us happy, we find they do not. Often, it is then that we begin to wonder, “Why doesn’t my life have more meaning?” In response to our own question, we might answer, “But I love God and always have. So, maybe what I need is to become more Catholic.”
I think that ultimately your true heart’s desire is to get closer to God. And this is good because it is exactly what God wants for us. In fact, in Christ, He became one of us so that we would see “love” face to face and desire to be more and more like Him.
To become “more” Catholic is essentially to become more Christian, and to become more Christian is to become more like Jesus. How easy it is to say we love Him, but do we realize what that means? I often speak to my students about this. If we say we love Christ, this implies that we know Him, right? For how can we love someone we do not know? Yes, I suppose one could say he has fallen in love “at first sight” but, even then, true, deep love usually comes from knowing the beloved.
When a person falls in love, does he ask, “Does this mean that I will now have to come to know you? Will I have to spend time with you?” Of course not! It is quite the opposite. When we are falling in love, we cannot wait to get to know the person. And we cannot wait to see our beloved and spend time with him or her. Do we do this with God?
I have come to profoundly believe that one of the main reasons many Christians do not make more of an effort to know God is because they lack what the late Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand called the “readiness to change.” Relying on St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, von Hildebrand wrote: “All true Christian life must begin with a deep yearning to become a new man in Christ, and an inner readiness to ‘put off the old man’ a readiness to become something fundamentally different” (Transformation in Christ, p. 3).
So, in order to become more Catholic more Christian we must first be ready and willing to die to our old self and become a new person. And what will be our motivation? For some, at the beginning it will be a fear of God and eternal damnation, but be assured, this will soon turn to joy and love, because the more you come to know Him, the more you will come to love Him. And as you come to know of His never-ending love for you, you will desire to please Him in every aspect of your life. That is what happens when we truly fall in love.
What do you need to do? Learn what Jesus taught. That is how you will come to know Him and love Him. Study the faith through the Scriptures and the Church’s Tradition. The Church teaches Christ, and in the name of Christ. Get a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Learn the faith well.
You may have to give up some of your old ways of living and thinking. But I can almost promise you that if you embark on this journey with a sincere and contrite heart sorry for all your past sins and ready to change you will soon feel freer than you ever imagined possible. Because you see, truth and freedom go together. And thus, the closer we come towards truth, the more free we become; and the more free we become, the more we become who we really are. And then, we become more like “love” more like God. This is what it means to be “more” Catholic.
© Copyright 2004 Grace D. MacKinnon
For permission to reprint this article, or to have Grace speak at your event, contact Grace MacKinnon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace MacKinnon holds an MA in theology and is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: email@example.com. You may also visit her online at www.DearGrace.com.